Beauty, Family

Why is it so Hard to Stop Breastfeeding?

I know it makes me sound a little bit daft, but I must have Googled “how do you stop breastfeeding?” over a hundred times. If you’ve never done this, you’re probably thinking, surely you just stop doing it, right?

Well I’m afraid you’d be wrong. It seems it’s almost impossible to just stop.

I ended up feeding my boy for about 16 months because I just couldn’t stop. I was often met with weird looks when I confessed this and received comments that suggested I was a bit gross. 

Truthfully, I wish I had strong convictions about breastfeeding past one year, at least then I could stick up for my ‘beliefs’, rather than actually just feel a bit daft that I’d been letting my child dictate to me for so long.

I managed to stop about a month ago, but it was really HARD.

So what happens if you try to ‘just stop’? I hear you cry: a painful mess, is the answer!

Your body produces the normal amount of milk, leaving you engorged and sore, then you leak a bit, followed by the risk of mastitis in some cases. Your baby isn’t happy either, I understand. So it’s probably not the way to go.

With my daughter, I never really had the opportunity to stop by myself. I was going through a stressful time and one morning I woke up and it was gone. Nothing was there and I just had to deal with it. So this time, I didn’t really know what I was doing.

I had been trying to stop breastfeeding for about 7 months before I actually managed to. The best approach for me was to gradually introduce a bottle and feed him little less breast milk every day. It took about five real attempts before it stuck. I would keep giving in and feeding him, thus stimulating my supply again.

Any advice I could find on the subject seemed to just cover the mechanics of the process, so I wasn’t prepared for the emotional effects. I felt terribly guilty, like I was depriving my baby of love and comfort. He would wake in the night, seeking the comfort of breast milk and four out of those five times I would give in, I couldn’t bear the heartbreak on  his face. 

The final (successful) attempt at stopping forced me to resist offering what he wanted for five full nights. He could get by without noticing in the day and a few weeks previously I’d managed to stop the morning breast feed and the nap time one. I could even get him to sleep at night without feeding him from me, but he would wake and cry for me.

After those five sleepless nights, it was like someone had flicked a switch and he no longer cared, but I still felt horribly guilty. I questioned whether or not what I was doing was right for us. I didn’t want him to feel rejected or unloved. However, these feelings eventually passed.

Now he’s happy with his bottle at night, his face lights up at the sight of it when he’s tired out in the evening. He also sleeps much better too, which is a godsend. After the initial rough patch of stopping something he loved, we’re on the other side now and it was definitely the right choice.

Whenever you decide to stop breastfeeding, be prepared for all sorts of unexpected emotions. Remember that you’ve done well to even give your child any breast milk at all, don’t beat yourself up about your decision to stop, there must have been a good reason behind them. 

However natural it might be, it’s as hard to start as it is to finish (basically, nature is having a laugh at us) so make sure you take care of yourself throughout the process: your well-being is just as important as baby’s.

9 thoughts on “Why is it so Hard to Stop Breastfeeding?

  1. Awww! Lovely post. I loved breastfeeding. I fed my daughter for 14 months. It just gradually petered out, I didn’t find it difficult. It was one of the best things I ever did for her. Mind you, she was a really poor eater, all through childhood, very fussy! She’s 30 now, and eats everything!

    1. To be fair, Greg has always been a good eater, but I just couldn’t bring myself to sever the ties! I tried so many times, and now it’s done I’m very grateful of the undisturbed sleep I get. I am pleased I did it for him though, both me and my partner have asthma and breastfeeding is meant to help with that. (I’m not sure how true it is though)! It’s good you didn’t find it difficult, my boy was just too fussy I think!

  2. Oh! I haven’t gotten to this point yet, not looking forward to it as I love breastfeeding! I have to begin weaning in 2 weeks and haven’t really grasped the fact that as I introduce solids I have to reduce the milk x

  3. Lovely post. I decided to stop breastfeeding after 13 month because I planned to become pregnant again some time soon and thought a little “rest” is good for my body. I cried every time I breastfed and thought “this is the last time.”, because I didn’t want to end this relationship. without my reproduction plans, I would have continued until the 20th or 22nd month, if baby girl wanted it. Well… but week after week we continued to breastfeed, because just holding and carrying wrap just wasn’t enough. And I lost sight of my aim to get pregnant in a particular month. Then she suddenly she was satisfied with holding and carrying wrap… at the beginning of her 15th month… and that was exactly two weeks before the date, I had intended to become pregnant again. Surprisingly, she never asked for it anymore. As if she knew about the circumstances.

  4. Just a quick note to say nice article. There is something so special about breastfeeding. There is no exact date when you should stop. The longer you can provide this the better for your child’s immune system. My stopped at 18 months because we were on vacation and we missed some feedings. It just naturally went away. My son was….. yep 22 months. He stopped because he had a cold and couldn’t breath while feeding.
    Good luck to you!

    1. I think that’s a good point, there is no ‘right’ time, just what’s right for you and baby. I feel a bit more free now I’ve stopped, and we all definitely sleep better!

  5. You brought up a very great point! I was not aware of this and it is a very good thing to keep in mind for family and friends that may be concerned as well:)

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