How I stopped breastfeeding at 13 months

I did it!! I stopped breastfeeding. I can’t believe I finally bit the bullet and went cold turkey. Thankfully it went really smoothly so I know I made the right decision as Oscar has taken to it really well- you wouldn’t even notice. In fact, his behaviour has improved. Within a few days he was eating more (obviously) but actually playing by himself too, far less clingy and just getting on with his day like a happy chappy. 

I always knew I wanted to stop around a year, even before I started. Absolutely no disrespect to anyone who wants to continue feeding past one, but for me, I didn’t want him to get old enough to be able to ask for it, have a name for it, help himself down my top in public... you get the gist. For me, I knew that was something I didn’t want as I didn’t see our relationship getting to that stage and me still be comfortable feeding him. The older he gets I see him as more of a toddler and to me, breastfeeding is very much something for a baby. He was getting way too big for my arms and the fact we were still having naps where he would fall asleep on the boob and cry anytime I tried to unlatch him was getting a tad ridiculous. He also went through a phase of having a really rubbish latch while he had new teeth coming through and he only just got back to having a normal latch where it wasn’t painful and ‘toothy’ so I wanted to quit while we were ahead and he had a break between getting new teeth and started biting again. 

It was a huge relief for me to reach his first birthday as the advice given is then that past one year babies don’t nutritionally need breastmilk as they should by now be on three meals and two snacks a day that should be providing them with adequate nutrition. I wanted to stop feeding (on a bad day) about 10/11 months. Of course there were good and bad days and I remember being told never quit on a bad day so I soldiered on and soon enough there was a good day that followed every bad day and I returned to loving breastfeeding and the sweet cuddles and closeness of it all. 

When we reached one year I knew I could stop and decided to allow myself a handful of good days where I still wanted to stop feeding. I wouldn’t be quitting on a bad day and would come to terms with my decision as I was really worried I would stop feeding and a moment would come where I really wished I hadn’t and wanted to feed him for comfort and my milk had dried up. Or my biggest worry if he got poorly and wouldn’t eat, would I panic not having that tool to ensure he was hydrated and filling his tummy in some way. Having said that I do feel like in our circumstances Oscar was actually worse off still breastfeeding as he has been sick (vomiting) more in the last month than ever before simply from being so full of milk that he doesn’t need. Everytime he woke in the night he was taking a full feed and would eventually just projectile vomit where his stomach was bulging with fluid. 

I told myself I wanted to continue feeding until after he had had his one year jabs as I was anticipating he would be poorly afterwards and would want the comfort and could possibly feel under weather so had that back up plan if he wasn’t eating solids. 

Oscar’s naps were a disaster and I had told myself I wasn’t ready to continue the Ferber method, as I had been doing at night, with him in the day because I liked our naps too much, I liked taking that hour out of my day to snuggle with him on the sofa or in my bed and that I wouldn’t have those cuddles with him if I stopped breastfeeding. But the naps were soon becoming frustrating. Every time I went to unlatch him to get comfortable or change his position, he would wake up and root for the boob and be really upset until I finally fed him again, so he had to be ON my nipple for the duration of the nap, not sucking just, with it in his mouth. This for me wasn’t painful or physically uncomfortable but more so frustrating that he was so dependant at his age. I felt bad getting annoyed at him but I was annoyed, it was completely my fault and of course, he’s a baby, but it just wound me up that at a year old he still had to be latched onto me for the duration of his nap for him to be able to sleep in the day.

I had had a stressful morning of taking a while for him to finally fall asleep and me getting annoyed every time I tried to unlatch so the morning hadn’t gone well. I think at one point I just put him on the floor to compose myself because I couldn’t take it anymore and just wanted to scream, he of course cried and I felt awful and fed him to sleep again.

I then booked his jabs over the phone and they didn’t have an appointment available for another MONTH and I just thought OH HELL NO I’m not doing another month of this, I’ll put my head through a brick wall. And the fact I couldn’t bare to hang on another 4 weeks I knew it was my time to stop as I was so sick to death of it! He was feeding for comfort and had a major sleep association and it wasn’t a necessity for his physical health anymore. I wanted my body back. I wanted to keep my clothes on and my top up all day for once, I wanted to buy nice bras and not have him pulling at my top. So all in all, I didn’t let him self wean at all, it was a ‘mother led’, decision to stop. And I’m O.K. about that.

In my head I had been making such a big deal out of stopping, but it was the ‘big deal’ that I was making it, that was stopping me from actually feeding. I fed him that morning at 11, booked his jabs  and then made our way to a soft play. I confessed to my Mum friends I wanted to stop and just couldn’t bring myself to as everytime he got fussy I just caved and let him feed. And a friend snapped me out of it and just said “Look, just let this morning be your last feed and be done with it! You’re stressing yourself out trying to decipher how and when to stop but you know full well you want to so just be done with it! Don’t make a big deal out of the ‘last feed’ there doesn’t need to be violins and cherubs flying in the air, it’s just when you choose to stop. You’ve done a year of breastfeeding there’s no way anyone can say you haven’t given it your all so just stop if it’s making you unhappy.”

And so, I did! 

