There’s no doubt about the incredible benefits of breastfeeding a baby for both mother and child but sooner or later it has to stop, right? Indeed, breastfeeding can’t go on forever but the endpoint can change from child to child. How mothers stop breastfeeding is also different and one of the methods we’re going to discuss today is ‘cold turkey’.
What does it mean to stop breastfeeding cold turkey?
Doing anything ‘cold turkey’ means to stop doing it instantly and to resist any desire to start doing it again despite objections or discomfort. To stop breastfeeding cold turkey a mother wouldn’t be weaning the baby off the milk slowly but stopping immediately and abruptly. To continue giving up breastfeeding cold turkey the mother would then ignore any and all of the baby’s protests for milk and instead providing the baby alternatives only such as follow on milk or solids depending on their age.
Is it a good idea to stop breastfeeding your baby cold turkey?
In all honesty, all of the writers and staff at Best For Mums think that stopping breastfeeding your child cold turkey is not a good idea and we would definitely not recommend taking this course of action. However, we do understand that different women have different needs so we’re going to help cover this topic as much as possible. Even if you absolutely want or need to stop cold turkey we are here to help.
Negatives of giving up breastfeeding cold turkey
Here are a list of reasons why you should not give up breastfeeding suddenly:
1. No more of the good stuff
There’s almost no substance on the planet that’s better for a baby than natural breast milk. By stopping the supply you suddenly you are changing a baby’s nutritional intake dramatically which could have detrimental effects on your baby’s health and wellbeing. We know they can’t be on breastmilk forever but the younger they are the more of an impact a change of food source will be.
2. Painful breasts
A breastfeeding mother’s body is designed to create a constant supply of milk that can be accessed on demand. It takes a while for your body to realise it doesn’t need to create as much milk when your baby’s being weaned off breastfeeding so when you suddenly stop depositing it the breasts can become engorged and painful – you’ll either need to restart breastfeeding or induce lactation another way to relieve this in the short term. Weaning a baby off of the breast slowly will help the mother’s body adapt and change the production to match what the baby now needs.
3. A hungry or full baby
When a baby breastfeeds they only take what they need – no more and no less. A baby that has suddenly had its food source taken away will need to deal with a whole new world of portion sizes depending on what their new food source will be. The result? A baby that isn’t getting enough food or getting too much – both are not great for a baby’s development at this crucial time. Weaning a baby slowly will help your baby adapt much easier and keep their development at a healthy level.
4. Cranky baby
We can guarantee that the person who will find giving up breastfeeding cold turkey the hardest will be the baby. Babies aren’t great at adapting to change and to suddenly lose the comfort of breastfeeding and the fact that they know there’s a constant supply of food there will be hard to take. You should brace yourself for an extremely confused and upset baby if you stop breastfeeding instantly. We’re serious. You will question why you quit breastfeeding this way with how ill tempered they’ll be.
5. Hormone crash
Breastfeeding and pregnancy do all sorts to a woman’s hormones, both good and confusing. Breastfeeding itself relies on hormonal cues to keep the supply going and to give the woman a hormonal ‘balance’. Stopping breastfeeding has been reported to create a hormonal crash in women where they start to become a little unbalanced which has led to overeating, anxiety and in some cases depression. Clearly, if you were to wean your baby slowly then it gives your body a chance to adapt and keep the balance.
6. Feeling inadequate
We’ve heard from a few mums who have for whatever reason had to stop breastfeeding cold turkey that they started to feel inadequate once they’ve stopped as the baby no longer relied fully on the mother and could now be fed by the partner or someone else. Going from the sole source of food to a bottle feeding mum is a lot for anyone to get over and the effects are often an overwhelming and upsetting feeling of being ‘inadequate’. Indeed, this is not a feeling we share with the mother but we can absolutely understand the toll this dramatic change can have on a mother’s mental health.
7. Loss of the bond
There’s no denying that an incredibly strong bond forms through breastfeeding which doesn’t just feed the baby but soothes the baby as well. Often, a baby may not even be hungry but they will want to be reassured that they are safe in the world and all is well and they get that reassurance through the whole breastfeeding experience. The experience comes not just from the actual feeding but the position they are held, the skin to skin contact and the smell of the mother and the milk. It is much easier to slowly change the experience than to abrubtly sever the bond.
Why Would Some Mothers Need To Give Up Nursing?
