It may sound strange, but stopping breastfeeding was actually much harder than starting and I sometimes wonder whether it's a character thing. Was it just my baby who found it very difficult to detach?
As soon as Iasonas was placed into my arms, he immediately started searching for my breast and he latched on like a pro. My milk was slow to come in after my cesarean but on day four, it was in full flow and I was so relieved! Iasonas fed regularly, slept for 4-6 hours at a time and my breastfeeding journey generally got off to an amazing start. It was a bit tiring at times but I never expected anything different. Being a new mum was bound to be tiring because I was now responsible for nourishing and taking care of another little life.
I lovingly breastfed my little son Iasonas until he was two and a half years old and it was something I enjoyed and strongly believed in. I can honestly say I would do it again and again but I do wonder whether breaking the attachment at two a half years old is worse than breaking it at say, after 1 year.
Seeing the amazing benefits, I was encouraged to continue my breastfeeding journey until I personally felt it was time to stop. I had the amazing support of my husband, my working hours were very flexible and I could see that my son and I were forging a strong bond among many other things. Iasonas loved his food but ultimately, the breast meant comfort, love, intimacy and affection as well as milk. When he was feeling a bit poorly and sometimes refused food, he would always have milk and it would hydrate him and give him the energy & nourishment he needed. I would also use my milk as a magical balm that would heal any scrape, bruise or spot.
Finally, the day came when my aching back (holding a 12kg toddler) could not take much more and I also realised that Iasonas would probably sleep through the entire night without waking, if there was no breast. The biggest challenge was that I had to find another way to comfort Iasonas at bed time as I had always offered milk and he'd practically drift off after a few minutes of stopping.
I started by cutting out the feeds during the day, which was a bit difficult at first but Iasonas got over it pretty quickly. I would show him his lunch or snack and he'd perk up and forget that he wanted milk. The night however was different!
On the day I decided to stop the night feeds, I made sure he'd had enough to eat and drink and we went up to have a bath and read a story, Then came the most horrendous moment of my life...I had to explain to Iasonas that he was now a big boy and little babies drink milk from their mummies. Nothing could stop the crying and distress that followed - I tried to comfort him but he pushed me away and eventually he cried himself to sleep while I kissed and stroked him. Of course when he fell asleep, all I could do was cry and wondered how I would be able to keep this up. I was denying Iasonas something he desperately wanted and that made me feel like an absolute failure.
Eventually it took about 6-7 days for Iasonas to understand there was no more milk at bedtime. But then every few days after that, he would ask and I would have to distract him with a story or take him downstairs to play until he got really tired. My heart by this time was absolutely broken and I could see he really missed the closeness.
Now, about 7 weeks after stopping, Iasonas sometimes asks for milk and in the last few days, he has been mentioning it everyday. He even woke up from his sleep twice this week asking for milk and brought me my MamaBib telling me that he was hungry (he'd eaten shortly before that and I'd had the MamaBib out on the dining table for work). It's like it's difficult for him to completely understand that the breastfeeding has stopped.
I don't know what's best or what the experts say about the optimal breastfeeding time and I know that every single child is different. My personal experience made me feel that I would be inclined to stop at about 1 year old next time but even then, I don't know if I would follow through with this if I was actually in that position again. Breastfeeding has been such a wonderous journey for both Iasonas and I but I just didn't think of how difficult it would be emotionally, when the time came to stop.
If you have any personal experiences, please feel free to share! I'd love to hear from you.