When Is The Right Time To Stop Breastfeeding?

Emily & Wine Glass

The little lady turns six months this Sunday. Six months also happens to be the point that I said I would breastfeed up to. All those many months, weeks and days ago when breastfeeding seemed so hard and so painful. Because it really is in the beginning. We suffered a long and agonising wait for my colostrum to come in over the first four days during which we had to top up with formula, only to then to have latching problems and a severely cracked nipple for around the first four to six weeks. The evenings were stressful and exhausting for at least the first three months as we faced a frustrated and distraught little lady who cried during her feed every evening at the same time. We weren’t sure if it was colic or if my let down was too fast or slow for her. We still don’t know, but thankfully it passed before it became a real issue.

Combine this with a tough few months of feeds every 1-2 hours including nights where there was no let up for mum because we had a baby discerning enough to refuse anything except the breast, and we don’t exactly sound like a walking advertisement for breastfeeding. There was many a dark night when I wanted to stop, when I was only too ready to give in. It was only through the support and gentle encouragement of my husband that I found the inner strength and perseverance to continue, and im so glad that I did.

Because what follows once breastfeeding is established and you both get the hang of it around that magic six-week mark – its true what they say, is something rather quite special. If I had to do it all over again I would, because it is completely and totally worth every cracked nipple and late night. Breastfeeding, in my experience is easy once you get the hang of it. Which is why even though in the back of my mind I’ve looked forward to January knowing that I’d finally be able to wear nice normal bras that match my knickers and I’ll finally have all of my body back, there is a new quiet hesitation and reluctance that has been growing making me question my decision to stop breastfeeding at six months.

You see, I am only too aware that these special moments between the little lady and I wont be forever and my heart wants to preserve them for as long as it can. My head questions why I would stop at six months when I could so easily go on, when I have been one of the lucky ones who is able to. Why I would take away something that my body naturally makes for my daughter and substitute it with something else. I can no longer remember the reason why I decided I wanted to stop at six months all those many months ago. Perhaps it was because I thought I would go back to work earlier than I am, or perhaps it was because I wasn’t so keen on the idea of breastfeeding in the beginning – not breastfeeding itself but the perceived effect it would have on my body. Either way, I can’t really find any real reason not to continue.

But I am still torn. Because on the one hand it seems quite timely to stop around the same time we properly start to wean the little lady. I also worry that the longer I continue to breastfeed for, the harder it will be for us both to detach from it. But then I weigh up all the obvious health, cost and convenience benefits and I feel torn again. I never imagined stopping breastfeeding would be such a difficult, emotional decision to make. Now that we’re here at the six month mark, it feels like it makes more sense to slowly cut down and wean the little lady off breastfeeding. It also feels like the right thing to do. For her and for I. I just never expected to feel so guilty..

Did you face a similar struggle when you were deciding to stop breastfeeding? Were things easier or more difficult than you anticipated? Did you feel guilty about some of your decisions and what advice would you share with others?



  1. Clare
    January 1, 2014 / 11:23 pm

    Thank you for writing this, it’s been on my mind too. Son is 3.5m and during pregnancy I thought up to 6 months if I was lucky enough to breastfed (as couldn’t with eldest) as I thought that was the ‘done’ thing. After successfully feeding him I figured a year as that’s when it seems to be acceptable but the last week or so I’ve been wondering if I should dare to carry on past one…it’s definitely one thing I want to research.

    • January 1, 2014 / 11:45 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read it and for commenting!

      I think it is a really personal decision for a woman to decide whether or not she is going to breastfeed, and if she does how long for. I also think it depends on a number of factors including your experience during breastfeeding – how easy or how difficult it is as to how long you continue for. Some mothers breastfeeding for a very short amount of time, whereas others for quite a long time so I think it is a very individual decision that comes down to what feels right for you and your child. Good luck with you research and making your decision!

  2. January 1, 2014 / 11:32 pm

    I wish I had been able to breastfeed for longer – I think if you can, and it is working for you and the little one then there’s no reason to stop. I think bottle feeding is a complete pain in the arse! If you don’t have to then I wouldn’t! Of course it’s your decision to do whatever is best for both of you. I’m sure you’ll make the right choice – just do what feels right ๐Ÿ™‚

    • January 1, 2014 / 11:49 pm

      Thanks. The few times that I have expressed it has felt like a bit of a faff! I enjoy breastfeeding and I find it convenient which is why Ive had the sudden re-think. I have got quite a few friends that have also tried to breastfeed but either not been able to or had to stop so I definitely am appreciative that I am able to. I guess Ill just have to make do with the dull nursing bras just a little bit longer!

