What it Feels Like to Stop Breastfeeding

Part of me never wanted to stop breastfeeding. I really struggled with it because I loved those moments together and feeling so bonded with my son (just like I had with my daughter, four years earlier). However, two weeks before his second birthday, I realised it was time. I was sick of my shirt being tugged on in public. Sick of the tantrums when I refused. I was tired of being the only one who could console my son or put him to bed at night. Enough was enough. And so I stopped — cold turkey. It happened in a blur one weekend when we were too busy for my son to notice, and then that was it.

No more boob… Or so I thought.

It was about two weeks later that my breasts started to ache, feeling engorged. They didn’t look engorged, as they had when my milk first came in, but they felt like they might explode, and, just like the old days, I couldn’t lie on my stomach for about a week. The physical pain only drummed in the fact that I had made an irreversible decision, and it broke my heart all over again.

Eventually the pain went away, but we’re still working on the emotional aspect. When my son is upset, he still cries for booboo, and to be honest, sometimes I cry, too. I know he still loves me, though, and I like that I’ve regained a little bit of my freedom. Finally my husband is able to put our son to bed, strengthening their bond, and I’m able to wear the clothes I want to. All in all, it’s a good thing.

I decided to ask around and see how other mums dealt with this tumultuous motherhood moment. Because, like many aspects of parenting, breastfeeding — and its conclusion — is a very personal experience that is different for everyone. Check out what it felt like for other mamas to stop breastfeeding, and see if you can relate.

“It was devastating. Heartbreaking. Forced by circumstance. Work and travel dictated that I eventually had to choose.” -Serai H., Cape Town, South Africa

“I was happy [with all my babies that] I had achieved my goals (especially having persevered through various hurdles with #1 & the twins. Tongue ties, mastitis, silent reflux, flat nipples etc). My first self weaned at 15 months when I was 3 months pregnant with my second child. I was ready. Same happened with number 2 – weaned at 16 months when I was 3 months pregnant with my twins. My twins dropped their final once a day feed just after their 2nd birthday. I was so ready. Just distracted them so they’d forget and then they went a few days and weeks without a feed and then that was it. It was a natural, easy transition for us all.” – Lauren P., Gold Coast, QLD

“At about 13 months old, my daughter just decided she was done. We were doing it once a day, at night before bed. And one night she just shook her head no (and never looked for it again). I got teary eyed for a minute or so. Then I felt relief! and I thought, ‘I’m free!'”  —Eileen Gunn, Brooklyn, New York, USA

“I stopped breastfeeding my daughter recently. She would have happily continued, but between her and her brother I’d been continuously breastfeeding and/or pregnant since 2008 so to say I was over it would be an understatement. Physically I’m surprised how long it’s taking my breasts to feel “normal”. It’s been a couple of months and there’s still milk in them! But I’m thrilled that I’m done. I’m proud I managed to breastfeed her for so long, even if I’d have preferred to let her self wean, she did have a really good innings.” – Rachel S., Melbourne, VIC

“When I stopped nursing my first baby at 16 months old, it was very bittersweet. She was still waking frequently throughout the night and one day I just made a snap decision to stop because I was struggling with the lack of sleep… I didn’t give myself the chance to reduce feeds gradually so I suffered engorgement which was painful. After the first week things settled down but I was very emotional.” —Jen Hassett, Cardiff, Wales

“I stopped with number 1 as it just felt right at 12 months; I was drying up and he was lacking interest. Number 2 was totally different; I was resenting the fact my husband couldnt feed and that so much responsibility fell to me, especially in the night. I didnt want this feeling of resentment to move across to my beautiful baby and so we moved to the bottle so that feeds could be shared at night.” – Lisa W., Hopetoun, WA

“I felt freedom. It was awesome to have my body back after so many years. I obviously didn’t shed any tears!” —Odessa R., California, USA

“I stopped breastfeeding my first child at 13 months. She had been dropping feeds before then, and we’d been on one daily feed for about two months. Then I was invited to be a contestant on a television show the following week. Instant wean. I felt tremendously guilty about it for that week (damn you, mum guilt!), then realised the dreaded ‘rock boobs’ hadn’t made an appearance. So she hadn’t been getting much milk anyway. Phew.” – Emily H., Melbourne, VIC

“I LOVED breastfeeding and hated having to stop. But you go with the flow of the situation. With both of my daughters, I tapered off when the timing seemed right. But, all these many years later, I still miss it.” —Claudia J., New Mexico, USA

“I expected to feel sad. But I felt an almost immediate sense of freedom and a renewed bond with my growing baby. I loved reading her books and giving her milk in a cup and cuddling with her. It was a relief to be honest and made me feel I could connect with her without literally being her source of nutrition.” —Carrie E., Colorado, USA

I so wanted to breastfeed and glad I did but also couldn’t bring myself to take it away from them when it had worn me out. My two were super hungry babies. Breastfeeding took far more out of me and put me out of action far more than pregnancy ever did. I was relieved when they each gave up at 12 and 14 months and had forgotten the exhilaration and freedom of having my body back.” – Sharon B., Melbourne, VIC

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Image: Getty