As a new mom, I encountered way more resources about how to start and establish breastfeeding than I’m seeing now, as a not-so-new mom wondering how and when to stop breastfeeding. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is a gray area for me; my own breastfeeding journey has been less-than-smooth. But who would have thought quitting something that was difficult would be, well, also difficult.
I had to fight hard in the beginning to make nursing happen. I booked multiple appointments with a lactation consultant, spent many hours crying, and endured countless infections. I think I was so obsessed with the idea of nursing because it was so specific. The early weeks of motherhood are tumultuous, and I was so confused and stressed that I couldn’t keep my days straight. Breastfeeding, however, was the one simple (ha!) idea I could cling to as a sign of my progress. To be honest, if I had been more confident in my abilities as a mom, I probably wouldn't have made such a big deal out of this one thing. But I wasn’t, so I did. And while I am proud that we could stick with breastfeeding and that eventually my son and I got comfortable with it, I now understand it’s one piece of many that has helped develop our relationship and my identity as a mother.
That said, I still don’t know when I’m going to stop. My original goal was six months, and then it became a year, and now I guess maybe it’s two years? We’ll see, I suppose. Thankfully, this is an area that many women were up for sharing about with me, so I can borrow their expertise as I try to figure it out:
"It was time for me [to quit breastfeeding] when I was dreading it. She was nine months old and wanted to breastfeed for a minute, get down and play, come back to feed more, wriggle around to see the TV, feed for a few more minutes, get down to play, back to feed, etc. I was just sitting on the couch for hours with my boobs out and I was over it. I started pumping her bottles and she was much happier with that before I switched to formula when she was 10 months old."
"My son was 5. I had been tandem nursing him and his sister for almost two years. I just started to really feel 'touched out' and he didn't really need it any more. He was always really attached to nursing, and my plan from the get-go was to just follow his lead, and that's what I did. I didn't nurse him for a few days, and when I mentioned that to him, we discussed if he was ready to be done. He wasn't sure, but then we had a weaning feast and we celebrated him being big. He got to pick out a cake and eat all of his favorite foods."
It started to feel like I was "forcing" her to nurse which wasn't enjoyable for either of us.
"We stopped around 3 months one night at about 4 a.m. when my son and I were both crying, and it just wasn't working for either of us. My little guy was a preemie (less than 3 lbs at birth), so he was in the NICU for two months, and our breastfeeding journey was difficult from the start. I ended up exclusively pumping for him for a year."
"I stopped when my daughter was 7.5 months. Once she got her first taste of food (at 6.5 months) nursing became really difficult as she stopped showing any interest in it. And then when she started crawling at 7 months she showed even less interest. It started to feel like I was 'forcing' her to nurse which wasn't enjoyable for either of us. So, I decided we were done and not once since has she shown any interest in it."
"My first [kid stopped breastfeeding at] just about 17 months. I stopped when it felt like an unnecessary chore: he was always half distracted anyway and it felt like he was just kind of doing it out of habit than any real desire for comfort, bonding or nourishment. I loved nursing and I didn't want to not love it, so I cut him off. He was super easy to wean. My second is 18 months and still nursing. I feel like she needs more time since she's still really into it. I'll admit, though, that I'm already implementing a plan to wean her gradually because I'm starting to get a bit annoyed at being pawed at like she's an inappropriate boss on Mad Men."
"With my first, I stopped when she was 2 years, 3 months (and I was heading into my second trimester with my second child, so it just wasn't comfortable any more). With my second kid, I stopped when he was 2. I was away for two nights on a business trip and he was fine without me or nursing, so I figured it was time."
"I fully planned on giving it a whole year. However, I had to go back to work two weeks after having my son. After five months of pumping when I could (not enough), nipple guards and a nasty case of mastitis, I switched to formula."
"Sylar stopped asking right around his second birthday, which suited me well, as I was no longer as enthusiastic about being stuck in a chair with him every few hours! Anya is not quite 18 months, and it occurs to me that she is already going a day or two between asking, so I assume it will continue to taper rapidly. I never felt the need to formally ween either of them, as they both lost interest before I decided it no longer worked for me. I'm calling that a parenting win."
"I stopped with my first at 27 months when I was seven months pregnant with my second. I stopped with my second at 28 months. My third went to 33 months. I knew it was time to stop for different reasons with each. With my first, it was getting uncomfortable and I didn't want to tandem. With my second, she would not stay off the breast at all and was just making me crazy and she didn't want to compromise or limit so we had to stop. With my third, he was only nursing to bed and he just lost interest."