  3. Debi
    January 1, 2014 / 11:53 pm

    Hello I came across your post through a search on twitter. I am currently breastfeeding my second child. I breastfed my first until she was a year old. Just like you I set a goal for her, but I was shooting for a year. I chose that because it is the age you can start giving cow milk. She switched fairly easily from what I can remember and I felt it was harder on me than her! I was surprised how quickly she stopped. Now I have other friends that their babies were more resistant to weaning so they continued until they were ready to wean. The cost savings is substantial. I went back to work with my daughter at 3 months so I considered quitting early many times. I guess you just have to decide what works best for you and your child. Breastfeeding is a huge commitment for sure. Good luck with your decision!

    • January 2, 2014 / 12:04 am

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your experiences. I think its a great achievement on your part that you managed to continue breastfeeding your first child for a year having returned to work after 3 months. I am planning to return to work just before the one year mark (I think) so it is unlikely that I will continue up to then, but I know that it would be ideal given that we could then switch straight to cows milk rather than go onto formula. We’ve started slowly weaning our little lady and she has shown signs that she is very ready for food, so perhaps it would be easier than I think to wean her off of breastfeeding than I think. I have a feeling that like you, it is probably going to be harder on me than her!

  4. January 1, 2014 / 11:55 pm

    Hi, I ended up breastfeeding for 13 months. In my head I’d always planned to do the first year and by the time we got to her first birthday I was only feeding first thing in the morning and last at night. We started dropping feeds around about the 7 month mark, once she started to get the hang of weaning and was taking on enough solid food to fill her up more (we didn’t replace feeds with formula). The first to go – and probably the hardest – was dropping the middle of the night feed she’d got used to. My health visitor assured me that this was more for habit and comfort than physical need, which made me feel a tiny bit less guilty. It took about 3 nights of my husband resettling her without milk while I lay there feeling evil! The first night she cried for what seemed like ages, the next night less and by the fourth night she stopped waking up. We were lucky that she always was a pretty placid baby and a good sleeper so maybe that helped make the transition a bit easier. From the start she always fed very regularly every 3 to 4 hours so I did get off quite lightly compared to you and many others. I tried expressing early on for her but she always refused any kind of bottle anyway! She took well to a sippy cup though once we started weaning.

    I had to go back to work when she was nine months old so the plan had always been to get her down to breastfeeding only in the morning and before bedtime by that point, which we were just about able to do by that time. I did love breast feeding and I’m glad I was able to do it for as long as I did. It was so convenient too, never having to worry about preparing or sterilising bottles. It does all depend on the baby though, they’re all so different! I think cutting down gradually helped my boobs to cope better as well! I’ll stop now as I’m in danger of going on too long! Good luck whatever you decide to do.

    • January 2, 2014 / 12:15 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience – it sounds like you did really well with the transition from breastfeeding to weaning. Its actually very similar to what Id like to get to now that we’ve decided to carry on with the breastfeeding for a little bit longer, so its really useful to hear the detail. The little lady has taken to weaning really well so far (touch wood), so I would hope that we are able to start dropping feeds just as easily and quickly. It also crossed my mind that gradually reducing feeds will hopefully reduce any engorgement too!

  5. TimeWaitsForNoMum
    January 2, 2014 / 9:56 pm

    Six months was the figure I had in my head at the start too. Then I found out that babies are still too young for cow’s milk at that age so continued to 1 year.

    I didn’t want to stop at the same time as returning to work as I thought that would be too much change in one go. We are now at 14 months and I am thinking about cutting down slowly but know I will find it hard to say no to my son so may continue!

    Ultimately we’re all just feeling our way, aren’t we and only we can decide what is best for our particular duo. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I hope it all goes well and as you want it to x

    • January 2, 2014 / 11:39 pm

      Thanks for reading and for commenting. I think your experience just goes to show how individual breastfeeding is. We will slowly cut it down, but very take it as it comes and do what feels right for both of us. Good luck with the rest of your breastfeeding experience and well done for doing it for so long!

