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.