As a first time mum, I was knocked into the reality of breastfeeding by the pain, cry, bites and engorgement in the first few days and I never remained the same.
Although I made the decision to exclusively breastfeed my baby for 6 months based on the recommendation during my antenatal classes, I didn’t realise that 6 months was a long time and I got tired really quickly but I braved it.
I was so excited when we got to the 6 months mark, it soon dawned on me that introducing semi solid foods doesn’t mean you will stop breastfeeding, with every stage comes different challenges. I went through the process of supplementing semi solid foods and my breast thanked me for it.
However, I was very unsure about the time to eventually stop breastfeeding; 12 months or 18 months. I searched different articles and I came to a conclusion based on the articles that 18 months was best.
My child was 12 months now and I was really tired and I knew I couldn’t wait till 18 months. My son won’t sleep until he sucked and would wake up 2-3 times during the night to still breastfeed. I was always tired in the mornings. He was getting very active and I couldn’t even rest during the day, something had to give.
Although, it is recommended to wait till 18 months, I know the struggle it can take before you get there. If you can wait till then kudos to you. If you can’t, you should not feel guilty if you want to stop earlier. It is ultimately up to you to make the decision.
So, How do you go about it?
Some people go cold turkey, and some do it gradually. I did both. When my son clocked 10 months, I started the process of reducing how many times he breastfed throughout the day. When he was 11 months our ‘sessions’ were down to early morning, mid day and night time. I occasionally let him have his way during the day though.
He clocked 1 year, we were down to 2 times, morning and night but I soon found out that with my child it wasn’t going to work in the long run because he had gotten to a point where he could aggressively pull at my cloth and demand for his breast anytime. I then decided to go the cold turkey route. I sent him to his grandmother for a week and he came back with a new appetite and it wasn’t for the breast milk.
When I sent him off to grandma what I didn’t anticipate was the drama his leaving will leave me in. I had planned his trip, how I was going to sleep, catch up on all the backlog of work and make my house clean but I was in for a shocker when I woke up with rocks on my chest.
It was like the struggles of the first weeks all over again. But this time, you can’t pump to relieve the pain and there is no baby to suck out the milk. The truth is that If my baby was with me, I would’ve breastfed him with the level of pain i was feeling. I know there are women who don’t produce enough milk to be engorged and I am truly happy for you. So, before you stop breastfeeding, prepare for engorgement.
Here are the things that helped me and can be done to relieve the engorgement;
Firstly, I took a cold bath and to my surprise, it helped relieve the pain I was feeling because my temperature was high
Put the cabbage in the fridge and put the leaves around your breast in your bra. Although many people swear by the instant relief it brings I didn’t feel that way. It helped a great deal and I used it everyday that week. I think it was the cold sensation of the cabbage.
At night times, I had to use painkiller to relieve the headache so I could get some sleep.
I dreaded taking my bath because it meant I would have to take off my bra. I realised that the bra helped ‘’carry’’ the weight of the heavy breast. There was a major difference.
This should be the last resort. I pumped the first day of the engorgement to have some peace of mind and remove all the painful lumps because I was scared of mastitis. Since breastfeeding is supply and demand if you keep pumping your brain will not know that you want to stop breastfeeding, so I applied the same principle to trick myself.
On the first day I endured the pain for as long as I could which was about 24 hours, after which I pumped and the next day, I waited for 2 days then pumped again, by the 4th day I didn’t need to pump as much and by the 5th day I could bear the pain.
It took about 1.5 weeks to not feel any pain again and 2 weeks for my breast to be a shadow of its former self. You can only understand after you stop breastfeeding.
In conclusion, It is up to you to decide when you want to stop breastfeeding after they clock the 1 year mark. Study your child and know what method will work for them.
Have something to replace the breast feeding time, water(which I highly recommend), formula or a meal. I know babies are different and can be resolute when they don’t want something. Pick one that works for you, but please at night a meal should be the last resort if you don’t want to create a habit you cannot sustain.
What was your experience like when you were ready to stop breastfeeding?
Tomilola is a stay at home mum who spends most of her time caring for her 1 year old son.