How to stop breastfeeding a toddler (eventually…)

I’ll be honest. It broke me more than I expected. I’ve been breastfeeding for literal hours every day since becoming a mum. Using it for food, comfort and as the only way to get a baby to sleep that I know.

Max is now two and a half and a dedicated milk fiend. However reluctantly after an appointment with the gp I’m resigned to the fact that I need to give up breastfeeding to increase the chance of increasing our mini brood.

The problem is that I’m currently nursing a very milk reliant toddling menace. Who nurses to sleep before nap and bedtime. Nurses at night. Nurses when shy. Nurses for comfort. Nurses at any excuse. This is going to be fun.

Day 1: 21st May 2019

I’ve been mainly just crying when I feed him. Trying to tell him I’m poorly and mimi will be gone soon but it just makes him kick off harder. Not really trying to stop in earnest today but processing how we’re going to work out what to do next.

Mustn’t forget to have lunch on days like this.

Day 2: 22nd May

Last night was not a winning night. Wake ups constantly. Still haven’t worked out how to get him to sleep without milk.

Lots of tears from both of us this morning. Woke up and gave him a quick feed before heading down for breakfast. Fairly standard. But saying no to requests for milk every 20 seconds has been so hard.

It’s a nursery morning now so hoping that time off will be good for us both. I’ve booked in a play date for the afternoon which I’m hoping will be a good distraction.

Going *pretty* badly this afternoon. It turns out the distracting play date was a milk party as far as Max was concerned. Managed to have a late afternoon at home with no feeds til bedtime. But, erm, still feeds at bedtime…

Day 3: 23rd May

Night weaned. Kinda. Fed him for first wake up. Then tried the ‘no mimi til morning’ for the next wake up. Half an hour of singing, cuddling and explaining from me led to inconsolable crying. Passed him over to my boyfriend when he started invoking ‘Daddy!’ Daddy then had to entertain/distract him for 2.5 hours before he gave in and passed out. A victory? Of sorts?

Tried to avoid feeding him at lunch, thus there was no nap. Cue a meltdowny aftermath followed by furious protests about going to bed, then the fastest boob to sleep he’s done for a long time.

Day 4: 24th May

Getting there. Slowly. We embraced the super early wake up (rather than give in to feeds for extra time in bed). One bloody lip was healed with a ‘mimi kiss it better’. But I think it probably looked worse than it felt but was a good excuse

Day 5: 25th May

Out and about all day keeping him busy. Fell asleep in the car so avoided nap time feed. But meltdown on return home was only solved with milk. Bedtime seemed to be going well, til I woke up in his bed at 3.30am. Arg. Managed to get him back to sleep without any more milk but there were some tears.

Day 6: 26th May

Getting there. Slowly. Big challenge just being us two home alone this morning. So I’m keeping him busy and trying to remember not to sit down (so I don’t get pounced on my a milk hungry toddler). Which is nice and relaxing.

Update (somehow!) have made it through to bedtime with only a feed for his nap. Lots of bribery involved. He is pretty much 50% chocolate now. He’s still pretty sad though. Asking a lot.

Day 7: 27th May

Managed to pretty much avoid the mini wake up feed. Slightly nervous about next week as about half of the feed distraction has been my boyfriend and he’s got a trip abroad coming up. So I’ve got the rest of this week to concentrate on making this a habit rather than just a temporary blip in Max’s usual milk addiction.

A disrupted day travelling and visiting friends – lots of meltdown but still less feeds.

Day 8: 28th May

A hard day. The morning made easy by nursery. The afternoon was a different story. Nap missed. His friends arriving to stay. Poorly thought through (by me) visits to some of his favourite spots. All added to major tantrums I couldn’t solve and a 6pm bedtime. The night was surprisingly not a nightmare at least.

Day 9: 29th May

Busy busy busy day. Having friends staying paid off today. Managed to just do wake up and bedtime feeds. Even including a nap (pram based). The night was a bit tricky but I’m perfecting the pat back to sleep during night wakes like a pro.

