How Long Should I Breastfeed For?
It is currently recommended that you breastfeed your baby exclusively (with no other food or drink) for the first six months of their life. After this six month period, there is more flexibility and it is up to you and your baby how long you breastfeed for, as long as you supplement your baby’s feeds with other foods.
Many mums follow guidelines that state you should breastfeed alongside other forms of food for the second six months of baby’s life, even up to when baby is two years old. For other mums, a natural stopping point for stopping breastfeeding is returning to work. This is understandable, but it is possible to continue breastfeeding while at work.
One thing that is certain is that you will garner a lot of different opinions on this matter. Remember, excluding qualified health professionals, the only opinion that matters is your own. If breastfeeding is not going well and is making you unhappy, then this will not be beneficial to baby. On the other end of the scale, if you are happy to breastfeed for 2 years or even longer, extended breastfeeding will not harm you or your baby in any way.
How Do I Stop Breastfeeding?
A common mistake when stopping breastfeeding is to do it quickly. It is much better to take things slowly, both for your sake and your baby’s. Stopping breastfeeding too quickly can cause you to suffer from engorged breasts and even mastisis (see our breastfeeding problems section for more info), while your baby will not appreciate a sudden and serious change to his feeding routine.
A common approach to tackling these problems is to change one feed at a time. i.e. replace one of your easier daily feeds with a bottle, then a second, then a third, and so on until baby has adjusted. You might want to take a similar approach using solid foods instead of a bottle if your baby is old enough. More information can be found on our stage one baby weaning page in the weaning advice section.