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Natural Term Weaning Update #3

Our weaning journey is coming along smoothly with Mr 5.  He has come from having 2 absolutely vitally necessary breastfeeds every morning and every night to one last night, one two nights before that, one that morning, and I’m not sure when the one was before that.

He never breastfeeds for more than 10 seconds, and he often jumps off after 3 or 4.  He now unlatches and kisses me goodnight before snuggling down in my arms, and then casting me off him so he can lie on the other side of the bed.

A fortnight ago Miss 2 and I were sick with the flu, and he spent a day at a friend’s house.  Mr 5 was picked up by my husband on his way home from work.  When Mr 5 was asked how his day was he exclaimed “It was so good to be away from Penny, always whinging about milk!”.  Not so long ago, it was he who was always “whinging” for milk.

Some nights he falls asleep while I read to him.  We read a childhood favourite of mine – Truckers, by Terry Pratchett.  Now we are reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  They are big books with no pictures, lots of chapters and is written in a language that’s difficult for a 5 year old to understand.  I don’t explain what’s happening, but he seems to understand anyway.  I also don’t explain to him that I feel “done” breastfeeding him, but he also seems to understand that too.

I really wish I could enjoy these last breastfeeds, but my body itches and stings and wishes he would stop putting his hands on me.  I feel a small trace of guilt that I am not weaning as lovingly as I thought I would, but the conscious part of my mind reassures me that this guilt is a trick.  Every breastfeed I have given him for the last 5 years was a reminder of my love for him.  Instead of seeing the end of our journey as an ending to the way I show my love, I am choosing instead to see it in a different way.  Instead, I will remember that every breastfeed I have given has prepared him for now –  when he no longer need to be breastfed to feel loved.  I choose to celebrate all of the ways he is now capable of not only feeling love, but also showing it back.  And maybe part of the way he is showing me he loves me is by letting me finish breastfeeding.

 

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Natural Term Weaning Update #2

Do you ever feel really touched out?  I have explored these feelings of mine before and have found some ways thst help me avoid them (you can read about that here), but when I am tired, it hits me much harder.  I have been burning the candle at both ends lately – staying up til 1am and waking up at around 6.30 with eleventeen billion night time requests for milk from Miss 2.

After a busy day yesterday, by evening time I was burnt out and could not deal.  With anything.  Much less Miss 2 and Mr 5 both trying to own my body.  They can obviously sense when I’m at my worst – I’ve always known they will be at their most demanding on the days where I feel least equipped to deal with it.

Mr 5 is feeling quite a lot of jealousy over Miss 2’s demand-feeding, and yesterday evening, when we were all feeling a little bit frail and in need of various types of comfort, his feelings were being made quite clear.  Every time Miss 2 breastfed (frequently) he came and tried to sit all over me and put his hands all over my breasts.  I found myself more than once sitting very still, even holding my breath to stop myself from exploding.  Then I would start slapping their hands off me.

I said things I am not at all proud of.  I write because I like to think I’m pretty good at articulating my thoughts, but let me tell you.  At that time, in those circumstances, my beautiful, gentle, sweet, caring 5 year old child did not need to hear my thoughts articulated.  After hiding myself in the kitchen I took a late-night stroll down the street with both kids to try and reconnect a little, I told Mr 5 it was time for bed.  He protested, as he always does when he is overtired, but I got him to cooperate with some gentle firmness.  He wanted to watch a movie, he wanted to play with his Transformers, he wanted me to play Snakes and Ladders with him.  I explained that sometimes what we want and what we need are not the same thing, and could he please come to bed because I really wanted to give him some milk.

Even though I write about what we do, and a lot of people seem to relate to it, I don’t have all of the answers.  Sometimes I have moments of brilliance, and sometimes I sink so low I feel like I don’t deserve to have kids.  I know that as long as weaning is happening, however slowly or child-led, there is still going to be days and times when it sucks.  There’s no quick and easy solution.  Neither of us have done this before, and all we can do is try to ride out these feelings together.

And here we are.  I can’t remember the last time I breastfed him to sleep, but last night I did.  I know we are on the downhill run towards weaning, but I’m still using his milk as a parenting tool. It’s easy and effective, and when we’re in bed and he’s still and sleepy, the aversions go away.  Even though I know he is nearly ready to finish breastfeeding, he’s not ready to let go of feeling connected to me, and nor I him.  We have other ways to be connected, but last night I was too tired to think of any of them.  As long as breastfeeding works, I’m still going to do it.

 

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Our Final Breastfeed

A photo shoot to mark the end of our breastfeeding journey. Most people who dream of letting bub self wean don’t have the luxury of knowing which breastfeed will be their last, it’s usually something you think about a few weeks after and think ‘Hey it’s been a few weeks since we breastfed, I wonder if that’s it now?’. Which is what happened with #3, the time between feeds became longer and longer and the feeds themselves became shorter and shorter. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and being told I had only a few days before starting chemotherapy drugs that I couldn’t breastfeed on, I was gifted a breastfeeding photo shoot by Tara at White Lotus Photography.

Hard at work getting ready

I have been on a fairly high dose of Prednisone for a few weeks now. I am supremely bloated and the heaviest I have ever been, for a bit of perspective I have gained 5cm around my neck! Things like dying my hair are extremely difficult now. I have managed to overtone it, but not sure if I have the energy to fix it this morning, we’ll just pretend it’s intentional. I have woken up (if that’s possible without really sleeping) extremely sore today. The thought of getting ready is daunting. I desperately hope I don’t look ‘sick’ in the photos.