Day 10: 30th May

Woke up from his nap to just me (it’s been his Dad picking him up after naps this week so far) with no mimi for the first time. Gulp. Along with a busy morning seeing his friends off and a hectic soft play. He just cried and cried hearing we were saving milk til bedtime. No distractions, bribes or collusion worked. Just had to cuddle him and let him have a big cry. Then (eventually) Hey Duggee and a mini milk faves us a bit of respite. We ended up having a very stormy afternoon of tantrums, scratches, toy throwing and general dissent.

Day 11: 31st May

Managed to avoid the morning feed. Tired him out all morning and he’s now fallen asleep in the car. Let’s see if wake up is any better than yesterday… have an afternoon out planned too which could go either way.

Day 12: 1st June

More car/daddy’s shoulder napping helped make this a nap day without a feed. Exhausting the little guy paid off and we got the first sleep through since we started trying to get him off the boob.

Day 13: 2nd June

Slightly ruined the night off the boob with an (albeit brief) morning feed. It’s day one of solo patent time with the boyfriend in Belgium so have resorted to a pram nap to try to keep today down to two feeds. Am continuing to try and tire out the toddling menace. Playground, picnic, garden so far. Trying to think of a strategy to distract him from the morning feed. Then we’ll (hopefully) just be down to feeding to sleep. Which I’m still hopeless about how to tackle.

Worst bedtime yet, it became clear the usual feed wasn’t getting him to sleep. So I made an attempt to get him to sleep without it. 2.5 hours later, after lots of chat about it, songs, stories and eventually sobbing I briefly gave in and got him to sleep almost immediately. Think I’m going to regret giving in but I’m hoping we at least made some headway. Have snacks lined up to hopefully distract from morning feed. Oh and even with the milk drying up I feel like I’m getting mastitis (somehow?!). Which is just great.

Day 14: 3rd June

Started the day with his favourite pink rice cakes. And by ‘started’ I mean at 5.30am in his bed. You gotta do what you gotta do right?! It actually worked and meant we avoided the first-thing feed. Nap time was pram bound and we’ve got to bedtime with a few requests diverted. Hurrah. Boobs feel like they are about to explode but luckily don’t think it’s mastitis.

Day 15: 4th June

A bleary 4.30am start with tears and more early morning rice cakes. Breaking the crack of dawn easy feed habits with 6am Play-Doh. Counting down til soft play opens.

Managed to somehow get a nap to happen and still be home for the awkwardly timed Sainsbury’s delivery. But the afternoon has been incredibly fractious. Having the head home and back out again was a struggle at every turn. And it’s forecast to rain every day this week which is great.

Day 16: 5th June

Better night (especially as my boyfriend was back briefly). A few tears. My favourite bit being when he cried asking for ‘yummy yummy in my tummy’ *sobs*. Stayed out all afternoon post nursery, keeping busy and distracted.

Day 17: 6th June

4.30am wake up. Somehow both got back to sleep without even a request. Progress. Another post nursery afternoon of trudging the streets to impose a pram nap.

Day 18: 7th June

Had a chat about how we’ll have to find a new way to get to sleep soon. He seems to get it. On second day of just feeding to sleep with no mini night time top ups. 24 hours without a feed for the first time since day dot. Seemed kind of momentous.

Day 19: 8th June

Two nighttime wake ups solved with cuddles. Quite pleased with that. It’s nice and cosy now, very few protests. Couldn’t get him back to sleep after the 3.50 wake up though. Already miss the magic of the morning feed for that.

Day 21: 10th June

Still early starts and enforced pram naps (3 hours today?!) but cuddles on the sofa are so much easier without getting jumped on and getting the guilts.

Day 23: 12th June

We’ve been doing so well with no nighttime or morning feeds. He’s having an emotional day today though. Woke up screaming for no apparent reason (once we could understand him it turned out he really wanted to go to Morrison’s at 5am…). We left breakfast a bit late, which is always a bad idea and seemed to remind him of milk “mummy you *do* have mimi”.