We always strive to make sure all of our articles are balanced and fair and even if we do not agree with something we still want to give both sides of the story. Giving up nursing your baby overnight may sometimes be the only choice or the best choice for a mother. Let’s take a look at some of these.
1. It isn't working out
For some mother and babies, breastfeeding may simply be too difficult and just not working to the point where the baby is just not getting enough food. Hopefully, they will have the support of midwives and health professionals at this stage who may say to give them a bottle. This is the most common reason and the most common cause of why women stop nursing. There is absolutely no shame in giving up and moving to formula milk – at the end of the day if it’s just not working out then you should always do what’s best for the both of you.
2. Medical reasons
Medical reasons can be a cause for women to need to stop breastfeeding. There are several medical issues which this could be such as infections, diseases and viruses along with other serious conditions such as breast cancer. These are quite extreme examples of potential causes but they are possibilities nonetheless. If it’s for medical reasons there really isn’t much you can do other than recover and potentially start again.
3. Going back to work
Not every mother is blessed with being off on maternity forever. Sooner or later you may have to return to work. If you work full time this can turn your childcare on its head even more so if you breastfed the baby as its food source can no longer be with it. Mothers who have not prepared for the impending return may find that they have to stop breastfeeding cold turkey or start expressing milk or move on to a bottle.
How to stop breastfeeding cold turkey
OK, so you’ve read about the downfalls of stopping breastfeeding cold turkey but you still want or have to go ahead with it anyway. Here are some tips and guidance to make it go as smooth as possible.
1. Express milk...or not
If you want to stop breastfeeding but you are able to express milk then we would thoroughly recommend this because it will greatly alleviate the pain you may encounter from engorged breasts full of milk. This is even better if you’re able to bottle this milk and continue to feed your baby the good stuff. This is the absolute best option for everyone involved if nursing has to end.
However, if you wanted it to be over quicker then do not express and do not use a pump. You’ll have to put with the pain but eventually the milk production will stop and it will get reabsorbed in the body.
2. Let the mother continue bottle feeding
Your baby has been used to being fed by the mother so far, so make this uncomfortable situation a little bit more comfortable by allowing the mother to continue feeding to give a sense of familiarity around feeding time. It won’t quite be the same as it’s not just the closeness the baby wants but the whole experience of breastfeeding but it’s a start.
3. Cabbage leaves, ice packs and alternative medecine
When your breasts start to get sore (and they will get sore) cabbage leaves and ice packs on your breasts can alleviate the soreness and cool them down. Cabbage leaves are easy to slip into your bra without anyone noticing to keep them soothed on the go. Ice packs are ideal at home if you feel they are particularly engorged in the privacy of your own home.
This, along with expressing will help going cold turkey a lot easier to handle. Alongside this, you can also throw in some medicine in the mix such as peppermint oil and sage to calm you down and gain some peace during this tough time. Peppermint tea and sage can also be consumed for a similar soothing effect for the mother.
4. Plenty of cuddles
Your baby is very likely to not find this experience pleasant at all. Although nothing other than the milk is going to completely soothe them it’s important to make sure that they do get some sort of comfort while they’re stressed. We recommend being particularly keen on extra cuddles from both mother and father to reassure the babe that you are there for them. They will probably continue to cry anyway but the cuddles may make it a bit easier.
5. Time it right
To ensure the most comfortable journey for baby and mother wait until both parties are in good health and fine spirit before you stop. If you’ve got a cold or your baby’s feeling poorly then the sudden lack of breastfeeding is only going to make things worse. Get yourself a good foundation to move forwards when everyone’s in a good mood!
RELATED: Getting a cold while pregnant
6. Practice distraction
Your baby is going to be screaming for your boobs even if he or she is presented with a formula milk bottle. If they’re clearly not hungry but it’s the comfort of sucking the nipple they are looking for, start practising distraction techniques to keep their mind off the boob. Dummies, sensory play, solid foods if they’re old enough and of course a good old fashioned cuddle are all excellent ways to take their mind off it.
We hope this article has shed some light on stopping breastfeeding cold turkey. If you are able to continue breastfeeding until 6 months then we recommend to do that and then after that to wean the baby from the milk. Quitting breastfeeding abruptly is tough for both mother and child and likely to lead to a very uncomfortable period of time on both sides. If you still want to quit or find yourself having to then I hope our tips help make it as smooth as possible. Have you stopped breastfeeding cold turkey? Let us know in the comments why you did it and how it all went – your comments can help other mothers in the same situation.