Published on 2nd March 2023

This blog was reviewed by lactation consultant Olivia Hinge on 03/05/24

How long should breastfeeding continue? As with so many elements of parenting, it’s a question without a direct answer — partly because there’s a degree of personal choice involved. Pose this question to a group of ten parents, and you’re likely to get ten completely different answers!

Bear in mind that the WHO guidelines encourage exclusive breastfeeding (1) for the first six months of your baby’s life (if you’re able to – we know some moms and babies can’t). The WHO recommends breastfeeding in addition to giving solid food until your baby is 2. You might decide you want to stop at the six month mark, or even before that if you’re struggling. Equally, you might continue to breastfeed beyond 6 months, but decide to stop when your little one turns a year old. Every parent (and baby) is different, so the right time to stop breastfeeding will vary. If you’re feeling unsure about when (or how) to stop, then read on — we’ve got you covered!

Deciding to stop breastfeeding

You should never wean before your baby is 6 months old (2) – research shows babies don’t need anything but breast milk for the first 6 months of life – but if you want to stop breastfeeding and use another feeding method, you can do this whenever you like. If you want to know more about weaning, we’ve put together a guide here [link], and in this blog, we’re talking only about stopping breastfeeding, which you can do at any point. 

There are many reasons you might want to stop breastfeeding – perhaps you’re finding breastfeeding difficult and want to try pumping instead. Maybe you’re returning to work and switching to pumping, or you simply want to share feeding duties with your partner. If you want to continue breastfeeding but are struggling with the physical or emotional demands of it, it may be worth speaking to a lactation consultant before stopping completely.

How to stop breastfeeding

So, you’ve decided you’re ready to stop breastfeeding. Things might feel a little scary at the moment, but just remember that this is completely natural — this is a big transition for you and your baby. The first thing you’ll need to know if you’re stopping breastfeeding is how much milk your baby needs, so you can plan your new feeding schedule. 

How much milk do babies need?

In the first two weeks of life, babies feed 8-12 times in a 24-hour period, drinking 1-3 ounces of milk at a time (3). Between 6 weeks and 6 months of age, this amount should be sufficient. But every baby is different – if you feel these amounts aren’t enough (or are too much) for your baby, speak to your doctor or pediatrician for advice on how much they need to maintain a healthy weight and growth rate.

From breastfeeding to pumping

Your milk supply should regulate at around 4-8 weeks after birth (4,5), so breastfeeding for at least that duration is recommended even if you don’t want to continue long-term. At that point, your body makes milk based on your baby’s demands. 

Suddenly stopping or reducing feeding can cause engorgement or mastitis (4) so if you’re replacing breastfeeding with pumping, you’ll need to pump on the same schedule as you fed. To get your baby used to taking pumped milk, you can start by pumping a little extra about an hour after a breastfeed. Your baby might be more inclined to take pumped milk from a bottle from someone other than you – after all, you’ll smell of delicious breast milk, so a rubber teat might seem unappealing (6). Your pumping schedule will need to mimic your baby’s feeding schedule, to maintain your milk supply and ensure you’re pumping enough milk to meet their needs. 

Stopping breastfeeding when you wean

If you’re still breastfeeding when you start introducing solids at 6 months old and decide you want to stop, the same rules apply – pump on the same schedule as your breastfeeds, and if you’re stopping with breast milk completely, do it gradually to avoid engorgement or mastitis. Even when babies begin eating solid foods, though, breast milk is still an important source of nutrients – food isn’t a direct replacement. 

That said, you may find it easier to stop breastfeeding at this age, as your baby might naturally have fallen into a pattern of fewer feeds. Again, every baby is different – base your decisions on your baby and their behavior.

Common reasons for stopping breastfeeding

There are a few reasons why you may decide to stop breastfeeding your baby a little earlier than you’d originally planned. These may include:

Medication affecting breast milk

Most medication is completely safe to take while breastfeeding, but it’s always best to let your GP or pharmacist know that you’re breastfeeding, just to be on the safe side. To find out more, head to our guide on breastfeeding while using medication.

Breastfeeding is painful or uncomfortable

Incorrect positioning and attachment can result in sore nipples and painful breasts while breastfeeding — especially in the first few days and weeks. 

If this sounds familiar, it’s best to seek help from a midwife, health visitor, or lactation specialist. They may be able to help you improve your baby’s latch by showing you breastfeeding techniques, meaning you can continue breastfeeding without the pain, if you want to. It could also be worth using a breast pump (such as the Elvie Pump) to build up a pain-free supply of breast milk. 

There may be emotional reasons not to breastfeed – some women who have experienced physical or sexual trauma are uncomfortable with their breasts being touched. If you’ve tried breastfeeding and found it distressing, the best choice for you may be another feeding method. Talking about these things is daunting, but we recommend speaking to your doctor or a counsellor for support.

Not enough breast milk

Worrying about how much milk you’re providing is actually a pretty common concern. The good news is that most moms will produce plenty of milk, and should have no trouble meeting their baby’s needs.

If you’re still concerned, though, there are several methods you can try to increase your breast milk supply

Returning to work

Breastfeeding doesn’t have to stop just because you’re heading back to work. Building up a supply of breast milk is relatively simple with an electric or manual breast pump (especially since our breast pumps are wearable and travel-friendly). If you don’t want to stop breastfeeding completely, you can combine pumping or expressing while at work with breastfeeding when you get home. 

Worried that your workplace might not agree with you expressing? Consider sharing CDC's guidance on breastfeeding while returning to work with them, or contacting your union if you have one. If you’re in the UK, ACAS or advocacy group Pregnant Then Screwed will help you know your rights. 

How long does it take for breast milk to dry up?

This can vary from parent to parent and depends on several factors such as breastfeeding frequency, how long you breastfed for, the age of the baby, and the mother's hormone levels. Generally, once breastfeeding or pumping has ended, it can take several days to several weeks for the milk production to completely stop, for most people it will take months for milk to not be present when you squeeze the breast. Some people find they can still express milk long after they have stopped breastfeeding.

What is the easiest age to stop breastfeeding?

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to this question. The official WHO guidelines state that it’s best to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, and continue breastfeeding in addition to solid food for up to 2 years (or longer, if you want to!) In terms of how easy it might be, this can vary from baby to baby, so it’s impossible to say!

Ultimately, the best age to stop breastfeeding is one that works for both mother and baby. It's important to listen to your own body and look out for your baby's cues, and seek the advice of a lactation specialist if needed. 


  1. Infant and young child feeding, World Health Organisation, December 2023 

  2. Weaning Made Easy, Public Health Agency

  3. An Age-by-Age Feeding Chart for Newborns and Babies,, December 2022 

  4. How to stop breastfeeding, NHS, March 2023 

  5. When Does Milk Supply Regulate When You’re Breastfeeding?, Cleveland Clinic, February 2024 

  6. Introducing a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby, La Leche League International, August 2018