Do You Have to Breastfeed Until They are One?
Breastfeeding is this incredible, small moment of mama-hood where you get the opportunity to do something for your babe that no one else can do.
But, a lot of mamas out there have the same question: Do I have to breastfeed until my babe turns one?
The simple answer is that how long to breastfeed is completely up to the mama and the baby.
But the funny thing about being a mama is that you and babe don't always have the same idea about what's best. Sometimes when mama is ready to stop, babe is still hooked. Or if baby seems perfectly fine to move on to a bottle, mama may get weepy just thinking about stopping.
So how do you decide when is the right time to stop breastfeeding? If you do decide to stop before your baby's first birthday, what do you need to know?
What's the Recommendation?
As I'm sure you've been told by everyone, *eye roll*, the APA recommends breastfeeding until baby is one year old, and some will say that even keeping it up until baby is two years old is even better.
If your jaw is dropping open right now thinking that you HAVE to keep nursing until your little one is two, you're not alone, mama! Just keep with me here.
Experts agree that breastfeeding your baby exclusively until six months helps cut down on the risk of your little one getting sick. Keeping your babe on a diet of just breast milk could decrease their chances of catching respiratory (lung) infections, allergies, asthma, and stomach problems. It's also recommended that you continue to breastfeed even after you introduce solids (between 4-6 months) as your milk will still be the main source of your babe's nutrients.
Reasons to Stop
There are a lot of reasons why mamas decide not to nurse until their baby is one, and as far as this mama's concerned, when you're ready to stop, you stop. Like anything else to do with your babes, the happier you are, the happier they are.
Some of those reasons are pretty much logistical in nature like having to go back to work. For a lot of mamas, this marks the end of their breastfeeding journey, because they simply aren't with their babe all day long to nurse on demand. Some mamas will choose to switch to formula at that time, or they will pump and bottle feed from that point on. On the same hand, some mamas keep up nursing because they don't want to spend the money on the formula or the breast pump/supplies that you'd need if you stopped.
Others choose to stop because their babes are giving them a bit of a rough time. This mama chose to stop at 10 months because I had a biter, and I was particularly fond of my nipples, thank you very much. If you have a little one who is causing you pain, or making your life miserable, it is perfectly normal and healthy for you to stop and switch to bottles.
Sometimes mamas can't produce enough milk and dry up earlier than one year postpartum, others get pregnant and need to stop to make sure the new babe is safe in the tummy, and others have health problems come up that keep them from nursing. Sometimes our kids aren't able to nurse, or have allergies or illnesses that make nursing nearly impossible.
No matter what your reason for stopping early, keep in mind that you are doing what is best for you and your family, and not to feel pressured into continuing if you don't want to.
If you do want to nurse until the one year mark and are having trouble, talk with your spouse or other support systems to help find solutions that will keep you going!
What do you Need to Know if you Stop Early?
Your child will need to have breastmilk or formula until he/she is one year old (when they can safely switch to cow's milk). Even though your little one has been eating solids and finger foods for a few months now, the nutrients and vitamins he/she is getting through breastmilk or formula are important for their development and growth.
So, if your babe stops on the breast before he/she turns one, you need to make sure to invest in a few cans of formula, or saddle up to pump for the couple of months until his/her birthday.
Also, keep in mind that if you're stopping before your babe is "ready", you may run into some trouble transitioning to the bottle. This is normal, and most mamas deal with some form of this at some point. If your little one is used to waking up at night and getting some milky reassurance from mama, he/she will probably be thrown through a little bit of a loop if you go in there and just rock them. Expect some tears (aka TONS of tears), some changes in sleep, and a lot of caffeine to get you through the transition.
You can also expect a little bit of a transition for your own body as well. If you're used to nursing several times a day, and stop abruptly, you may experience breast engorgement and clogged ducts. When I finished up, I needed to pump a couple times a day to keep the discomfort at bay. Give yourself some time to get used to not nursing and expect a few days until you feel yourself again.