They both lost interest before I decided it no longer worked for me. I'm calling that a parenting win.
"I stopped breastfeeding my first two right around 18 months. I thought my first kiddo would never stop nursing, but when we started nursing less at night and more infrequently during the day she just stopped on her own weeks before my established goal. It was shocking because she never used a pacifier and didn't have any other comfort items except the boob. With both kiddo number one and two I was pregnant and feeling ready to wean. The third kiddo I thought that I would nurse longer, until two years or more, but when I felt ready to not nurse her at night so that we could both get more sleep, she wasn't really interested in day time nursing either. This was when she was around 18 months also. A few days after we stopped nursing she tried to bf but she had forgotten how and just sat there with her mouth around my nipple sucking in like she was a vacuum. This is a really bizarre feeling by the way. After a minute or so she got up to play and didn't look back."
"I started off thinking I had to have a time frame and stick to it — 12 months and then done. But when I was approaching 12 months, it was clear that neither my baby nor I were ready to stop. I had an abundant supply and he ate well, and the bond we had from breastfeeding was strong. So I threw the self-imposed (and book-suggested) time frame out the window and decided to make it a mutual decision between my son and I. Eventually the daytime feedings stopped, and then by 18 months he was done with the nighttime feedings and my supply was low and I was ready to be done. It was the best scenario for both of us."
"My little dude stopped breastfeeding on his own at 13 months. Decided solid food was the way to go."
"Both times I quit before a year was because the baby wanted a bottle instead of me! My third baby was colicky, so we used soy formula for him."
"Pio stopped around 20 months. Bernadette was a few months old and I found they often both needed/wanted to nurse around the same time for naps and bedtime. That was hard, so I kept to my routine minus offering Pio the chance to nurse. He didn't mind. So we were done. If he would have put up a fight, I would have let him continue. Bernadette started screaming every time I tried to nurse her the week after she turned 1. I was pregnant again and my milk may have been changing. Pio didn't mind, but maybe she did! Either way, it was pretty clear she was done. Miriam is almost 16 months and still going. I don't have any plans to stop or any real goal length in mind. So I guess I'll go until someone has a reason to stop. If it seems like a valid reason on my part, I'll give weaning a shot and see if my little is OK it."
I don't have any plans to stop or any real goal length in mind. So I guess I'll go until someone has a reason to stop.
"We're still going at 18 months, but I've been toying with the idea of quitting after the holidays."
"Gracie nursed until 18 months, every two or three hours, even at night (we co-slept). I was working and couldn't do the no sleep thing anymore. I was 24. Marleigh completely weaned herself at 10 months and I was so sad! I was 27. Sawyer nursed until 13 months and she was also ready to wean. She did not like to be nursed to sleep, ever, so once she realized milk could come from other sources and she didn't have to stop playing to eat, she was done. I was 30."
"Gus needed to be weaned because we wanted another baby and it wasn't happening even though he was only nursing in the morning. He seemed to gradually cut out the other feeding on his own but that early morning when he first woke up was the favorite. My husband just had to go wake him up for a week or so while we cut the last feeding. He was 15 months. With Ben, we also wanted another kiddo so since I knew my body better this time I knew what needed to happen. He was 17 months and did not want to wean but also preferred my husband to snuggle with so it was a slow rip of the band-aid, and he also saved the morning feed as the last to go. Still nursing my 11 month old and he will nurse for at least a few more months, he doesn't seem ready at all to stop and prefers milk over food still."
"I was 29 and we stopped at 13 months. By that point, I was just pumping once a day and nursing once a day. I still had frozen milk to supplement the other bottles but he switched to whole milk at 1, too, and was really only doing a bottle in am and then nursing once at bedtime and the rest was solid foods. My goal was to go til he was 1 and then it was more me that took a little longer to let go."
"Weaned at 5 months due to work and a nursing strike by Olivia, just was the right time."
"We weaned so I could get pregnant again when she was 15 months. I had pumped a huge stash so she still got milk every couple weeks until she was 22 months."
I was ready to be done.
"I was 30 and Preston was 13 months. He refused solids until 11 months and got sick if I ate dairy, so formula wasn't ever an option for us. He kinda weaned himself. Once solids were on board he dropped a feed (lost interest) about once every two weeks, until we just had a bedtime feed and he dropped that. I think he wanted the milk, but wanted to look around the room. We were able to transition him to goat's milk for that one bottle that he still wanted which he continued to ask for until three weeks after Brielle was born (he was 28 months) and he saw her get a bottle. I guess he wanted to be the big boy and not the baby."
