What it Feels Like to Stop Breastfeeding

Part of me never wanted to stop breastfeeding. I really struggled with it because I loved those moments together and feeling so bonded with my son (just like I had with my daughter, four years earlier). However, two weeks before his second birthday, I realized it was time. I was sick of my shirt being tugged on in public. Sick of the tantrums when I refused. I was tired of being the only one who could console my son or put him to bed at night. Enough was enough. And so I stopped–cold turkey. It happened in a blur one weekend when we were too busy for my son to notice, and then that was it.

No more boob….Or so I thought.


It was about two weeks later that my breasts started to ache, feeling engorged. They didn’t look engorged, as they had when my milk first came in, but they felt like they might explode, and, just like the old days, I couldn’t lie on my stomach for about a week. The physical pain only drummed in the fact that I had made an irreversible decision, and it broke my heart all over again. Eventually the pain went away, but we’re still working on the emotional aspect. When my son is upset, he still cries for booboo, and to be honest, sometimes I cry, too. I know he still loves me, though, and I like that I’ve regained a little bit of my freedom. Finally my husband is able to put our son to bed, strengthening their bond, and I’m able to wear the clothes I want to. All in all, it’s a good thing.

I decided to ask around and see how other moms dealt with this tumultuous motherhood moment. Because, like many aspects of parenting, breastfeeding — and it’s conclusion — is a very personal experience that is different for everyone. Check out what it felt like for other mamas to stop breastfeeding, and see if you can relate.

“It was devastating. Heartbreaking. Forced by circumstance. Work and travel dictated that I eventually had to choose.” —Serai H., Cape Town, South Africa

“At about 13-months-old, my daughter just decided she was done. We were doing it once a day, at night before bed. And one night she just shook her head no (and never looked for it again). I got teary eyed for a minute or so. Then I felt relief! and I thought, ‘I’m free!’ I don’t know if this is a normal reaction. But like so many aspects of parenting a baby, breastfeeding is amazing in so many ways and also (let’s face it) a huge physical undertaking.”  —Eileen Gunn, Brooklyn, New York

“When I stopped nursing my first baby at 16-months-old, it was very bittersweet. She was still waking frequently throughout the night and one day I just made a snap decision to stop because I was struggling with the lack of sleep…I didn’t give myself the chance to reduce feeds gradually so I suffered engorgement which was painful. After the first week things settled down but I was very emotional.” —Jen Hassett, Cardiff, Wales

“I was a few months pregnant with my second baby and my son was a little over a year old when I stopped. I was psyched for us both to have some space from each other. I was also SO EXHAUSTED when I was pregnant and nursing, and I couldn’t eat enough food — I stuffed my face all the time and still always felt hungry. It felt like our family dynamic shifted a bit once my son was no longer nursing — there was more balance of intimacy, and he seemed to get a bit closer with his dad.” —Polly K., Springs, New York

“I was depressed that my second (and last!) baby was refusing to nurse. He had just turned one so it was time to transition him to cow’s milk anyway, but I still wanted my little baby. I was sad to leave that stage of life so abruptly and unilaterally. I was talking out my feelings with a good friend who was breastfeeding her son who is only a few days younger than mine. Her response to my baby refusing to nurse? ‘That’s awesome!’ I needed that moment of perspective to realize how amazing it is that my baby gave me back my autonomy. Ending breastfeeding felt natural and not such a big deal after that.” —Cathy H., New York, New York

“I felt freedom. It was awesome to have my body back after so many years. I obviously didn’t shed any tears!” —Odessa R., Oakland, California

“I nursed my daughter until she was 22-months-old. I decided to stop because she was so big and she would pull my hair. I was really surprised by how much milk I still had after I stopped. I became really engorged and my boobs kept leaking for over two weeks, which was shocking. Also I had a lot of weird hormonal mood swings. But I was really happy about it in general. I was proud of myself for sticking with my decision and I was excited to wear normal bras and clothes and not think about breast access when I was getting dressed.” —Tracy T., Durham, North Carolina

“I LOVED breastfeeding and hated having to stop. But you go with the flow of the situation. With both of my daughters, I tapered off when the timing seemed right. But, all these many years later, I still miss it.” —Claudia J., Santa Fe, New Mexico

“I expected to feel sad. But I felt an almost immediate sense of freedom and a renewed bond with my growing baby. I loved reading her books and giving her milk in a cup and cuddling with her. It was a relief to be honest and made me feel I could connect with her without literally being her source of nutrition.” —Carrie E., Denver, Colorado

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Photo: Getty