How Long to Breastfeed: Average Age to Stop Breastfeeding
Let’s be clear, breastfeeding is a highly personal journey. The experience of one mother can vary drastically from the next, and even different babies can have unique feeding habits or circumstances that can impact how long they breastfeed.
This being said, it’s important to know that there’s no “normal” age to stop breastfeeding. The choice is ultimately up to you and your baby!
Let’s explore more about the average age to stop breastfeeding and tips for ensuring your baby gets all the nutrients they need as they grow.
When Do Moms Typically Stop Breastfeeding?
There is truly no recommended age to stop breastfeeding, and it varies from mother to mother. However, there are some interesting statistics about the average age to stop breastfeeding that are interesting.
The most recent Breastfeeding Report Card by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that at six months (the age when babies can be introduced to solid foods), 55.8% of infants received some breast milk and 24.9% received breast milk exclusively. By 12 months, 35.9% of babies still received some breastmilk but none are exclusively breastfed.
As a child gets older, mothers often begin to wean them or practice baby-led weaning. Some babies are still breastfed at two to four months old. All of this is to say, there’s no golden age to stop breastfeeding, but many mothers choose to do so when their child is around two years old.
Of course, the average age to stop breastfeeding also depends on other factors, like cultural and regional differences or other circumstances.
Reasons Mothers May Stop Breastfeeding
According to the CDC, 60% of mothers report not breastfeeding for as long as they wanted to. This can be due to issues with lactation and latching, cultural norms and lack of support or unsupportive work policies.
Choosing to stop breastfeeding can be an emotional choice, especially when it’s outside of your control. It’s always important to have a strong support system by your side during every step of your breastfeeding journey.
A Walkthrough of Weaning
Weaning is the process of slowly switching a newborn’s diet from breast milk or formula to more solid foods. Here are some important things to remember no matter if you’re completely weaning your baby or choose to continue breastfeeding with complementary foods.
How Long Should You Breastfeed a Newborn?
Of course, newborn babies require frequent feedings and the most milk as they grow. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life.
Breast milk provides your baby with all the nutrients they need to grow. And breastfed babies have been shown to perform better on intelligence tests and are less prone to being overweight or developing diabetes later in life.
Verywell Family recommends that newborn babies nurse for 10 to 15 minutes every two to three hours. However, they may also cluster feed for 25-45 minutes, which is typical behavior. The length of time your baby breastfeeds isn’t always an indicator of how much they’re eating. That’s why it’s important to monitor your baby’s feeding frequency, wet or soiled diapers and weight gain.
After Six Months
At the six-month mark, you can begin to introduce solid foods to your baby. WHO explains that around this time, babies often have more nutritional needs than milk can supply. It’s important to introduce other foods to help their growth.
You can begin feeding your baby complementary foods two to three times a day between six to eight months. Between nine and 11 months this can increase to three to four times a day.
At this point, you may notice that your breastfeeding sessions are shorter as your little one becomes more mobile. However, they may still have longer sessions in the morning and evening.
Complementary foods to breastfeeding are often pureed, mashed or semi-solid. Think of the types of baby food you see at your local supermarket! Infant cereal with added iron, pureed vegetables, fruits, meat, and other protein-rich foods are ideal as they go through growth spurts and start being more active.
After One Year
By one year, your baby is ready for more finger foods and solids and they’re likely already drinking out of cups. When your child reaches this age, it’s also easier to know their cues for when they want to breastfeed. Some children may want to breastfeed during the morning and night, while others will in short bursts throughout the day.
You may also want to get on a consistent schedule with your baby. Since your milk production is heavily dependent on how often you breastfeed, having consistency can help you maintain your supply. While your schedule is up to you, you may consider breastfeeding your one-year-old three times a day during typical meal times. Or have anywhere from five to seven shorter sessions throughout the day.
Once your child reaches two years of age, it’s often considered long-term breastfeeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers and babies breastfeed beyond one year, and up to two years. That’s because the benefits of breastfeeding long-term are associated with protection against diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancers of the breast and ovaries.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t be your toddler’s main diet, but it is still a great way for a mother and child to bond and gain supplemental nutrients. At this age, your child should be eating a balanced diet as you do. Breastfeeding sessions may be shorter, but your toddler can find comfort in breastfeeding when they’re tired or sick.
Celebrate Your Breastfeeding Journey
Breastfeeding can be a precious time in your life, and weaning your child can be an emotional and bittersweet process. A piece of breastmilk jewelry is a great way to commemorate the bond you’ve created with your baby for the decades to come so you can always remember your breastfeeding journey.
Explore one-of-a-kind breast milk jewelry at KeepsakeMom today.