On the way home from soft play I stopped at Tesco and bought a TON of snacks. And from then on anytime he got fussy, instead of feeding him, I picked him up, first tried to distract him by pointing at something or walking him over to something and if that didn’t work I offered water and then finally a snack. I realised how lazy I had previously been that instead of trying to work out why he was fussing, I would just pacify him with a feed. Which explains why he would only get fussy 20 minutes later only for me to feed him again and say ‘oh God he just wants to feed all day’ well no, I’m just feeding him thinking he’s being clingy and wanting it instead of actually finding out if he wants something proper to eat, water, a different toy, is too hot/too cold/tired. And believably, he became an utter joy to be around in the day. He had gone from a clingy, fussy baby that wouldn’t play independently for longer than 5 minutes to a strong independent woman (just kidding) but he seemed to grow up overnight and to see him play and be content because I had got off my arse and worked out why he was upset was unreal that I hadn’t been doing this before. 

Due to doing the Ferber method for the last two or three weeks, he actually hadn’t had a breastfeed right before bed in over a week, because his bedtime routine was dinner, bath, book so I was just plonking him in after the book- not giving him a feed waiting for him to fall asleep… so tackling that was no issue. He eats very well so it’s reassuring to know I am putting him down with a full stomach - I definitely couldn’t have stopped feeding him had he not been such a good eater. But having said that perhaps a child that doesn’t eat well is due to the fact they are breastfeeding and are full of milk. Hard to say. I think judge it for yourself if you’re in the same shoes. Try cutting down on feeds and see if their eating increases.

I feel like the timing of me choosing to do the Ferber method went really well with my decision to stop feeding, I only had to cut out day feeds as the night feeds had stopped due to the sleep training. I felt like because I had moaned so much to my friends about wanting to stop that I told myself once I left that soft play it would be the last time I moan to them about it, because to be honest they were probably sick of me saying it and doing nothing about it! 

What nobody prepares you for is how sore your boobs will get and how the hell to ease the discomfort. My top tips for stopping cold turkey are to be well equipped with: snacks for the baby, a good beaker that he/she is used to drinking water out of for meals, an alternative milk (Oscar has Soya Growing Up Milk because we don’t drink cows milk), frozen peas (for your sore boobs), a really tight compression/sports bra with wide straps to make it comfortable, a Hakka pump (not essential but I had one anyway and it massively helped).

I spent a week of being uncomfortable. I didn’t have this magical list of how to make it less comfortable so it took me 4 days to get a tight sports bra, 4 days for someone to recommend a Hakka pump and 3 days for me to get so desperate that I shoved frozen peas down my top.

The most frustrating part of stopping cold turkey is being uncomfortable and knowing that if the baby just fed, or you used a pump, you would be empty again and so much more comfortable within a matter of minutes - but if you pump, or the baby feeds- you of course won’t ever stop feeding. For me I didn’t have the patience to gradually stop, I was so sick of it I just wanted it over and done with as soon as possible. This is when the beauty of the Hakka comes in, the Hakka uses a light suction using a plastic bulb to take the edge off of your boob. It’s supposed to be used to attach to the side you aren't feeding on and collect the let down. Which is why it’s perfect to ease the discomfort - there’s no active pumping so it’s not sending any signals to your body to produce more milk, as a breast pump or a baby feeding would do. It just took the edge off anytime I was feeling full and uncomfortable and would drain about 15mls or so. I wish someone had told me sooner because it was such a relief! 

 Hakka Pump

Hakka Pump

 

The frozen peas and taking hot baths/showers also really helped to numb the pain and the tight sports bra just made them so numb you barely noticed them. They were HARD and really uncomfortable for a week, I couldn’t play with Oscar on the floor because if he climbed all over me and touched my boobs it really hurt. Finally after a week, one morning I woke up and they were empty. Boom. Done. Gone.

I will get real with you right now, my boobs are the saddest, smallest, most pathetic excuse for boobs and I miss my giant, milk filled bosoms. BUT, I do not miss breastfeeding at all. I look at Oscar now and the thought of him climbing on top of me and sucking my nipple literally freaks me out so much! It took two weeks of doing all his naps (twice a day) in the pram or the car for him to cut his association with feeding to sleep for his naps and once he got over that, I now rock him on my shoulder and place him on my bed. Which means I still get my cuddles!!! If anything, Oscar actually cuddles me more. And that’s probably my favourite part about the whole thing. He will sit on my lap, wrap his arms around me, climb over me and play on the floor, have tickle fights and nuzzle his head into me. I feel like he’s actually appreciating me for me and not just wanting to get down my top all the time. 

Im so so happy with my decision to stop and he’s still eating really well, sleeping amazingly and is such a pleasure to be around all day long. At no point have I wished I was still able to feed him, I'm still able to comfort him when he falls, cuddle him when he's poorly and he drinks milk when he's feeling suggly and sleepy in the mornings. He has 300ml of Soya Growing Up Milk in a sippy cup cold as soon as he wakes up and will sip it intermittently watching some cartoons and playing with his toys and that’s all the milk he has. He wasn’t interested in the milk for a week or so, I tried it warm at first but the only thing that worked was it cold in a cup and offering it as soon as he woke up when he was thirsty that he just drank it and day by day got more and more used to it. 

So if you’re reading this and you want to stop breastfeeding- it’s O.K. to put your needs first if you’ve done everything you can to give them what they need. Do not feel pressure to carry on if it’s something your heart’s not totally set on. I am so glad I didn’t start a new habit while trying to stop breastfeeding. So many people suggested formula, suggested pumping and using bottles, cutting down feeds gently. I read SO many articles and nothing ever said just stop. Just - STOP!! You owe it to yourself after a year of feeding and sacrificing your body to stop when you want to.

P.S. Don’t get your boobs measured for new bras until you’ve stopped feeding, anyone want some 30DD bras? My -AA boobs don’t fit into them. *cry*