There are no rules on when to finish breastfeeding. All mothers and babies are different. Aim to finish when you feel good about it.
When you stop breastfeeding gradually, your breasts can adjust without causing problems.
You can also choose to combination feed. This is when you feed your baby both breast milk and formula milk.
If your baby is under 6 months
To stop breastfeeding a baby under 6 months, gradually reduce the number of times you breastfeed each day.
- Phase out 1 breastfeed every 2 to 3 days for the first few weeks. Begin with the daytime feeds.
- Give your baby a formula feed from a bottle during the times you do not breastfeed.
- When you feel your breasts are adjusting and your baby is getting used to the new routine, drop another 1 of the daily feeds.
- Keep doing this feed by feed, until your supply of breast milk has stopped completely.
Leave your morning breastfeed as the last to phase out. This is when you have the most milk.
If your breasts feel overly full when dropping a feed, you can express breast milk until you are comfortable.
After you've phased out breastfeeding, you may prefer to continue expressing for a while. You should phase this out gradually too, to allow your breasts time to adjust.
If your baby is 6 months to 1 year
Introducing solid foods
Weaning is when you introduce your baby to solid foods. This happens when they are around 6 months old. Continuing to breastfeed at the beginning of weaning can help your baby adapt to eating solid foods.
Your milk supply will adjust to this change. Milk feeds continue to be essential until your baby is 1 year old. If you stop breastfeeding before they are 1 year old, give them formula milk instead.
Watch a video on introducing family foods to breastfed babies
Dr Anne Marie Brennan talks about weaning breastfed babies
Toddlers and older children
Stopping breastfeeding can take time and patience. You'll need to offer substitutes and distractions such as food and attention.
Change your routine by not sitting in your usual nursing chair.
Introduce a bedtime routine that includes a sleep cue. This could be a song or story that can continue when breastfeeding has stopped.
Asking someone else to help with your child's bedtime or night time routine can also make things easier.
Offer your child a snack just before you expect them to ask for a breastfeed. This is to increase the length of time between feeds or shorten a feed.
Include your child in choosing the snacks or food they would like to eat at that time.
Sit with your child and have a drink and a snack yourself. This can show the pleasure of sharing food. It is also a way of giving attention to make up for the closeness of breastfeeding.
Suggest an interesting activity
An interesting activity will distract your child from nursing.
- cook together
- visit the park or a friend
- involve them in helping you with your work
Give your child your full attention.
If stopping breastfeeding is not going well
Ending breastfeeding may not go well at first. Your baby may also be unwell or teething.
Signs that weaning is moving too quickly include:
- thumb sucking
- more tantrums
- increased night waking
- new fears of separation and being clingy
Take a break
If the change is difficult for you or your baby, taking time to recharge may help. Try waiting a few days before trying to stop breastfeeding again. It may become easier after a short break.
Babies and children need more emotional security at times of developmental change.
Reduce outside commitments and limit housework to essentials if you are trying to stop breastfeeding.
You can then give your child the attention they will need. Extra time spent cuddling, relaxing or reading a book together will help.
It's common to feel sad at the end of the breastfeeding relationship as your child is moving onto a new stage.
Get support if you're worried about stopping breastfeeding. Talk about your concerns with your family and friends.
You can also get advice from your public health nurse (PHN) or GP.