  6. January 9, 2014 / 8:23 am

    I breastfed until 5 1/2 months with my first then she wasn’t interested. With my second it was 6 1/2 months and I stopped for me. Firstly I didn’t really like the feeling of teeth so that put me off! Secondly we’d like to try for a third soon so I wanted my cycles to be back to normal and regular. Thirdly breast milk contains no iron and at 6 months the baby’s iron stores are all but gone but formula contains iron. I did mainly purรฉes but with some baby led weaning but if you’re doing 100% baby led weaning that I would consider just formula so that you know your baby is getting vital iron for brain development. Some paediatrics actually say there is no benefit to carrying on breastfeeding post 6 months (my friend was told this by her paediatrician). Obviously it is a connection between you and baby but at least if you start reducing it now (better than suddenly stopping, I did that first time and your boobs hurt more plus a month later I suddenly had a massive leak!) then your baby won’t remember, if you wait until 1 or 18 months they are stubborn and know what they want, you may want to stop but they may not want you to stop.
    Having said all this ultimately you have to do what is right for you and your baby. You made your goal and achieved it well done on persevering x

    • January 9, 2014 / 3:23 pm

      Thank you and thanks for sharing your experience. It hast been the easiest journey, but it has been worth it. Im following the more traditional method of weaning through purees rather than baby led at the moment. Whilst I am continuing to breastfeed, I am very slowly reducing the amount of feeds that I give my daughter. I don’t have a set amount of time that I am going to continue for in mind, but my plan is to slowly and gradually reduce to a point where we just have morning and bedtime feeds before eventually stopping. As you suggest, this should also hopefully help with any potential engorgement issues when I do decide to stop completely. I plan to go back to work when my daughter is 10 months old so the latest I will breastfeed up to will be 8 or 9 months so I definitely want to make the most of this special time whilst we have it.

  7. Catriona Stephen
    January 9, 2014 / 9:11 am

    I am currently breastfeeding my 11 week old. I haven’t set a goal of when to stop completely, but I want to exclusively breastfed until 5 or 6 months. I haven’t really thought about when to stop after introducing foods as well. I’m hoping to just stop when the time feels right.

    I have been quite lucky with breastfeeding only being sore for the first few days, but even then it was so sore I was tempted to give up.

    I also have hard evenings with my son just wanting constantly fed from 6pm until midnight sometimes.

    I wasn’t entirely sure before he was born if I was going to breastfeed or not. But I’m so glad I gave it a go because I love breastfeeding now.

    • January 9, 2014 / 3:32 pm

      Fantastic, im glad its going well for you both. I wasnt 100% certain whether or not I was going to breastfeed before my daughter was born either, but like you im very glad that I did now becuase I love it too – not something I ever thought I would say pre-children! Hang in there with the evening cluster feeds. All babies have different feeding patterns, but the evening cluster feeds are pretty normal. Hopefully at some point it should ease up for you. I didnt really go through too much cluster feeding with my little one, but I have friends that did so you arent alone.

      Im learning that parenting is so much about following your instincts, and I think its the same with breastfeeding. You stop when the time is right for you and your baby, exactly as you say. Enjoy the rest of your breastfeeding journey with your little one and please do revist the blog over the next few weeks – I have some exciting breastfeeding posts in the works that you might find interesting!

  8. January 9, 2014 / 9:21 am

    Great blog.
    I fed for 18 months with my middle one. There seemed to be a natural time for us to stop at that point. I thought I would find it difficult to give up, but I found it so much easier than I thought. We were just both ready.

    This time, I had to give up at 6 months
    due to PND meds. The ‘BF friendly’ ones didn’t agree with either of us so I had to give up breastfeeding. I felt hugely guilty for being ill and having to give up. However, there are no regrets.He has been just as happy on formula and was eating solids, anyway.

    At 6 months, you have given your baby such a wonderful bf experience. Stop when you are ready.

    • January 9, 2014 / 5:27 pm

      Thank you! I’m hugely proud that I have been able to successfully breastfeed my little lady for 6 months and am definitely listening to my body and her cues as to when is the right time for both of us to stop. I think like you, there may just be a natural progression as she starts weaning. I think breastfeeding is great, but I think formula is equally as great for being able to provide babies with the same/similar nutrients as breast milk – it is modelled on breast milk after all. Without sounding condescending, you have done wonderfully in successfully breastfeeding your baby whilst having PND. I know from friends that PDN doesn’t make things easy. Thanks for sharing your experience with me, and thanks for reading!

