Breastfeeding comes with lots of challenges, but for me personally, one of the hardest breastfeeding challenges I have experienced to date has been knowing when and how to stop breastfeeding. As someone who has done extended breastfeeding with both of my daughters up until the toddler age category, it can be hard to break the long established routine that they have become very accustomed to since birth.
Whilst many Moms may choose to wait until their baby self-weans from the breast, there are many reasons why a Mom may decide to assist this process, gradually phasing out breastfeeding at a time that works best for them and their child.
You may want to go away with your partner, may be travelling abroad with work, or may simply be desperately chasing that elusive good night sleep! It is worth mentioning here however, that stopping breastfeeding should be a personal decision – and not influenced by other people’s ill informed breastfeeding judgement or opinions. A lot of people can be quite judgemental about extended breastfeeding but try and rise above it and only consider stopping if it’s something that feels right for you and your baby.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to stop breastfeeding, here are my tips for stopping breastfeeding your toddler.
Introduce another milk – If your child is used to having breastmilk just before bed, consider offering them an alternative such as cow’s milk in a cup before bed. We did this gradually over a few weeks, introducing it as part of her bedtime routine, and whilst at first she wasn’t keen, she gradually started to sip and drink from the cup. It may take a while to find the right temperature (as obviously the milk from your breast is warm!) but filling them up with this milk may make them less likely to want or need as much from you.
Partner Assistance – It can be pretty challenging to refuse milk when they ask, particularly if they have exclusively breastfed since birth and as such, having someone else put them to sleep can be really helpful. Once my daughter had drank some cow’s milk before bed, my partner would attempt to take her up to bed. There was a bit of confusion and tears at first, but as the nights went on, she gradually got used to the fact that Daddy could also do bedtime too.
One step at a time – I didn’t cut out breastfeeding completely all in one go as going cold turkey can not only be difficult for the child, it can play havoc with your hormones too and leave you feeling emotional and engorged! If my daughter woke in the night and still asked to feed I would but I didn’t offer unless she asked. Sometimes I found I was immediately offering the breast out of habit; knowing that it was the quickest and most efficient way to get her back to sleep. However, by resisting offering it immediately, I found that sometimes a brief cuddle or being close to her Mom was enough to settle her back to sleep.
Distraction – If your child still feeds in the day, then distraction can work wonders. Try and find other ways that your child can be close and still feel that warmth and affection from you without actually having to offer the breast. If you can gradually increase the amount of time between feeds and reduce milk to night feeds only, this can be real progress towards cutting out breastfeeding completely.
I for one will be sad to see the end of my breastfeeding journey, particularly as I know I won’t be having any more children. That said, I am proud of how long I have fed both girls for, and feel that it is now time for me to have a rest!