Breastfeeding a toddler - Our Journey
A few weeks ago I mentioned on my Instagram that Aya was no longer breast feeding. I had so many women writing to me asking how breastfeeding ended - lots of you were breastfeeding your toddlers, too! In this blog I will share how we ended breastfeeds. I don't have any specific advice - I found breastfeeding a toddler very difficult at times but I also wouldn't change it for anything. Regardless of some of the struggles, how much I often just wanted space - I also knew how much it meant to Aya. How much comfort it gave her, how much nourishment. I will never forget those times with her in my arms, locking eyes as I held her and felt overwhelmed with love.
Aya never fed from a bottle or had any formula. She started showing interest in foods at around 12 months but was very much majorly fuelled by milk up until around the age of 2. We fed on demand up until around 2 years old. Every few hours at night and then also whenever she asked during the day.
At about 2 years old I felt like there was no end in sight. I was also ready to start my cycle again as up until this point my period was yet to return. I wasnt dealing well with waking up to five times a night to Aya asking for boobie. I would get cranky and even angry. I knew that I needed to make some changes. Cutting back the night time feeds was my priority as I felt like I could be more present and patient with Aya if I was getting a good nights sleep.
We started talking to Aya throughout the day about having "boobie" when the sun was out but having cuddles instead when it was night time. She was at an age where, with some patience and persistence, she understood. When she woke at night asking for a feed I would offer cuddles instead and explain to her that boobies needed to sleep too and that she could have milk when the sun was here again. Now I didnt do this cold turkey. It was a process that went for a couple months. Cutting out one feed at a time until she usually fed between 4-5am and then again when she properly woke up in the morning.
We took it slowly because any abrupt changes made her super upset and I didnt want this beauitful thing for her to be something other than that. Don't get me wrong, I messed up at times too. There was a period not long after she was 2 where I truly thought the only option was going to be going cold turkey. I also just knew it was a terrible idea for us, and that Aya would be distraught I just didn't know what else to do and I was resenting feeding her. It seemed like the more I tried to control or restrict feeding the more Aya would demand boobie - it was her primary source of comfort and reassurance, so it makes sense!
So we made a plan - to speak to Aya in moments of calmness - not when she was asking for a feed, but at mutiple times throughout the day so that she would become accustomed to the idea. Soon enough she was the one telling me that she only has boobie during the day time. And then soon enough we were cuddling a lot more during the night without feeds. This slowly led to Aya waking less and everyone getting a much better, and certainly more peaceful, rest.
IT STARTED WORKING..
We carried on like that for a few months. During the day Aya had 3 feeds. Once first thing, before her nap time and then before sleep at night. Sometimes she didnt nap and in that case she would feed twice a day. Some mornings she woke up and we would have breakfast ready for her - skipping the morning feed. At nights she no longer fell asleep feeding instead she would feed and then we would read and cuddle to sleep. I found that to be a really important step. Not falling asleep on the boob. So that when the time came - she had already adjusted to falling asleep with cuddles, singing and reading rather than with boobie.
My period returned soon after the night time feeds lessoned. I fell pregnant a few months after that and when I was around 5/6 weeks pregnant Aya had her last breastfeed. She was a little over two and a half at the time. My nipples were so sensitive and it was painful every time she fed. She knew I was in pain and I explained that my nipples were very sore because I had a little baby growing in my belly. I asked if we could have cuddles instead and she gave me a big hug and understood. That night she fell asleep and when she didn't have boobie the next morning I remember thinking holy crap is this it, is this the end!!?!?!?!?
She asked for boobie occasionally for a few days.. this was where I made the decision to end feeding. I don't think Aya would have chosen to herself but when I spoke to her about it she was okay with the idea - saying that "baby needed boobies now". She quickly transitioned to putting her hands down my top and falling asleep holding my chest. The only time she ever got upset about it was that early feed (between 4-5am) when she was half asleep. That happened about twice. She wasn't intensely emotional and soon settled with water and lots of cuddles. My milk slowly dried up over the next ten days - I didn't need to express and didn't feel any pain from my breasts being too full! (I had one night away from aya a few weeks earlier and hand expressed three times!! Its funny how quickly things can change!)
AND THATS WAS IT..
At any other stage the thought of finishing up our breastfeeding journey seemed impossible. But then all of a sudden it just happened. I think timing is the most important thing. Timing, and patience. Aya was at an age when we were able to talk about what was going on - she understood and it was gradual. Throughout my entire motherhood journey I have let Aya lead the way, she decided she would stop wearing nappies, she decided when she wanted to start eating food, she decided when she wanted to use the toilet. Breastfeeding was the only thing I have really struggled completely surrendering to. Mostly because I felt I needed to have some boundaries for my own mental health. I wanted the ending to be gentle for her, and I am incredibly grateful that it was.
I have so much respect for the mothers out there breastfeeding throughout their pregnancies and then tandem feeding. If I had my children closer together I would probably be attempting the same - but I am also so grateful that I will be having this break before beginning breastfeeding with our next child!
So that is it guys - like I said I dont have much advice - just sharing my experience. Sending my love