How to stop breast feeding?

Detailed info regarding How to stop breast feeding.

There is plenty of material on how to initiate and maintain breast feeding. That is good guide for the mothers who are inexperienced and do not know about breast feeding. It is good to find such material handy on google and at the fingertips, that too from reliable sources. WHO is been strongly successful in promoting the breast milk which is very healthy practice for the young babies. But still when it is time to stop breast feeding mothers and babies find it difficult and in many cases uncomfortable to do so. So really there are few good sources to guide mothers and their little babies regarding this issue.

       Here we are going to discuss when and how to stop the breast feeding with more emphasis on non pharmacological methods as those are as efficient as pharmacological methods. Non pharmacological method is more gradual and gentle. It gives time to adjustment for both the baby and the mother.

So when to stop breastfeeding?

  • It is recommended that all the babies are exclusively breast fed till 6 months of age. So for first 6 months of life no other feed than breast milk should be provided except in very few conditions like when mother is on chemotherapy or mother affected with HIV.
  • After 6 months of age complimentary feeding is given along with breast feeding and breast feeding should be continued for at least 1 year of age. If possible it is good to continue breast feeding till 2 years of age.
  • So when above conditions for age are met and baby is adequately taking other food after 1 year age ( or 2 years age as preferable) breast feeding can be stopped.
  • So before coming to any conclusion parents should take opinion of pediatrician to assess whether baby is adequately placed on complimentary food. 
  • The complimentary food should be locally available, culturally acceptable and home made food rather than using ready made formulas.

So How to stop the breast feeding? 

Non pharmacological method.

  • The baby is of appropriate age and adequately taking other food, the decision to stop breast feeding is to be taken.
  • Preferably this process of stopping breast milk should go on slowly for weeks to few months.
  • Gradual process gives time to baby and mother for emotional adjustments.
  • The gap between to breast feeding is increased and the number of feeds gradually decreased.
  • The breast milk that accumulates in breast is to be emptied to decrease feeling of fullness and pain.
  • If needed warm water and alternate cold water fomentation is provided to reduce pain.
  • If pain not relieved by these methods a painkiller like ibuprofen can be used.
  • In gradual process generally pain is less and need of using medication is less.
  • Additionally mothers are suggested to use proper size and breast supporting bra. They can use pillow while sleeping to support breasts.
  • Gradually over few weeks need to empty the breast decreases that is milk secretion itself decreases.
  • Then feeding in night time which most babies prefer to comfort themselves is stopped.
  • If needed expresses milk can be given to baby. No direct breast attachment.
  • For expression mother may prefer using breast pump which can be suggested to use as per comfort and affordability.

What are common problems during stopping breast feeding?

  • Babies get feeling of being rejected and they become cranky and try to protest. They may become more clingy and feeling of insecurity may come to them. This is common phenomenon occurring in large percentage of babies and these babies need more time for the adjustment.
    • When such baby wants try to give expressed milk.
    • Babies may feel fearful and anxiety if done too abruptly.
    • The problem goes away slowly as they learn to adjust with it.
    • Teethers or pacifier can be used to calm the baby.
    • Holding baby close and moving around may give some comfort.
    • New rituals should be tried to established at night time before sleeping.
  • Mothers may get sore breasts and inflammation leading to mastitis. If not counseled properly may develop breast abscess which may need medical or surgical intervention. Simple solution of periodic emptying of breast can prevent this problem. Initially managed with simple hot and cold fomentation and ibuprofen.
  • Mothers may get cracked nipple while expressing milk especially with breast pump. Simple solution of appropriate attachment of breast pump to breast with proper positioning of nipple prevents this problem. Some mothers find it comfortable to wrap some cabbage leaves around breast tissue.
  • Emotional and behavioral changes in mother. During this process mothers need emotional and mental support especially from spouse to handle the anxiety and caring the baby.

What are pharmacological methods to stop breast feeding?

  • Cabergoline and bromocriptin that dry out the milk.
  • They have got long time capacity to stay in body.
  • So in case if mother changes the mind and to feed baby again it is not possible as milk secretion are suppressed for some days.
  • As a side effect mother may suffer nausea and vomiting. There can be depression and emotional lability that can be difficult to handle at times.
  • As far as possible pharmacological treatment should be avoided or reserved for special cases.
  • This treatment should not be started without consultation of qualified doctor. 

What are don’ts while stopping breast milk?

  • Very tightly wrapping breasts with cloths: This is common misconception rather a myth. Tightening breasts indeed cause much pain and more chances of mastitis and ultimately abscess formation. Proper sized breast supporting bra is suggested to use.
  • Applying bitter material around nipple like bitter guard juice. Well possibility is after few sessions your baby will learn to tolerate the bitter taste rather than stopping breast feeding.
  • Giving babies sedatives to calm them. Rather than learning to cope with no breast feeding they will get addicted to sedatives and it may affect their learning capabilities.
  • Giving baby appetite suppressing medications. These can be really dangerous for the babies and not advisable to use them.

So non pharmacological method though some what slow is more gentle and gives ample to adjust for both babies and mothers. It should be preferable method and most importantly mothers and babies should be provided with emotional and mental support during this phase.


During pediatric clinical practice methods to stopping breast feeding is most commonly asked question. Here are some general views given by professional approach. But each baby and mother is different in condition. So clinical examination by a qualified pediatrician or feeding specialist is needed before coming to any personalized advise. We here do not aim to replace your doctor.

 Dr Yatin Bhole MBBS DCh DNB

Bhole Children Clinic

\Pediatrician in Ravet

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