I’m serious! Can anybody help me? I’m the one who really needs to know how to stop breastfeeding a toddler? At the moment I’m finding it to be an insurmountable task.
The problem is me – mostly. Although for now I’m going to lay the blame for my failure on this whole Coronavirus Isolation thing.
Time To Wean?
See, I’ve been wanting to stop breastfeeding for a while now. I’d originally only wanted to breastfeed for the first 6 months but it went so well and was so convenient that when the 6-month mark arrived I just let it go by and carried on. I’d done a lot of reading up on breastfeeding while I was pregnant and knew that La Leche League recommended breastfeeding for at least the first year, ideally the first two.
Great, I carried on quite happily and thought no more about it.
As my son got older I started going to England more regularly to visit my family and was so happy that I’d continued with breastfeeding. There is nothing that makes flying with a baby easier than being able to stick a boob in his mouth whenever he starts to fuss. As long as he could have his boobie he would sit quite happily for the whole flight. (Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t feeding him the whole flight, but just knowing it was there kept him calm and chilled out.)
His first birthday came and went and we were still both happy with our arrangement. Everything was going swimmingly. Of course at one year old he wasn’t yet walking and he certainly didn’t know enough words to tell me exactly what he wanted.
Oops! To Late?
He’s 20 months old now and all that’s changed. Now he follows me around the house demanding his feed, pulling at my clothes every time I pick him up. And if I had a penny for every time I have the word “Boobie!” shouted at me throughout the day I’d be pretty well off by now, I can tell you.
It’s been like this for a while. A constant battle of the wills which I inevitably lose in favour of a quiet life. That’s why a few months back I decided enough was enough. He had an addiction, not a need, and it needed to be broken.
How Do I Do That?
The problem is I’d never thought about the actual process of weaning. Most of my friends had their babies years ago and they either didn’t breastfeed, or they’d only done if for a short while.(Although now I wonder if they were just being economical with the truth.)
Breastfeeding is still quite controversial, as ridiculous as that is, and I know from personal experience that I don’t feel comfortable doing it in public now my boy is bigger. People seem to be able to keep themselves in check if they see a woman breastfeeding a little baby but when the baby is older, and my son’s a big boy, they can’t seem to keep their thoughts to themselves.
Anyway, my research hadn’t got as far as weaning, and my friends had never really mentioned it, and I really had no clue what I’d let myself in for.
I decided that the night feeds needed to be addressed first. I was being woken up by this kid 4, 6, 10 times a night. Never less than 4. During a particular phase of teething he literally woke up every 40 minutes for the entire night.
Getting some sleep was high on my agenda.
This is what the books tell you to do:
Firstly, you need to decide which 7 hours you want to designate as “no feed” time. I went with midnight til 7am. I could feed him any time before midnight and then again after 7.
You’re supposed to start by dropping 1 or 2 feeds a night, and making the feeds shorter until phasing them out altogether. You can offer water when the baby wakes up during these hours, but not the breast. Eventually the baby is supposed to not bother waking up for just water and thus, sleeping through the night. Hooray!
Hmm, that’s not exactly what happened.
Big Fat Fail
When he woke up and I only offered him water he went mental. I wasn’t expecting him to be overjoyed about the situation but he had a meltdown like I’ve never seen. Full on Exorcist stuff, with body stiffening and contorting, and projectile vomiting just to top it off.
He has this thing where he stuffs his hand so far into his mouth when he’s screaming that he almost always ends up throwing up. I’m pretty sure he does it on purpose, his final act of defiance. We co-sleep so the clean up in the middle of the night is a right pain, and he knows it.
But I did what I had to and I didn’t give in that first night. And neither did he. Needless to say no one got much sleep. Not us, not my husband, not the neighbours.
The whole experience was absolutely horrendous. It feels terrible to have this kind of power. The power to comfort your child instantly and the power to refuse them that comfort. It’s not a good feeling and not one I though mothering would be about.
It was a tough night, followed by a tough day. We were all exhausted. I felt sad and conflicted. Sad that my baby had to go through this and not understand why, and conflicted about whether I really wanted to stop breastfeeding even though I really wanted him to start sleeping through the night.
Thankfully my little dude was fine though. A little bit tired and cranky but he didn’t seem to hate me for it so that was a relief.
I’m a fan of Janet Lansbury‘s podcast and I’ve read a couple of her books so I know that one of the most important things to do when implementing change is to make your decision and act on it with conviction. Kids need to know their boundaries or they can feel insecure and that causes them to act out.
On the second night I was ready. Ready for the screaming and contorting, ready for a quick reaction to the vomiting. Hell I would have been ready if his head started spinning round. What I wasn’t ready for was that he’d wake up only once, have a little moan, drink some water and go back to sleep.
I couldn’t believe it. I was so chuffed. I may have been a bit delirious as I hadn’t slept much, what with being ready and all. But he’d slept, and that was good enough for me. Wow, I thought. Great. Job pretty much done. Oh, naive little delirious me.
Night three comes around and I’m exhausted. Looking forward to a proper night’s sleep with my little angel. Ha! Fat chance. Turns out night two must have just been a fluke because he was so tired from night one. Once again, my son turned into Regan.