"I went about nine months with Bennett (I was 30). Stopped when Bennett got a bad cold and ear infection. He loved solid food from the start, and was losing interest in nursing anyway. My supply was pretty low at that point, and I was ready to be done, so it was a mutual stopping point."
"I was 27 when I stopped breastfeeding Amelia at 16 months and I was 29 when I stopped with Bethany at 18 months. Both times the girls had just nursed less and less in the weeks leading up to their last feeding. Less time per feeding at first, and then [fewer] feedings. They just lost interest, but they held onto that last feeding of the day the longest. I had introduced whole milk at 1 year for both of them to add to oatmeal or the occasional drink with a meal when I hadn't pumped, so maybe they began to prefer that taste, I'm not sure. But I just offered it until they didn't want to anymore. Chelsea is now 2 months (I'm 30), and she is breastfeeding and is bottle-fed breast milk and she doesn't seem to struggle going back and forth."
"I stopped nursing my first the day her sister was born, she was 13 months. I weaned her sister when it was no longer enjoyable for me because she would tantrum about it I quit. She was 17 months old."
"Lyra nursed until 3.5. I wanted to stop sooner, but we co-slept, so she just helped herself at night. Things were much easier when she got her own bed. I knew it was time because she pulled my shirt down at the [grocery store] checkout. Nope. Not pulling that, kid."
"I weaned Lily at 27 months while I was pregnant with her sister. She had become secure enough in her world that she did not need that part of our relationship anymore. She weaned easily and never went back."
I was pregnant, my milk had dried up, and it hurt.
"I stopped nursing my daughter around 7.5 months. There were a few factors, but the main one is that I needed assistance in other people putting her to bed or soothing her. I also started my cycle around that time and my milk supply dipped so it reaffirmed I was making the best decision for all of us."
"I stopped nursing my daughter when she turned 3, because I was pregnant, my milk had dried up, and it hurt."
"Ripped the Band-Aid off with my 12-month-old so I could get pregnant again. Drastically reduced with my 14-month-old in order to get pregnant again. And once I got pregnant, she was still nursing for comfort, but by 18 months and being pregnant, I was just over it and cut her off. I was hoping my now 17-month-old would wean himself, but that hasn't happened and I'm too exhausted to deal with weaning, so we'll see what it takes for me to pull the plug this time."
"Jax was 2.5 and simply gave up his last night time session. The next week we through a weaning party and roasted weenies, hat rice Krispy "teats" and every kind of milk we could find; chocolate, almond, soy, coconut, etc."
"Stopped nursing my third when he was 19 months. He just refused to nurse. My second at 6 months, because my first child was extremely jealous. My first I stopped nursing at about 9 months. He just refused."
I went out of town for a long weekend. When I came back, he nursed for about five hours straight, then never asked again.
"We stopped when she self weaned over 18-20 months. She started going days, and then weeks, and then a month without nursing. My overachiever boobs kept producing for another three years though."
"T was just shy of 18 months. We had tapered off to just twice a day, then once a day, then I went out of town for a long weekend. When I came back, he nursed for about five hours straight, then never asked again."
"Baby number one stopped at two years exactly, of her own accord. Baby number two stopped at a month shy of 3 years old, because I was eight months pregnant and had just had enough. Baby number three is still nursing at 2, and I intend to wean her at 3."
"I stopped nursing Luke when he was 2.5 (I had him at 26). We had gradually weaned over a long period of time and finally dropped the nurse to bed session. He probably would have gone longer, but I was feeling done."
"I stopped at 26 months because I was ready to have my boobs back and my son didn't really ask for it or seem to need it anymore."
"I stopped with Sumayyah when she was almost 6. We were hanging on to that last bedtime nursing session. Her dad let her use some of her Christmas money for Barbies. And I told her she had to choose between nursing at bedtime and playing with a big girl toy like Barbies. She choose the Barbies."
I was ready to have my boobs back.
"When Noah was almost 3 and his 4-month-old baby brother never, ever left the boob. I couldn't tandem nurse one more single day. Now that baby brother is almost 4 and I'm trying to figure out how to wean him!"
"I knew it was time to stop breastfeeding my first born because I was pregnant already with my second child and my doctors said it was time. I've heard of other women tandem nursing but it didn't seem right for me and my doctors encouraged me to wean. He was 20 months old."
This post was originally published on Dec 14, 2015. It was updated on Aug 1, 2019.