  9. January 9, 2014 / 4:28 pm

    I know what you mean by Breastfeeding becoming so easy once it’s established and all got to grips with. We ended up doing it for 15months! I’m still both shocked and pleased at this! My biggest fear was the whole coming off it, but it just happened naturally for both of us when time was right. Feeds just slowed down and became less until the time came where we traded in that nighttime feed for a bottle of cows milk before going up to bed. I’m currently drafting a post about how it came to an end for us so will babble it all out into that. You do whatever feels right for you ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

    • January 9, 2014 / 5:31 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m really hoping that like you we have a smooth transition from breastfeeding onto formula in the next few weeks or months – whenever the time feels right for both of us. How quickly six months has come and gone, and how easy it is to carry on is one of the things that has surprised me the most. If it wasn’t for going back to work we might possibly have continued beyond a year too. Id love to read your breastfeeding post when its up so please make sure you let me know when you blog!

  10. bettyallonby
    January 16, 2014 / 7:12 pm


    I set myself a challenge of reaching 6 months when I started breastfeeding (and it certainly was a challenge as my daughter would only feed with nipple shields until 25 weeks). She is 9 months now and I have managed to cut her down to two feeds a day because I will be going back to work in a fortnight. Even though in the beginning breastfeeding was so hard, I really miss it now (lovely hindsight!!) and I’m a bit annoyed that I’m having to bring it to an end because I need to start earning again. Yes, I could express at work but that would be soul-destroying for me.

    I really enjoyed reading your post; I feel like we had very similar experiences! I had this really romantic view of breastfeeding when I was pregnant. What a shock I got! I wrote a post about my breastfeeding experience on my blog and I was unsure about it because it’s such a sensitive subject but I think breastfeeding mums need to share their stories; it’s really reassuring.

    • January 17, 2014 / 12:30 am

      Wow, it sounds like you had a pretty tough experience to begin with too! I am in a very similar situation in that I will need to stop before I go back to work in a few months so I completely understand where you are coming from. Im running a breastfeeding blog series with Medela next month and will be sharing other bloggers breastfeeding stories on the blog at this time. Im just about to pop over to your blog to have a read of your post, but would love to include yours if youre interested..

      • bettyallonby
        January 17, 2014 / 6:43 am

        Oh, yes, I’d definitely love to be included (if you think my post is any good of course!!). Really looking forward to reading about your return to work.

        • January 17, 2014 / 1:25 pm

          Fantastic! I had a read of your post yesterday evening and I think its a great story to tell. Ill get in touch with you closer to the time if I need anything else from you – im hoping that I can just copy it across to the blog..

        • January 17, 2014 / 1:53 pm

          Do you have an email address that I can contact you on to discuss your post for the blog series? If you dont want to share it online you can get in touch with me; mypetitcanard@hotmail.com

  11. November 2, 2016 / 9:27 pm

    I think you should go as long as you want to. It’s clearly working and it’s noone else’s business. Both you and your baby are happy and thriving and that’s what’s important. Well done for getting past the toughest part when you thought you’d never make it last 6 weeks xx

  12. January 29, 2017 / 1:55 pm

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I like you had an awful start to breastfeeding but with my second child! I breastfed my first for 18 months ;he weaned because I was pregnant with his sister and my milk changed I was devastated!! ). Breastmilk (or formula if you FF) should still be a child’s main source of nutrition to at least a year old, and contains all the nutrients a child needs alongside complimentary solids. There is absolutely no need to switch to formula “for more nutrition” and iron rich foods alongside breastfeeding are sufficient to sustain iron reserves. (Formula is “fortified” with iron, making the amount in BM appear low, and we seem to standardise what a child needs based on ingredients in formula). -handy tip however, if you are switching to formula for some feeds, then the “first stage/infant formula is all you require. The follow on milks are only there to circumvent advertising rules(look at babymilkaction.org) and are more expensive but no more nutritional !)
    The WHO advocates breastfeeding to at least two years (and beyond) but you don’t need to be stuck in nursing bras all that time. From 5/6 months providing you have a properly fitted bra, you can wear wires, and either convert the straps, or pop a boob out of the top. ๐Ÿ™‚

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