I did try, but I was just so tired.
He cried like his heart was broken and it broke my heart. I know that I did the wrong thing. I know I was supposed to have conviction, but I lacked it and I’m pretty sure he could sense that. I was defeated. I gave in.
I gave in, he calmed down and we both went to sleep.
I know from every book, website, podcast that you’re not supposed to give in. You mustn’t back track. When you make a decision you must stand by it.
That’s easier said than done when you haven’t slept for nearly two years and your baby is crying their heart out.
The problem I found with all the advice I read was that no one had said how difficult it would be. I don’t think I’m the only one, although maybe I am, I haven’t read about any experiences that I’ve related to. But I can’t be the only one that has found the whole thing just horrible.
I don’t think that sticking to something that is so upsetting for everyone is really the only way to do things. I’m sure it works for many families, and some kids are probably fine with it, but if they’re not then there must be a better way.
You’re not supposed to give in but surely that’s not the worse thing you can do, is it?
Waste Of Time?
Unfortunately, my lack of conviction meant that the whole episode had been for nothing. We’re still waking up every night, but at least some nights it’s only four times. You can imagine just how delirious I am that I think waking up four times is a good night!
Anyway, that brings me to now. See, I’d started to wean him during the day thinking that might be an easier, gentler option that would lead to greater things.
I manged to stop all feeds except the first one in the morning and the last one at night, and things were going OK for about a week. Not much drama, I just kept him busy with other things like going to the beach, or going to the park. You remember, those normal things we used to take for granted.
And then came the “Rona” and the whole world went in to lock down.
Being stuck inside all day with not much to do suddenly reminded my boy of what he was missing. And so the struggles began.
Of course, it’s my fault again, but living with a toddler during isolation is like living with a wild animal. You do whatever you can to placate them. So yes, I was defeated… Again.
What’s The Big Deal?
You’re probably thinking, “What a lousy mother. Her kid walks all over her”. And you’re probably right. I’m not a Type A personality. I’m not a planner, an organiser, or a leader. I’m definitely Type B. More of a go with the flow and hope for the best kinda gal.
So this is where I’m at. Completely torn between wanting to just go cold turkey, and also having a hard time letting go. When it’s going well breastfeeding is such an amazing thing. It gives you so many calm, special moments with your baby.
I know that when we stop (which will be soon, one way or another) I’ll find other ways to comfort and bond with him, just like all the mums that don’t breastfeed do. But it will be always be something I’ll think of as a really special time in our lives and there is definitely sadness in it coming to an end, even if some days I’d gladly chop my boobs off just to get some peace.
At the toughest times I just try to remember how quickly time passes and that soon this will all be but a fond memory.
That’s motherhood I guess – Trying to figure it out as we go along and hold on to those special moments just a second longer.
If you’ve gone through this and have any advice I’d love to hear it. Any advice at all! Please share in the comments below.
Thanks for letting me rant,
15 thoughts on “How To Stop Breastfeeding A Toddler – Can Someone Please Tell Me!”
First, I will say you are doing a great job and you’re not the only one with this issue. I have a toddler too exactly 21 months old and up till last February, 2 months ago, I tried everything in the world to stop breastfeeding him. The only thing that worked was for me to go away for the weekend and leave him with my partner. The cries and screams were not pleasant. In fact, we almost gave up because my partner called me in the middle of the night when he wouldn’t settle. It might not be possible for you to do the same now but I want to encourage you that this too will pass. There is light at the end of the tunnel and never forget that you are doing an amazing job.
Thanks so much Bolupe. It’s a relief to hear that I’m not the only one. Shame I can’t disappear for the weekend right now, maybe I’ll consider that after the lock down. Would be good for both of us I think. It’s really hard when they get so upset isn’t it? Hopefully when everything gets back to normal I’ll be able to get out more, and keep him busy so it will be an easier transition for both of us. Well done you though, it’s not easy.
Take care, Debbie x
You are quite right – there is little information out there regarding how to wean. Or perhaps little information of any use…. I asked my health visitor and doctor about it the reply I got was ‘just stop’. As you well know “were they f@*%ing kidding@. My 2yr 7mth still feeds once in the morning once before bed – id now like to give it up too but it’s bitter sweet. I’m a mum I’m lazy (or just too tired) to fight! All I can advise is keep trying, every feed try and distract him by something else. You may not win each battle but you may eventually win the war!! I was the same as you NO sleep for over two years (not one night) people think you’re exaggerating when you tell them – you wish you were….
I did the same as you cold turkey at night. A big wave goodnight to the boobs at bed time… it was hard, really hard but after night three it slowly got better. She still asked at night for months but gave in more easily. I can now get until 5am then it’s game over she comes in our bed, snuggles and feeds. Apparently I should get straight up to stop her, get breakfast and get in with our day. Did I mention it’s 5.00am….. just have the bloody boob!
You’ll get there – you’re NOT a failure. It’s just hard abs babies are more stubborn then we give them credit for. Lots of love xxxxxxx
I knew I wasn’t alone in this. And you’re right, there’s not much advice out there on how to handle weaning these stubborn toddlers. I keep telling him I’m the one in charge but i don’t think he believes me ?.
