The time to stop breastfeeding varies across different countries and cultures. In some countries, mothers breastfeed until the child is 2 years while in others, the child is breastfed until he is 6 months.
The age at which to stop breastfeeding is dependent on various factors such as:
Baby is self-weaning
Some babies stop being interested in nursing and become more curious in eating solid foods or drinking from a cup. The age at which a baby self-weans varies from baby to baby. Some babies may start earlier while others may start when they are over a year old and almost closer to 2 years.
There are several reasons why a baby starts to self-wean and this includes reaching certain milestones such as teething, crawling or walking. Some babies become too distracted when nursing and in other instances the mother’s milk supply becomes low.
Breastfeeding is painful
In many cases, breastfeeding becomes a painful and unpleasant experience for the mother which can cause the mother to dread the breastfeeding experience. Conditions such as cracked nipples, thrush, mastitis, plugged ducts and infected nipples can all contribute to a mother seeking other options to breastfeeding.
Baby needs additional nutrients
An essential nutrient that premature babies and babies who are born with a lower weight especially need is iron. Iron is essential for carrying oxygen around the body and building red blood cells. In this case, some babies require more than breastfeeding to build up their iron needs so as not to become anemic.
Feeding options include introducing baby formulas that contain iron and liquid iron supplements into baby’s feedings.
Mother is taking certain medications
There are certain medications that require a mother to stop breastfeeding altogether as these medications can be secreted into the breast milk and cause harmful effects to the baby.
Some types of medications which are not safe to take while breastfeeding includes aspirin and codeine because they cause the baby to become sedated. Medications containing pseudoephedrine have the potential of reducing milk supply and other types of medications cause drowsiness in babies.
Drugs such as cocaine and heroin are harmful to the baby and should be avoided since they are easily secreted into breast milk.
Mother returns to work
For working mothers, exclusive breastfeeding becomes impossible since they need to be away from the baby for longer times during the day. In this situation, the mother cannot both work and exclusively breastfeed and so working mothers tend to wean their babies or introduce bottle feeding in preparation for resuming work.
Mother dislikes breastfeeding
Despite all the benefits of breastfeeding, some mothers just resent breastfeeding. This in no way means that she loves her baby any less. Mother and baby have a special bond and the baby is able to pick up emotional cues from the mother.
A baby will, therefore, sense when the mother is experiencing negative emotions as a result of breastfeeding and this can make breastfeeding unpleasant both for mother and baby instead of building a strong positive emotional bond.