LittleFoot turns 1 towards the end of this month, which means I’ll have been breastfeeding him for one year and that my friends, no matter how you look at it, is a long time. And it’s an odd feeling. In some ways it feels like we’re only just getting started, but in others it feels like a lifetime has passed us by.
All four of my little Lost Boys have been breastfed.
I have nursed them through illness, to sleep, when they’ve been hurt, through growth spurts, teething, the works. None of them have gone far past a year — they’ve all self-weaned — which was both heartbreaking and, I have to admit, a little relieving at that point.
They all became chewers. Yowzers. And, honestly, none of them slept through the night after the 4 month sleep regression. I started doing things throughout the day automatically, like a robot, autopilot turned on, my brain barely engaged. My back is also shot after the many many night feeds over the years, my head lolling forwards like a puppet without its puppeteer to keep it upright, my boobs bigger than I would have thought humanly possible and able to produce milk at the mere sight of a baby. (Okay, that last one’s not technically quite so simple as that, but I’m fairly sure that my boobs never actually stopped producing milk in the breaks between having my boys (I never officially checked!) so maybe they will always be milk makers… *eyes widen in horror*)
So, why did I keep breastfeeding if it was so hard?
Don’t get me wrong, as much I like to bitch and complain, I absolutely love breastfeeding! Seriously, I adore it! It is one of my favourite things in the world. I love what it has given my boys; the pride that I feel at having been able to do it. We are so bonded together because of it, and that is wonderful. Much was conquered together, learning, growing, changing, crying and laughing throughout.
But at this point, I am exhausted.
I don’t think that’s a shameful thing to admit, and I actually think it helps us mums to know that we’re not doing a bad job – sometimes it’s just really fricking hard! If you know a mama who’s having a particularly tough time at the moment or just want to give her a boost, go ahead and purchase one of my handmade, hand-painted, customisable and totally unique Breastfeeding Support Cards! Follow the link here to check them out!
One of the things I like to do when I’ve had a particularly bad stretch of no sleep is to remind myself why my baby breastfeeds so much – especially at night. (You can read what I have to say about that here and how I managed to cope on particularly tough nights!)
So, how do you stop breastfeeding?
Now, the first thing I’ll say is that WHO recommends breastfeeding for at least 2 years and I totally encourage you to do so! So many people say that breastfeeding after the first year – or even the first 6 months – is no longer beneficial to either the mother or the baby. I’m sure you’ve heard it said, whether it’s a stranger on the internet or your friend or mother, that it’s unnecessary. Breastfeeding mothers are made to believe that we only prolong breastfeeding for selfish reasons because we can’t bare the thought of our baby no longer feeding from us. Or worse that there’s something perverted in continuing into toddlerdom. To those people I roll my eyes, say sit the heck down and educate yourself! These “facts” are simply not true.
First of all, let’s remind ourselves why babies breastfeed in the first place.
Say it with me folks, “it’s not just about milk”!
The first thing I’d recommend you do is read your baby.
With my first three boys, they initially dropped their afternoon feeds. It was that simple. They simply refused to nurse, no matter how much I tried. And as you will know, if your baby doesn’t want to breastfeed, there is now way in hell you’re going to get them to! Next went the morning feed. All they wanted was to get out of bed, go play and have their breakfast. Breastmilk wasn’t even a glimmer in their eye. Eventually, and lastly, went the night feeds (I didn’t miss those ones so much.)
I’m not saying that’s how it will be for you and your baby, because it actually hasn’t been this time around for me.
LittleFoot is different to his big brothers.
So far, at over 11 months, he is still breastfeeding pretty much on demand. It is the only way he can get to sleep. When he wakes in the night or in the morning, it is the first thing he wants. He still uses me for comfort (yes, I am officially a glorified dummy right now.) Ergo, he is not ready to stop breastfeeding. And that’s okay. All in his own time.
There is your first clue guys: if your baby still wants to breastfeed, it is not time to stop. When they show no interest, you may have your first indicator that their breastfeeding journey is coming to an end!
Another indicator is if food is their obsession. If your baby is only interested in food and the instant gratification of it (Who isn’t? Am I right? Virtual high five!), they may just stop wanting breastmilk! They, of course, must be getting a balanced diet to gain all of their nutrients. An important thing to remember is that your baby needs to be over one year old at this point! Remember, before one, always offer breastmilk before foods!
Follow Your Intuition
You will notice that all of my advice (and that’s all that this is!) is fairly intuitive! I go by what my baby needs and wants and I try my best to roll with it. Choosing to breastfeed was a choice I made because I believed that it was the best decision for our family. Looking now, I still believe that and I hope I always will. That has meant, when it comes to stopping (unless there is a medical need of the mother or baby that prevents continuing breastfeeding) I have just kept going until our journey has run it’s natural course!
And I hope you will too! After all, you’ve gotten this far — you can do it!