Celebrating the end of your breastfeeding relationship
Whether you’ve been breastfeeding for a short or long time, marking the end of this significant milestone can be an important step in honouring your motherhood journey.
Each of my 3 babies was difficult to breastfeed!
Baby number one was cracked and bleeding nipples, nipple shields, failure to thrive, recurrent mastitis with hospital admissions, and a breast abcess that had to be drained via fine needle aspiration THREE times.
Baby number two was slow to gain weight, also cracked and bleeding nipples which resulted in exclusive expressing for 2 weeks to allow the damage to heal; while supplementing with donor breastmilk from six different mums; as well as battling nipple vasospasm.
Baby number three was uncomfortable to feed, had tongue and lip ties lasered at 9 days of age, which resulted in breast refusal, and painful feeds until around 6 weeks of age.
There was NO WAY on earth I was not celebrating having persevered through all of those challenges.
I set myself small goals (get to the end of the day, to 2 weeks, to 6 weeks, 6 months, 12 months, 2 years), so it seemed natural to celebrate the decision to wean my youngest child at 3 years of age.
Many of my clients persevere through similar challenges, so when the time comes to stop breastfeeding, I encourage them (if they feel called to) to mark the occasion and all that it means to them.
Ideas for celebrating
Breastfeeding is a two way street. What I mean by that, is that it needs to work for both you and your child.
Maybe you’ve achieved your goals (did you make it to the World Health Organisation goal of 2 years? Great!) and your nursling is showing no signs of stopping any time soon, but you’re starting to feel touched out or resentful?
Chat with your IBCLC or a breastfeeding counsellor if you’d like support with strategies to overcome breastfeeding aversion, or reduce breastfeeds- but if you’ve had enough, it’s ok to stop.
Make sure you have support to manage weaning- the last thing you want is to end up with a blocked duct or mastitis.
Do you have some of those ever popular milestone cards? Take a happy snap to mark the occasion.
I love the stickers from Ameda Australia that I have in clinic. They only go up to 12 months (I wish they went higher!). Every baby receiving any breastmilk that comes in gets one of these.
I love taking photos and celebrating with both of you.
Throw a ‘bye bye breastfeeding’ party.
One of my clients baked a cake with her toddler to mark the occasion. They wore glittery party hats, and blew out candles to joyfully say goodbye to breastfeeding.
Take lots of photos!
You probably have many ‘brelfies’ (breastfeeding selfies) on your phone.
Consider taking a photo of your final breastfeed.
You might like to make a photo book with simple captions about all of the wonderful places you’ve breastfed –
For example- “ here’s mummy breastfeeding baby (insert name) at Christmas/on holiday.
It’s time to stop breastfeeding.
Here is a bye bye breastfeeding/boobies party.
Here is a photo of you having your very last breastfeed”
You might like to read this book together if your child asks for a breastfeed.
Navigating the end of breastfeeding with a reluctant child
It can be hard for a younger child to understand that breastfeeding is over. They may still ask for feeds, or want extra cuddles.
Be consistent with your approach to avoid confusion, and think about other ways to spend special time together- you might offer to read a book instead (perhaps even your new special photobook), go for a walk, or to a favourite playground.
The end of breastfeeding can bring up lots of emotions- see my blog on ‘post weaning depression and mood changes’; and don’t hesitate to talk to your GP or trusted health advisor if those feelings linger.