I guess it’s just a long process. We’ll get there. Who wouldn’t give a boob to not have to get up at 5am?
Good luck xxx
Very interesting article, in-depth and useful to readers.
Love the structure of this too, kept me interested and wanting to read on which for me is a key tactic, congrats 🙂
Thanks for writing and sharing this with us all!
Thanks Jason. Yeah, I hope it’s helpful in some way. I don’t have the answers yet but hopefully it’s a relatable story for other people having issues. At least we can be in it together.
Take care, Debbie x
Hi Deb, great article, I admire your honesty. I definitely have some experience with these challenges myself. I think I may fall in the same category women like yourself. I don’t have solutions other than the ones you already have. I completely hear what you are saying and I very sure you are not the only one.
I can only say, trust your instinct and do what feel right for you each day, I think that is all that matters, maybe just let it go and let it be, live in the present, before you know you are all looking back on it ?
Yeah, I agree with you. There are bigger things to worry about at the moment, and this phase of our lives won’t last long anyway. I have to just share with you an idea from the Portuguese lady who commented that I think is genius. She said she was feeding her son til he was two and a half. Then she told him that her milk was going to go bad soon because he was a big boy. Then she put a dab of lemon anti-acid powder on her nips and when he fed it fizzed in his mother. He told her the milk was off. A coupe of times of that and he wasn’t interested anymore. Hilarious, and quite inventive.
Hope everything is going well with you. Take care,
Olá Deb eu dei mama ao Guilherme até aos 2 anos e meio e tb não foi fácil, consegui porque coloquei sais de frutos na mama.
Disse lhe que mama da mãe ia começar a ficar com leite estragado porque ele já era um rapazinho grande.
Coloquei o pó no peito no dia a seguir assim que ele pediu mama
Assim que o pó começou a efervescer na boca dele (eu comprei com sabor a limão para ser ainda mais azedo ??) ele diz mãe o leite da tua Mama está em pó azedo blagh, já não quero mais
Mas ainda voltou a carga no dia seguinte, fui a correr voltei a pôr pó e…. Blagh está mesmo em pó azedo este leite, é até hoje. Como nunca usou chupeta, acabou a mama e pronto, boa sorte e bjoka aos 3
Muito fixe, que ótima idéia. Eu ri tanto quando li isso. Definitivamente vale a pena tentar. Obrigada xx
I simply loved your post, so honest! I think we could be good friends as I feel exactly the same!
My daughter will soon be 21 months and I’m still breastfeeding her. Although I learned how to love breastfeeding, I thought many times of stopping it. She gets so clingy, follows me everywhere I go, I can’t even pee in peace!
I thought I can do it, limit the feedings during the day but she just climbs onto me whenever she feels like it and when I reject her she gets very sad or angry (or both) and I give in…
Now with the lockdown I don’t even bother trying as she’s constantly with me. We’re co-sleeping as well. But my plan is to stop by the end of the summer, wish me luck!
We can do it!
Take care xx
I bet we could, we’d be good support for each other. It’s much harder than I’d ever imagined, and like you I’ve just given up trying during the lockdown. We co-sleep as well which makes it almost impossible. It’s just so much easier to give in if you hope to get any sleep. I’m just hoping that when we’re allowed out again he’ll be so busy with other things that he’ll forget all about the boobie. Haha, here’s hoping, right!
Best of luck to us both. These little critters have us right where they want us. Oh well, one day we’ll miss all this. That’s what I keep telling myself.
Take care, Debbie x
Okay, it’s almost been a year. Do you have any suggestions or advice? My daughter is 23 months now and we are fighting this fight. She stopped taking a pacifier and bottle at 6 months and has been drinking water from a sippy cup. We would feed for nap time and bed time. Weaned her from nap time just by being busy but now that I have cut her off at night time she is losing her mind at nap time and bed time. I know this is terrible twos in hand with being cut off but I am losing my mind. It’s breaking my heart. I feel like you and just feel like it’s not worth hurting both of our hearts. Any advice I’d appreciate.
Messed up my email ?♀️
Sorry, I only just saw your message. I feel for you. I know how hard it is.
I only managed to get my son completely off the breast recently. As you know I was trying to cut him down and let it happen naturally.
This went on for months. Often we backtracked and it was my fault for not sticking to it. I’m not a massively disciplined person.
Anyway, it got to New Year’s and I finally decided that this would never work. It had to be cold turkey. My son was two and a half and had no intention of giving it up himself.
I made the decision and stuck to it. And you know what? He was a complete star. Made a little bit of fuss about it the first two days, but nothing like I was expecting. And then after that, it was fine. I couldn’t believe it. I’d blown it up into something huge that had nothing to do with how he actually reacted.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s still booby obsessed. But he doesn’t expect anything, he’s just messing around.
Turns out it was me that wasn’t really ready. But then I was, and it was all ok. I don’t feel like we’ve lost anything. In fact, now when I look at him it seems weird that he was breastfeeding not long ago. He seems so grown up.
The only advice I have is my own story, I hope it helps.