When your baby was born, all you probably heard was that breast is best, so you stayed up all night, every night, nursing every hour with cracked nipples, wondering if there was ever an end in sight. Sure, breastfeeding probably got easier and maybe you even like the bonding now ... but wouldn't you just loooove to wear a sexy non-nursing bra and not have your kiddo pawing at your shirt every night? That could mean that it's time to wean, because like all good things, breastfeeding must eventually come to an end. Here are 5 ways to know it's the right time to stop breastfeeding (and not feel guilty).
1. Your child is at least a year old. "Keep in mind that most babies won’t self-wean until they are older than 12 months," says Jennifer Lincoln, MD, an OB/GYN and lactation consultant at at Bundoo.com, which connects parents with doctors and other childcare professionals online. "So any signs of weaning before that may be related to a nursing strike, which is usually temporary and can be related to stress, teething, an illness, or a changed routine like a big move or the holidays." But if your child is older than a year, he could be ready to wean.
2. Your child has slowly cut back on the number of nursing sessions. "A gradual decrease in the length and frequency of nursing sessions is also a sign that your baby is ready to wean," says Lincoln. Other factors that a baby is ready include he drinks from a cup and gets most of his nutrition from solid foods, says Zliza Bancoff, founder of MainLineDoulas.com. Another clear sign a child is ready to wean is he consistently refuses the breast for two weeks.
3. You just aren't into it anymore. "This might sound pretty basic, but it is time to stop breastfeeding if a mom decides she doesn’t want to continue anymore," says Lincoln. "This could be after a few weeks up to a few years -- anytime that she feels like she is done." Since kids are often happy to nurse for years, "often moms are the ones ready to wean before their children are ready, and that is okay," says Leigh Anne O'Connor, lactation consultant at LeighAnneOConnor.com.
4. You feel resentful. "One clear sign a mom is ready is if she feels resentful about nursing," says O'Connor. Many moms continue breastfeeding because they feel they should, but if you're not enjoying your time breastfeeding, it will do little good for you and your child.
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5. You need medical treatment that is incompatible with breastfeeding. "While many doctors may suggest weaning in lots of situations, only a handful of medications and surgeries are truly incompatible with breastfeeding," says Lincoln. "This might include certain types of chemotherapy or a mastectomy for breast cancer, for example. If a mom needs to wean to prioritize her health, then she should make sure a lactation consultant is involved to make sure she really does need to stop nursing, give her techniques on weaning, and be there for emotional support, as this can be quite stressful for a family."
When did you know it was time to stop breastfeeding?
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