Weaning: the end of an era

Pickle had his last breastfeed two weeks ago today. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a mutual decision to stop, nor was it entirely planned. It just kinda happened, and as with Tiny, I suspect Pickle kept feeding purely because I kept offering.

Peekaboo

I had decided it was time to stop feeding Pickle during the night, but was happy to continue offering him his daytime and bedtime feeds. When it came time for his bedtime feed, instead of racing me to the couch, excitedly asking for “boobie”, he kissed Tall and Tiny goodnight, and led me up the stairs. After stories and cuddles, I sat beside his cot until he fell asleep. When he woke at his usual time – 2am, give or take ten minutes – I gave him cuddles and sat with him in my arms for an hour-and-a-half, before taking him into our bed, where he slept soundly until morning.

The next day, he had his day sleep in the car, so no day feed, and at bedtime…kisses for the big boys, up the stairs, cuddles in our bed at 2am, slept until morning. Since then, he has asked twice when upset, but I’ve gently told him it’s all gone, and he’s been content with cuddles and lots of stories.

18 months old

My left bosom took a good week to subside, and more than once I was tempted to latch Pickle on to relieve the pressure. Warm showers and pressure on the lumpy bits helped unblock where it was needed, and for two nights I woke up with a soaked pyjama top. Pickle has a tendency to headbutt and clamber all over me when he sleeps, so that added to and prolonged the pain and tenderness a little! I’m curious to see what will happen now…I’m back in pre-babies bras, but there seems to be a smidgen more room in the cups than I recall…

Friends have asked how I feel about finishing, and I can honestly say I feel nothing but relieved. Relieved because I can see there’ll be an end to the night wakings, and because I’m going to regain a bit of freedom with my evenings. Not that I plan on going out every night, but if I want to go back to yoga classes, or visit friends, or date my husband, I can.

18 months old

When I weaned Tiny (also at 18-months), I got clucky and was pregnant within a month. This time, there will be no more babies, so it will be interesting to see whether I go through a period of “mourning” this time. So far, I’ve only noticed a change in my appetite – I’m no longer ravenous all the time – but it’s only been two weeks, so I guess we’ll see what happens over the next little while. I’m fully expecting to feel a bit down about this end of an era, but I’m also not expecting anything.

I’ve already gone through my drawers and removed all the items of clothing I’ve been wearing as a breastfeeding mother for the past 18 months (plus the 18 months prior to falling pregnant with Pickle!), and am feeling a great sense of delight at never having to wear a clicky bra ever again.

Sleeping baby

As for Pickle, his appetite for food has increased dramatically (he is eating constantly now), and his sleeping is slowly improving – he slept through two nights in a row, so I know he can do it! Next step is to wean him out of our bed, but I think we’ll enjoy this little success for a while first. Day sleeping is another story…he falls asleep in the car or stroller, but I used to feed him and sit with him in my arms if we were at home. Now…we’re muddling our way through it, trying to figure out what works. One day, he simply ran out of steam and fell asleep beside me on the couch; yesterday, we were snuggled up on the couch watching a film with Tiny, and he was quickly snoring on my chest.

Sleeping baby

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“Bye-Bye Boobies”

Everything I’ve ever read or heard about babies says there should be a period of transition when things are about to change. Like moving from the bassinet to the cot, removing the swaddle, getting rid of the dummy, or weaning from the breast.

We’ve always gone the cold turkey route with Tiny. One day I put him in his cot for a sleep, and that was that. On the day that we stopped swaddling, we also took away the dummy, and he hasn’t had either since. Tall and I are both very relaxed and laid-back about change, so I tend to think that Tiny has sensed this and just rolls with it. If Mummy and Daddy aren’t stressing, he doesn’t feel the need to, either.

However, when it came to weaning Tiny from the breast, I had mixed feelings. For the past 17 months he’d been fed on demand, and was truly boob-obsessed. I could either take it away gradually – ease him into the idea – or simply stop the feeds.

The Big Latch On 2010

Like sleep-training and probably most behavioural changes, I knew we needed to be fully committed AND have a consistent approach. I needed to ensure that I was ready, and that Tall was ready to up his game in the night, as we’d all be needing some extra support.

I had every intention of feeding Tiny until he was ready to stop; we followed baby-led weaning when starting solids, and it is an idea I feel is best for our family. BUT – I knew that I was definitely ready to stop the feeds. I’d started to dread – almost resent – each feed and had stopped enjoying it. I was tied to the house at bedtime, and I was feeling drained (literally!). It didn’t seem fair to either of us to continue on. I’d also decided that I want to have some time where my body is my own before we start trying for the Next One.

We decided to take an ease-‘im-in approach; to tackle night-weaning first and try to get Tiny’s sleep sorted; then, once night-weaning was sussed, we’d concentrate on Tiny not feeding to sleep and wean him completely.

Four weeks ago, I gave Tiny his bedtime feed and explained that there would be no more boobie until the following day. It took him a couple of nights to cotton on, and to be content with Tall going in during the night, but he seemed to adjust very well. Amazingly well. Toooo well, I thought, expecting a sudden flurry of protests. “He might get angry,” someone had warned.

He didn’t. Our world didn’t implode. There was no civil unrest. Nothing bad happened.

This gave me the confidence to stop his bedtime feeds last week. I explained what was going to happen every day of the previous week, and hoped that he understood. I was nervous and expected all hell to break loose. I prepared myself for the worst.

The first night – deliberately a yoga night – we changed his bedtime routine completely and Tall put him to bed. He was yelling when I left for yoga, and I managed not to think about how my boys were doing for most of the 90-minute class.

“30 minutes”, Tall responded, when I hesitantly asked how long it had taken him to settle. I couldn’t believe it. My booboholic son had done it again: accepted the biggest change with minimal fuss.

It’s been over a week now, and I am so impressed with how our little man has adjusted. Bedtime is no longer a time I dread, and we’re all enjoying a slightly less frenetic pace at the end of the day.Tiny is back to self-settling (most nights, anyway), and has become much more affectionate with Tall. It’s lovely to see him giving his Daddy some more lovin’; he’s even started calling out for him if he wakes during the night. Daddy appears to have developed a very keen sense of selective hearing though. Hmmmm.

I thought I’d feel more emotional about stopping the feeds, but honestly, I feel relieved. Tiny is cuddlier than ever and is showing himself to be a really affectionate little boy. I’m happy to have breastfed him as long as I did, and he’s become more independent, confident and settled since we’ve stopped feeding. This makes me wonder if he was actually ready to stop, but continued on out of habit, or because he thought I might be upset if we stopped?

And I feel more like myself again……….but with smaller boobs!