This is a post I didn’t ever think I would be able to sit and write. 2 years? I almost made it to 2 years of breastfeeding! I cannot believe this journey turned out to be this long and I also cannot believe where 2 years has gone! After that difficult pregnancy, his premature start and all that pumping (urgh) I didn’t know how long I would breastfeed for and at the very start, I didn’t know if it would happen at all. Anyway, we got there and if you wanted to read about that I have a blog on prematurity and breastfeeding which covers what happened.
But here I am, two weeks on from giving up on this stage in his life and I thought I would reflect on why, how I did it and how I felt and feel now. After all, it’s a big deal and a huge part of both of our lives.
Why was it time to stop?
For me, giving up breastfeeding was something that had been on my mind for quite a few months. I was torn, though. I adore breastfeeding. I only made it to 9 months with Jake so to get past 1 year with William was a big milestone for me. Yes, it can be a pain when you want to go out, go away, want a break and your sleep but nothing can prepare you for how you will feel as you nurse your baby. Those big blue eyes looking up at you, little smiles being passed to you whilst still maintaining that latch, being the only person to provide this comfort and nourishment. Oh I could go on and on (oh, yeah I already did in this post here!)
Having said all of this, our breastfeeding journey had started to alter. William was very much aware of being able to demand it, to try and get it just because he could and he was beginning to get a bit out of a hand with it. I didn’t mind the morning feed, the naptime and bedtime one and even a couple of afternoon cuddles with one, which is what we had got him down to, but all of a sudden he decided that wasn’t enough. I assumed it was a phase and like all of them, it would pass quickly and we would all get some sleep again. Unfortunately, it didn’t pass and it turned into a habit, a bad habit. His night time wakings became regular, he would scream at me if I said no, he would refuse to settle unless I gave him the boob, he was waking the entire household and exhausting all of us, including himself. The worst part was that he now had no cotside on which meant he was appearing in our room, climbing onto the bed, pulling my top down and just getting his milk!! We had crossed a line.
It was such a shame that something I loved so much was starting to cause a lot of stress and as I didn’t want to end up hating it I thought the time had come to end this part of being a Mum.
How did I stop?
I’ll be honest, I just knew I had to go cold turkey with him. I had got us down to just naptime and bedtime feeds a few months before (with the odd feed in the day if he needed it) but then because he started demanding more I could tell that weaning his feeds down wasn’t going to work. Now, going cold turkey when giving up breastfeeding isn’t usually recommended due to the risk of mastitis as well as the upset from your little one so please, if you are thinking about giving up, do your research and gain advice. At almost 2 years of feeding, William had understanding, he was past the point of needing it and was wanting it plus my breasts weren’t at all engorged anymore, they were already getting smaller and I was beginning to wonder how much milk was actually there.
I decided to stop when I did just simply because we’d had another terrible night and that was it for me. I hadn’t planned the day, I didn’t do an emotional final feed, I just told myself enough was enough for all of us. So my last feed was the night before at bedtime. In the morning I told him it was all gone and luckily he was at my Dad’s that day anyway. This meant he wasn’t stressed in the day asking for it and being refused it which I think really helped. Of course, once he was home he started pulling at my top immediately but he accepted the fact that I told him it was ‘all gone’.
Not all plain sailing
However, that bedtime was not as easy. He cried, he battled me, he kicked off and then I cried. It was so hard. This had been our bedtime routine for so long and it was a change for both of us. I’ve also had evenings where he has just been glued to me and refusing to go to bed awake. Even though I knew that giving up breastfeeding was for the best it didn’t mean that my emotions were all in check. We got through it but it was hard and unless you are prepared for that I’d say don’t give up just yet. That bond is strong and that need to comfort your little one is too. Also, those hormones can go crazy when you stop breastfeeding so you may feel far more teary than usual.
However, having said all that, each night gradually got easier for both of us and I kept up telling him that milk was all gone which he started to accept. Yes, there were nights where I was putting him back up in bed over and over again but if I was really struggling, we found that my husband could settle him where I couldn’t, basically because he had no milkies expectations of him! I think the biggest solution was just us remaining consistent. I didn’t once give in to his wants, I didn’t put him to my boob to try and comfort him, I detached myself mentally from that and kept telling myself that this was for the best.
So, as mentioned above the main risk of giving up breastfeeding is mastitis. In order to prevent this I hand expressed in the shower to relieve some of that pressure. I didn’t want to do much as I didn’t want my body to produce more but it was just enough to combat that tenderness. I remember doing this with Jake and as my boobs were far more engorged with him, I had to hand pump more often and also drank sage tea as I read that this could help with drying up your milk. Cabbage leaves can also help with reducing swelling.
Other changes for me have included hormone-induced migraines and last week I had 2 of these. I have recently written about my migraines so if you also suffer from these I include all of my symptoms and what I do to remedy them here.
Of course, the main change, in the end, are 2 very deflated boobs!! This can be a bit of a shock after having the best boobs of your life for so long (true story!) – just another part of becoming a Mum, your body continues to change and all we can do is try to continue to get used to it all. I had already bought a comfy bra with no underwire in a smaller size in preparation for this and I am so glad that I did. It meant that during this time I was far more comfortable and I wasn’t panicking over not having anything suitable. Now, having already been through this before I know that our boobs are capable of bouncing back and mine did with Jake (there’s not much to bounce, mind!) so I am ever hopeful that they do to a certain extent this time!
Where are we now?
Two weeks on from giving up breastfeeding and things are so much better. William is being put down awake for both naptime and bedtime and is getting himself off to sleep, something he hasn’t done for so long. He is rarely waking at night and has given us 2 full nights of sleep this week! He still hasn’t forgotten and occasionally asks or pulls at my top but due to his age, he understands and it is much easier. There’s still this small part of me that is dying to nurse him and have that bond back but I know that is just because it is all over now and it is sad moving on from those baby days. I know we needed to move on, I know the timing was definitely right. He is fine without my milk and he is still a happy little chappy.
Giving up breastfeeding
If you’re going through this right now or thinking about it, my biggest tip is to seek advice. There are plenty of websites, Facebook groups, Facebook pages that offer breastfeeding support so definitely do search for these and chat to other Mums. You could also look for support groups in your area and contact your health visitor. I think the key to this is just going with the right time for you.
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