How to Stop Breastfeeding When Your Baby Does Not Want to

My daughter is almost 15 months old and I am considering to stop breastfeeding her soon. There might be many reasons for why you would like to stop breastfeeding, but mine are related to the work I do. My work requires me to travel a lot abroad. I am a PhD candidate, and beside my research, one of my tasks is to participate in different conferences throughout the year. This means that I need to be away at least four times during one year. And of course people might say that I can take a breast pump with me and pump while I’m away, but that is not a particularly good option for me.

The main reason for giving up breastfeeding so early, is so my husband would be able to put her to sleep while I am away. At this moment, the only way to put her to sleep is to breastfeed her. During the night, she wakes up many times, and always asks for me, making this an impossible mission for my husband.

I did a little research or better say, tons of research, over the past weeks, on to how to stop breastfeeding without upsetting the baby. My research included:

  1. Asking friends and family about their experiences.
  2. Internet research – Google always knows everything.
  3. Asking my daughter’s nurse, or what we call in Norway “helsesøster”, which will directly translate to “health sister”.

I decided to make a list with the information I got from all the three sources. I have tried all the tips I found, and I will tell you which one worked for me and which one didn’t and why not.

To sum it up, there is no magic trick that will help with weaning the baby without having a rough time. Be prepared for sleepless nights, nerves destroyed, pain, despair, tiredness, and lots of crying: both from you and your baby.

Before starting with the list, I have to say that every child is different so everyone’s experience would be different, however the advice is the same. Please feel free to try whichever advice you might find appealing for your situation. If you would share your experiences with us that will be great too.

I’ve decided to divide the advice that I received into two categories: the ones that were annoying and the ones that were actually useful. Let me start with the annoying ones and the reason I’m saying annoying is because this advice is not a real useful advice. Another reason for being so annoyed is that 90% of the advice is addressing the mother’s side: how to actually stop breastfeeding, but not the real struggle, which is: how to do it, and still stay sane over all the crying and sleepless nights.

TOP 4 ANNOYING PIECES OF ADVICE:

  1. Give the baby milk in a bottle. I feel like this is the first thing that crosses a mother’s mind where she’s decided to stop breastfeeding. Even before asking for advice, the first thing that crossed my mind was how can I managed to convince my daughter to get the bottle instead of the boobies. This is actually the reason I searched for advice somewhere else. So this advice is not really an answer to my question, but it’s actually the question itself.
  2. Let her cry it out. I will never agree with this method. I don’t think I will ever be able to let my daughter cry until she passes out because this is what I think it will happen if I let her cry it out. There are lot of discussions about the cry it out method, and I don’t want to go into details here. I’ll probably make another post about that because there is so much to say on the subject.
  3. Give the baby more food. The reason I find this advice annoying is that if the child is still breastfed when she or he is 1-year-old, is not because they are hungry. Or at least, the breast milk should not be the main meal of the day. My daughter is 15 months old, as I previously said, and the main reason she’s still breastfeeding is because she enjoys the closeness. She likes to breastfeed when she is sick, to comfort her, and after a long day at work, when she misses me. This advice could be probably helpful for mothers that want to stop breastfeeding after 6 months or something like that, because then the child has not yet started eating solid food, and the breast milk is the main food.
  4. Put something that tastes sour on your breasts so the child won’t like it. OK, I will admit, this is rather mean than annoying. I don’t understand how someone would do that to a baby.

TOP 3 USEFUL PIECES OF ADVICE:

  1. Reduce breastfeeding time. One advice that I found it useful, I am not happy about it, but it is useful, is that I need to to reduce the time she spends breastfeeding and it’s not because of the amount of milk that she is getting, but because she needs to find other ways to comfort herself. So, once in a while, when she wants to breastfeed, I try to find a different activity that would distract her. For example today after I came back from work she came straight to me and started to pull off my sweater, so I took her in my arms and we went in the kitchen. There, I showed her some of the fruits that I had just bought, and asked her what she would like to have, and she forgot about breastfeeding for a while. Dancing with her, is my husband’s way of making her forget the fact that she wants to breastfeed. The main challenge here is what to do during the night when she asks for me. You can read more on how to stop the breastfeeding during the night in my other post.
  2. Someone else should take over during the night. I am lucky enough to have my husband at home this period of time, as he is writing his master thesis, so doesn’t have a full time job. Otherwise, this tip will be really unpractical for me, since we live abroad, and far away from family. We are actually trying this approach these days. During the night, when she starts crying, my husband goes to her and tries to comfort her. When I say that my husband goes to her, I mean my husband just reaches out to her, because her bed is right next to our bed, since we are still co-sleeping. I know that some people might argue here that this might be the reason why we have so many troubles in giving up breastfeeding, but we are not ready to change that anytime soon now. The reason for not giving up co-sleeping yet, is that we don’t think that she is ready to sleep by herself. She still needs us and she will have us as long as she wants.
  3. Let the baby wean by herself/himself. The third advice is to listen to your baby’s needs and when they are ready, they will wean themselves. Unfortunately, I don’t have this luxury because I have my first 5 days long conference in two months and after that, in another 3 months, I have another one. Hence, I don’t have the time to wait for her to do it by herself. However, I keep in mind not to push her too much.

These were the tips that worked for me, or at least that seemed to work for me at the moment. The most challenging part for me was to reduce the breastfeeding during the night and I’m going to talk a little bit more about that. I’m going to give you small tips that helped me to deal better with the crying during the night.

How to handle the “stop the breastfeeding” during the night, and not be too tired the next day:

  1. Go to bed early. Yes, this is the best advice I could give. While you are trying to reduce the breastfeeding during the night, you have to be prepared for some sleepless nights. So, what I do at the moment is that I always go to bed at 9 p.m. or sometimes even earlier when my daughter goes to sleep around 8 p.m. When she first wakes up, my husband is still awake, so he comforts her and puts her back to sleep. I wake up early in the morning, around 5, and I take care of her, while my husband sleeps a little bit longer.
  2. Sleep in another room. While we are training our daughter, to comfort herself, I started to sleep on the couch in the living room. That way, she won’t be able to see, nor to smell me during the night. This helps my husband with comforting her, as she will stop crying after a while, if I am not around.

For more tips on how to stop the breastfeeding during the night, please read my other post on the subject, where I go in more detail about our day and night routines. Sticking to a routine is crucial in these moments. I would love to hear some of your stories, and how you managed to stop the breastfeeding, how difficult it was, and how tips were useful for you, and which were not.

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