Pram naps are become an every day and easier habit. If I can lurk within 10 mins walking distance from our house, I can get him in and settled in a reclined pram in a darkened room for a nice long nap. Sometimes I can even join him.

Day 25: 14th June

Changing habits. One guaranteed feed as soon as we got home was a longtime routine. A little check in. A promise. A habit. I’ve noticed we’ve got past breaking this now. It started with ice cream bribes, daddy distractions and rushing straight into an activity. I still avoid sitting on the sofa when we get in (just in case) but this tie seems to have broken.

Day 36: 25th June

Asked for water at bedtime, mini breakthrough

Day ???: 27th May 2020

Here I am again, but now mid lockdown (something I definitely didn’t predict when I started this post last year) with a tiny newborn baby girl Robin snoozing on my chest. And starting the breastfeeding journey again…

I stopped updating this post when the challenge of stopping feeding Max came to a standstill. I continued managing to avoid daytime feeds (except literally once – a dramatic occasion following a very public screaming match in a polite square in Austria – I was genuinely worried it looked like I’d kidnapped him…).

However the last feed to sleep continued for long lonnnnng after I’d expected it to end. The reliability, convenience and familiarity all made it tricky to cut the final cord. The bedtime feed got shorter (usually), wake ups were solved with hugs and daytime demands stopped completely.

I’ve always done bedtime alone, mainly because my boyfriend travels a lot for work and it’s been hard to establish another routine. Which is why only when the fully unexpected and unprecedented lockdown set in that we finally had time to shake up bedtime and lose that last feed. Pretty much a whole year from the day I started this post. So a super fast turnaround 😉

My main reason for turning off the milk tap to begin with was because I was trying to get pregnant and was advised that stopping breastfeeding might help. I also was very tired, the multiple nighttime wake ups had been consistent for too long and I could tell it wasn’t helping my health (physical and mental).

Which is why when I got pregnant around September 2019 any urgency left to stop feeding was gone. It wasn’t affecting my fertility, my nights were no longer disturbed by constant wake-ups and it was still my best tool for bedtime.

However I soon found out that pregnancy and breastfeeding together was another matter. Pretty much from week 10 it became a real trial. Mega sensitive boobs, an ever expanding and delicate stomach, all along with dragging tiredness were making bedtimes a real uncomfortable chore for me and probably a lot less fun for the little guy. So I slowly curbed bedtime feeds as much as possible, which was thankfully made easier as my now three year old was able to understand a lot more about why.

We went into lockdown when I was around 30 weeks pregnant. And my boyfriend’s work trips abroad were obviously quickly cancelled. Which meant that finally the bedtime routine could be passed on to him. By this stage it was generally a treat for daddy to do bedtime, after it’d been done occasionally while I was on a night out or at a class.

So all I had to do with come up with reasons I wasn’t in the house: pretend yoga classes, dinners with my friends invisible friends and invented French classes(?!) were all very handy, as long as I hid elsewhere in the house and wasn’t rumbled. He still asked for me but it wasn’t long before it was acceptable that I was just resting in bed rather than practicing my French vocab. Now daddy bedtimes are everyday, they do tend to take hours but it’s still lockdown so who cares. And it’s not on my watch now anyway.

Weirdly I can’t remember my last feed with Max. I’d got so uncomfortable feeding him in the end that I’m sad it wasn’t memorable and fun, probably more me being frustrated and tired. But I don’t think he has a negative memory of it ending either. He’s totally uninterested seeing his little sister feed. Which really surprised me. I was more than ready for him to want to latch on again out of either habit or jealousy. Instead he just says “I used to love mimi when I was a baby” and carries on with the latest epic dinosaur battle.

So here’s to the next round, let’s see if I learnt anything along the way…

One Comment Add yours

  1. Valerie says:

    Oh goodness, my third child was difficult to wean as well. He was 25 months and I ultimately had to cold turkey wean because of a breast infection.
    Congratulations on your new little one! How precious!


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