By Robin OBrien

Eventually it’s time to stop breastfeeding your child. But exactly when should a mother stop breastfeeding her child. The answer, of course, is that there is not a set time to stop. Some mothers will stop much sooner than most and some will carry on breastfeeding long after than is strictly necessary.

Most doctors would recommend breastfeeding for at least a year; the World Health Organization suggests two years. Many mothers stop long before the recommended year and the reasons they do are numerous. Some stop out of the necessity of returning back to work. This doesn’t have to be so, as a mother can breastfeed her child before and after work. Many employers now provide creches where mothers can continue to breastfeed. Even if this isn’t an option, mothers can express their milk and this can be fed to the child during the day whilst the mother is away and normal breastfeeding can be resumed upon her return.

Another reason for early cessation is because of the intolerable pain of sore nipples. This is understandable as all breastfeeding mothers feel some degree of discomfort. Learning the right attachment techniques can alleviate soreness as can other preventative measures, such as keeping nipples moist, and feeding baby at regular intervals and allowing baby their fill, rather than short and frequent feeds. Also, the incisor teeth start coming through at around six months of age. Don’t stop breastfeeding just because you’re afraid of being bitten – your baby may not be a biter. If your baby does bite you, remain calm, gently insert your finger into the corner of their mouth to break the suction and take them off the breast saying ‘no’ firmly. Click on the following link for more information on baby teething.

There are some mothers who keep going for years, sometimes breastfeeding until their child reaches puberty. This does make many feel uneasy. The biological benefits of mother’s milk that apply to a baby certainly don’t apply to a child. However, there is a large amount of comfort to be gained for both mother and child. Some might say that it becomes more about the mothers psychological want, not a child’s biological need. Women continue to lactate because of the stimulation through feeding, not because of a nutritional need of their offspring. And there are many other things children learn to take comfort in as they grow up and learn independence from their parents – to justify the continuance of breastfeeding as a source of comfort may be a sign of a mother that can’t let their baby grow up and doesn’t want to let their child go. Having said that, don’t be pressurized into stopping before you feel and your baby feels it’s time.

In fact, it will probably your baby who decides when it is time to stop. Babies indicate they are ready to start solids with signs that include:

Showing interest when others are eating

Making gestures that seem to say ‘feed me too’

Disappearance of their extrusion tongue reflex (the tongue thrusting motion that helps a baby suck)

The time to stop is down to mother and child. An agreement is reached between the two.

Robin O’Brien is founder of a site that promotes the benefits of breastfeeding. It offers advice on such topics as, how to stop breastfeeding and advice on how to choose the right nursing bra.