Like many women, I found the early weeks of breastfeeding incredibly tough and thought it would be a miracle if I made it to six months. I’ve recently stopped breastfeeding after twenty-six months. I’m really proud and grateful for the breastfeeding journey that Pip and I shared together, despite the difficulties along the way.
Stopping breastfeeding was also very challenging. I’d been considering stopping for some time, but I found the process difficult and it required a few strategies to ensure that our breastfeeding journey ended in a gentle way.
It was hard because although I felt ready, I was also really sad at the thought of it ending, I felt very emotional at times, it had been a big part of our journey together. Pip was also still quite keen, so the decision to stop breastfeeding was mine rather than hers, which caused a huge amount of mum guilt. I knew that if I left her to self-wean that it could have taken another year, maybe two, which I didn’t feel was right for me.
Making the decision to stop breastfeeding is the first step, which can be tough in itself. Ultimately you both need to be happy and healthy and your decision will be based on what’s best for both of you. You’ll know deep down when the time is right.
I did a bit of research into how to stop breastfeeding a two year old, but also made decisions about how to approach it based on knowing my own child. I also wanted to stop as gently as possible, knowing that stopping was hard for both of us.
Here are some tips for gradually stopping breastfeeding.
Don’t offer, don’t refuse
This came up in a lot of articles when I was researching how to stop breastfeeding. It basically means that you only give your child milk when they ask for it. Some children will then naturally reduce the amount of times they feed. This didn’t work for me, as Pip was asking for it all the time. But I think it’s definitely worth trying at first, as all children are different and it may work for you.
Gradually drop your feeds
I started to gradually drop some of the routine feeds, such as straight before bed time. I also stopped breastfeeding through the night and offered her a cup instead. I felt that I needed to remove that association between breastfeeding and sleep in order to stop breastfeeding altogether. Some women leave the bedtime feed as the last one to drop, but that’s up to you and what you feel is right for your child.
Change your routine
Your child will associate certain things with breastfeeding. For example they may feed when you get up in the morning, in a certain room. You could change that routine by heading straight downstairs for breakfast. Identify the things that your child links to breastfeeding and do something different so they’re not constantly reminded of breastfeeding.
I think the reason it took me a long time to stop breastfeeding is because I wasn’t being consistent and was giving mixed signals. I think this was a sign that I wasn’t quite ready to stop either, but once I really was ready and following a conversation with my health visitor, I knew I had to be stronger at sticking to my plan and our new routine.
Distraction, Distraction, Distraction
This was probably the most effective technique that helped me to stop breastfeeding. Consider the things they like and enjoy and have those things up your sleeve to offer them when they are keen for a feed.
Get Dad involved
If possible, ask Dad to take over during times when you think your child will be requesting milk from you. Dad’s presence could also help with the change of routine and the distraction.
Give them a special cup
You may already be offering them cows milk or something else instead of your breast milk. I found that Pip loved the novelty of a new special cup and it was a great distraction from the boob. She also liked it if we removed the top off her sippy cup. Explore different options and see what they enjoy to drink out of.
Talk to them
If you are trying to stop breastfeeding a two year old, try explaining to them what is happening and why. You could explain that they are a big girl or boy now and they are able to have their milk from their special cup instead of from Mummy. You could also look for a story book about stopping breastfeeding to support your conversation. If you think your child will have a good understanding then conversation could be very helpful.
If like me you find yourself in a position where you’re struggling to stop breastfeeding your toddler, I hope these tips are helpful. I still miss breastfeeding now and Pip still occasionally mentions it too. It did take me quite a long time to stop altogether, but I’m pleased that we were able to stop breastfeeding in a gentle way by putting some of the above steps in place. I wish you the best of luck with your own journey.