How weaning happened – the end of our breastfeeding journey

I didn’t set out to breastfeed my older daughter as long as I did. I doubt anyone gazes into the face of their newborn and imagines breastfeeding them for four years.

Certainly, at the time, I felt like we’d be blessed to get to six months. When the difficulties with her tongue-tie and my low milk supply kicked in, my goal became to take it one feed at a time.

By the time her first birthday came into view (a landmark I was just relieved to make), I’d learned a lot more about breastfeeding, through reading, meeting other mothers and undergoing training to become a breastfeeding peer supporter. And I learned about benefits that stretched far beyond the first year.

Beyond that, it felt unnatural to wean her just then when she clearly derived so much comfort and enjoyment from it. Frankly, we both did. Breastfeeding was still an easy way to get her to sleep, it soothed her tears and fears and it left less to worry about with her fussy eating. I continued to breastfeed her because it made us happy and it felt respectful of her needs.

New challenges came as she grew older and I was glad to know other mothers who breastfed beyond infancy. There was that nursing strike when she was fifteen months, which turned out to be down to tonsillitis. We had nursing gymnastics, nipple twiddling and generally, breastfeeding manners that needed to be learned. Over time, it became natural to ask her to wait in certain situations. I learned to trust that we would find the right time to wean.

Then I found out I was pregnant with Ophelia. That’s when breastfeeding became more something I was doing for her, because I no longer enjoyed it most of the time. I’ve blogged candidly about breastfeeding through the first, second and third trimesters. At one point in the pregnancy, I thought she was weaning. I think it would have been just fine if I’d weaned her then but we’d have missed out on what came next.

When Ophelia was born, I found tandem breastfeeding a mixed experience but I could still see the value breastfeeding had for her. In many ways, it helped to smooth the almighty upheaval that adding a second child to our family was for all of us.

Her third birthday came and went and it seemed clear that breastfeeding was still in the picture. We’d have lighthearted chats by then about the fact that she would eventually stop breastfeeding, though I was open ended about when. I didn’t breastfeed her during the day anymore or outside the house. And she didn’t breastfeed that often. Sometimes days would pass before she’d remember she wanted a feed.

By then breastfeeding her had become quite comfortable. I’d fallen into a rhythm with both children and it was a mostly happy part of that. It even became a really important mothering tool for my preschooler.

She began to volunteer that she “would stop having milky” when she was four. I nodded, not paying it too much mind, telling her she could if she wanted to but that she didn’t have to. We know children older than that who are still breastfeeding so I don’t think she felt pressure in that respect.

Still, it felt like things were winding down. I can’t even put a finger on why. Maybe we were both ready. It wasn’t solely child-led, self weaning like I’d felt so strongly about when she was younger. I know that it was partially mother-led too. I know that when I put limits – shortening feeds, asking her to wait – all of that was me weaning her. And that’s felt fine. Breastfeeding truly has been a relationship.

I can’t remember a last feed. It would have been about a week before her fourth birthday, two months ago. She hasn’t breastfed since. She’s told me that she’s all grown up and doesn’t have it anymore. I feel content that she has moved on – maybe with a little sadness that she is losing all her babyness and this is another part of that.

I’m so grateful that I was able to breastfeed her at all. It’s shaped our family in so many ways. In a sense, it’s strange that something so hard fought for in the beginning and so influential over the years should end so quietly, so peacefully.

EDIT: I can’t believe I forgot to mention this when I originally wrote this post but, about a month after her last feed, Talitha asked for it again. I felt unsure about it (I think I had psychologically moved on) but I agreed. When she tried, she couldn’t do it anymore. She told me it wasn’t working. I explained that that was because she’d got bigger and didn’t need it anymore. She was a bit (just a bit) upset about this at first but she soon moved on. I thought she might want to make up for it by wanting to sleep in our bed for a bit or being more cuddly but that didn’t happen either. She asked again some time after that and I reminded her that it hadn’t worked last time. She just said, “Oh yeah.” It was as if she’d just remembered. That was that. She hasn’t asked since.


14 Comments

  1. August 7, 2015 / 7:46 pm

    I love that last line about something so fought for at the beginning would end so quietly and peacefully. That really resonates with me as I feel like we had a very similar experience both with the start and the end. I keep meaning to write about the end of breastfeeding with Wilf but somehow a whole year has gone by and I just haven’t got round to it! x
    Fritha recently posted..On choosing positivity

  2. August 7, 2015 / 8:43 pm

    What a lovely way for it to end, I am so sad that I never got this far as by the time I had Finn I felt a lot more open to letting him wean himself. I still get tears remembering our last feed as it was so premature so I am really happy you got such a rewarding experience x
    Bex @ the mummy adventure recently posted..What the Boys Wore – Tootsa MacGinty

    • August 9, 2015 / 3:37 pm

      Thank you, Bex. I’m sorry you didn’t get the timing you wanted. Breastfeeding on the whole is such a rewarding experience.

  3. August 7, 2015 / 9:15 pm

    What a beautiful post and I’m so pleased for you how all the problems ironed themselves out and you both got to carry on for as long as you did. I can really imagine how it would ease the transition into life with a sibling. I didn’t know with Cherry when she’d had her last feed and it made it so much easier to stop, I would have found it really hard otherwise and I can’t even remember what happened with Tiger! I loved it so much though and would love to have more babies 🙂 x
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry recently posted..An Alternative ‘Back To School’ Q And A With Cherry

    • August 9, 2015 / 3:38 pm

      I find it hard to believe that once Ophelia weans that’ll be it for breastfeeding babies.

  4. August 9, 2015 / 3:46 pm

    This is lovely and very useful actually. Violet is nearly two and still breastfeeding night and day. I have no plans to stop, but if I’m honest I have started thinking that some boundaries could be introduced.

    It’s reassuring to read that that’s possible in a gentle and respectful way.
    Cathy recently posted..Love and 100 miles

  5. August 10, 2015 / 12:54 am

    This is such a wonderful post and what a positive way to come to an end of such a beautiful journey and totally on her own terms! I was really sad when A stopped before he was three…not sure when my journey with Baby G will end but I hope it’s as lovely at this

    Laura x
    Laura recently posted..Street Style Sunday – Summer vibes

  6. September 8, 2015 / 11:07 am

    I wanted to comment on this when I first read it a month ago but was keeping a happy secret that meant I couldn’t say what I wanted to say. But I didn’t want to go without commenting completely as I found this post so moving! I’m still breastfeeding E who will be 4 in December, but I am now pregnant with number 2 (the happy secret!) and her feeds have very quickly gone from at least 5 a day plus a night feed to just morning and bedtime. It was needed as the pain was excruciating at first, but I do feel a bit bereft about it and was worried about the possibility of her weaning completely. Reading this made me feel much better about it though, so thank you so much for writing this post!
    Bec (@becb1984) recently posted..No Shouting for 40 Days – Did I Do It?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.