Breastfeeding a toddler – when does breastfeeding come to an end?

Seb stopped breastfeeding at 18 months. He’d been slowly dropping the amount of time he fed for a few weeks, so it wasn’t a surprise. The last time, I kind of knew it was the last – he had just a few seconds, then rolled away, and never came back for more.

D was different. She had a mouth infection at 15 months, and went from five feeds a day to nothing.

Totally unexpected. Totally unprepared.

She adjusted quite well, and I didn’t, for a while. It was painful physically and emotionally. I had my breastpump, and I had my baby – but she somehow didn’t seem so much a baby any more.
toddler breastfeeding

Little B is definitely past the baby stage. She is completely in the realms of toddlerhood – she has almost all her teeth (or perhaps totally all of them, it’s a bit tricky checking now as she is a bit bitey if you stick a finger in her mouth!) and she can ask for milk clearly, as well as stating which side she wants to start with and when it’s time for the other side too.

So it’s very different. Gaps between feeds could vary. Some days might be one feed, and some days might be four or five. Sometimes my top will be tugged when we are out during the day, and often now I can say to her ‘milk when we get home’ and she understands, and she will wait.

Then we went away for the weekend.

And then, when it came to the bedtime feed, the one she always says yes to, the one where we snuggle together and sometimes we fall into a milk drunk sleep…then, suddenly, she said no.

And the next day.

And the next.

I was prepared, in the sense that she is two now, and I’d been wondering when our feeding days would be over. But I was unprepared, in the sense that again it was sudden, with no warning. In fact, I’d just given my breastpump to my sister, which meant sitting in a shower hand expressing, wincing at the soreness and watching my milk drain away, wondering if it was the last time I’d ever get to experience my body somehow amazingly do that thing. The emotional side was less – Little B is older, she is already exerting her independence in many ways. But it was still emotional because she is my last little one and those milk drunk sleeps are something I’ll never get to do again.



It turns out she had a mouth ulcer, and so she’s not really keen on putting anything in her mouth, apart from a bit of ice cream (luckily readily available on holiday!). So I had a few days of wondering if she’d come back to it, but with the knowledge that D never did.

People say to me ‘well that’s good news, she is too old for breastfeeding anyway, and you can have your body back’. They say it has no benefit to either of us any more. They say it with the relief of someone who found the whole feeding a toddler thing kind of awkward, and uncomfortable.

I am the one who is uncomfortable now.

People talk about the discomfort and pain of beginning breastfeeding, but they don’t talk so much about the ending. Or whether it even is the ending? I guess only Little B knows, and so I’ll have to wait and see.

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