I made a decision I’ve been thinking about for a long time at the start of the month. I stopped breastfeeding Arlo. To some it may not seem like a big deal but as anyone who is or has breastfed their baby will know, making the decision to stop isn’t one that can be taken lightly. On the first of November I just decided to stop breastfeeding Arlo (with my boobs, obviously I have been giving him food!) and surprisingly it has been easier than I thought. I’ll get on to how I did it in a bit but there were two main reasons why for me making the decision to stop after 19 months and even though I know that that’s a lot longer than many people breastfeed for but I still feel guilty which is pretty ridiculous!
You might think a post all about stopping breastfeeding is a bit over the top, but it was such a long and special experience that I couldn’t not write about the end of this, my last, journey. We’re not planning any more children now so that’s it, the last thing that helped me think of Arlo as a baby is over! Breastfeeding is also a topic that I have written about lots on this blog, and helped many people with questions and support on instagram and via FB messages.
Firstly I was just exhausted from it. Bedtimes were taking forever as he swapped sides and messed about and then took forever to actually fall asleep once he lay down (and that was after actually getting him to fall asleep without feeding to sleep and then having to s-l-o-w-l-y detach him and put him down). Then he’d wake up every 2 hours or so from then on throughout he night, which meant my evenings were never my evenings as I would have to drop what I was doing at any given moment and rush in to re settle him. I did think about just night weaning but he often fed that much or more during the day too!
The second reason is that I felt like I couldn’t sit down without Arlo pawing at my chest. I wanted to be able to just cuddle him without feeding him. I wanted to be able to comfort him without feeding him. I wanted to be able to leave him overnight and do things that I’ve had to turn down because I couldn’t leave him with Sam overnight for fear he’d scream the place down. I also wanted to be able to wear what I liked and not have to worry anymore about boob access. For over 4.5 years I have either been pregnant, breastfeeding or both and I kind of want my body back. Feeding in public was never an issue for me and I am lucky that I was never on the receiving end of any comments or funny looks (or I’m oblivious!) and we were still feeding in public when it was needed, which meant I constantly lived in jeans and a vest top with a baggy top I could easily pull up. I want to wear dresses again that don’t have wrap fronts or zips!
How I stopped breastfeeding
We went cold turkey. I just decided whilst he was at the child minders that that was it. No more. When I picked him up I made sure I had water and a snack with me to distract him, then pretty much didn’t sit down for the rest of the day so he couldn’t reach my boobs. Sam was at home that night so he put him to bed, which he has done a few times when i’ve been out. He had a beaker of cows milk (which he does drink anyway) and a bottle of water and it took him about half an hour but he did eventually stop wriggling and go to sleep. That night I slept on the sofa and Sam resettled him the few times he woke up. The next night Sam was on a late shift so I was on bedtime duty on my own, which I was dreading, but I just made sure I had a jumper on that he couldn’t pull down and gave him a cuddle and sang a few nursery rhymes then tucked him under his duvet and stayed with him till he fell asleep. It took about an hour but there were no tears! I explained to him that there was no more ‘bubba’ which was what he and I called breastfeeding, that the milk was all gone. I think leaving it till 18 months plus meant he actually understood this, even if he didn’t like it. We called the beaker of cows milk ‘big boy milk’ and I think that helped too as Athena still sometimes drinks her milk from a beaker. The hardest thing was the night wakings, as for the first week or so I was still producing milk and often I leaked overnight, so it was hard in my sleepy state not to pop a boob otu as let him feed as we had done for so long. At first I’d give him a cuddle and then gradually started to just offer him water and rubbed his back. Now three weeks later he only wakes once or twice between bedtime and 6am, which is the best it;s ever been. I am feeling so much happier now I can almost guarantee my evenings are not going to be interrupted, and I am getting more sleep in longer chunks now too overnight!
What happens to your boobs when you stop breastfeeding?
As we were still feeding frequently and I stopped with no warning my boobs obviously didn’t get the message right away. They filled quickly and were really sore and leaked too. I didn’t have any breast pads as never needed them past the first week of feeding so I cut up sanitary towels to stick in there, thankfully I still had some stashed as I only had one period between having Athena and getting pregnant with Arlo, and haven’t had once since having him 19 months ago, but I am sure they will be back with a vengeance now we’re no longer breastfeeding. Each day I hand expressed just enough to ease the pressure, sometimes this was 2 or 3 times, and I felt for the harder lumps and massaged them as I expressed to clear them. It was SO painful to touch my boobs or when one of the kids knocked them, and even two weeks later they were still a bit tender with one hard lump left behind my nipple on both sides. After three weeks they were back to ‘normal’ albeit smaller than they were during my time breastfeeding, but a bit bigger than they were pre pregnancy. All that’s left to do now is to measure myself and buy some nice new bras that don’t have nursing clips! Having not worn an underwired bra for over 4 years now I’m probably going to avoid them, I can’t imagine how diggy that would be now!
So Arlo is still as cuddly as ever, and every couple of days when he’s really tired he’ll ask for bubba, but its getting less and less and actually I can’t now remember when he last asked. It’s so nice that he’ll cuddle me rather than paw at my top to expose a boob, but I am so grateful that we could, and did feed for as long as we did. I think the time was right for both of us, and the experience wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be, both for him and for me!
Here’s four of my favourite breastfeeding photos that I’ve shared over the last year and a half…