Bub was super shy during the shoot, but Tara was super nice and accommodating. Usually when people get breastfeeding photo shoots its all about flowy lace and flower crowns, the standard nature goddess pics. Um… not really our style. Bub is currently loving Captain America and Harley Quinn is an easier one for me to do my own take of. Of course as soon as we got there bub wanted boob, right on cue.

This was our last ever breastfeed. I told bub this would be our last boo-boos, she said “bye bye boo-boos” and had an hour long drawn out final cluster feed until she couldn’t stay awake any longer and crashed out. I feel so sick to my stomach knowing that she is going to be upset when she can’t have anymore boob. I literally feel so nauseous and stressed knowing tonight is going to be a rough night. But my sweet little girl is sleeping at the moment and we’ll deal with what happens later, later.

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Natural Term Weaning Update #1

In the past, I’ve written a few posts about my term breastfeeding journey with Mr 5 (see some old posts here, here and here). Those posts always get a lot of interest, with many curious about how it works. Well, he’s my first, so I don’t know exactly how it will play out, but now I can feel the end is probably quite near, I’ve decided to document our story and share updates.

We have been having 2 breastfeeds a day for well over a year now – one at bedtime and another in the morning. Those feeds got shorter and shorter, and now we regularly skip them too. Sometimes he’ll fall asleep while I’m reading him a book. Sometimes he’ll be more interested in watching tv or playing the tablet in the morning (which he is allowed to do until Miss 2 and I wake up). Sometimes we’re in a rush to get somewhere and breastfeeding is forgotten.

And then sometimes it’s like he remembers that he’s entitled to a breastfeed halfway through the morning, and although he doesn’t verbalise that, he is often triggered by some perceived unfairness, usually regarding his sister, and usually about something that she got that he didn’t because he was at school. I’m not always great at connecting behaviour with true underlying issues, but this was quite clear to me – he has noticed that his sister is allowed to breastfeed whenever she wants and he can’t because of boundaries I have put in place, and also because he is aware of social attitudes towards term breastfeeding (his last breastfeed in a public space would have been over 2 years ago, when his sister was a newborn).

So last night we had a chat about breastfeeding in bed. He asked for milk, and I said to him “You know, one day you won’t need to have milk anymore”. He thoughtfully considered this, and said to me “Well, sometimes I don’t even really need it now. I don’t have it all the time, just in bed”. And I told him that this was true – he used to always need milk to go to sleep, but now, even though he has milk in bed, we usually go to sleep with a cuddle. I told him that made me very happy because I loved cuddling him, especially in bed when everything was still and quiet, and it was just the two of us.

I asked him if it made him a bit sad or mad when he sometimes didn’t have milk in bed. He told me that he doesn’t care when he’s too busy in the morning because hes usually having fun playing, but if he gets sad or tired about something else, then he remembers that milk makes him happy, and then he’s sad that he can’t have it in the daytime like he used to. So we talked about other thing that make him happy and I promised him that I would try harder to give him a cuddle when I could see he was sad, instead of trying to talk, because he doesn’t like talking when he’s sad or mad. He just needs cuddles.

Then I asked him if he’d like milk. Sometimes if we are in a hurry, I’ll say he can have milk while I count to ten. He asked me if I was very busy tonight and I told him I didn’t have anything more important to do than to help him go to sleep. So he asked if he could have milk while I counted to 12. I said that was OK. As he suckled, he unlatched and said would it be OK if we have milk while I count to 32. No, wait. 37. I said that was OK, and he looked so happy! So he had his milk while I counted to 37, and then he settled down into my arms to sleep.

The end. For now.

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Not How I Thought We Would Finish Our Journey

Once you breastfeed past a certain age – past infancy, past toddlerhood and into childhood, you start to see weaning finishing in a certain way.  I’ve always had fairly low expectations about the end of our breastfeeding journey, and lately my goal has been to get through one day at a time.  I had no intentions of telling my 5 year old he isn’t allowed to breastfeed anymore – we’ve come this far for me to make a decision like that based on my own feelings.  I thought that one day he would either tell me he didn’t want it anymore, or that he would simply choose not to have it.  But last week he got sick.

He had an illness that involved sores in his mouth.  He wasn’t SICK sick, he didn’t have a fever, he wasn’t lethargic, he didn’t cough and he wasn’t snotty.  He still wanted to run around and play as usual – he was upset that he had to stay at home and didn’t really understand the risk of people catching his illness when he didn’t really feel sick.

He could barely eat anything because it hurt to swallow, and he couldn’t chew, because his tongue and the roof of his mouth had sores too.  He doesn’t take medicine and I don’t encourage it anyway, but we talked about it and he preferred to deal with the pain.  I did manage to get him to gargle salt water a few times.

And on the Tuesday when we first noticed he had a sore mouth, he couldn’t breastfeed.  He couldn’t even latch without pain, and there was no way he could get to suckling.  He said he couldn’t make his teeth move right without it hurting, and I knew the vacuum would have caused him pain.  The night we realised this, he was quite matter of fact when he told me he couldn’t have milks, so he was just going to cuddle me instead.  No tears, no great upset.  The next morning he awoke for his morning breastfeed (he normally breastfeeds twice a day) but again, couldn’t.  So he hopped out of bed to find his favourite Transformer toys instead.

The next night he didn’t ask or try.  He wasn’t upset.  I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him about it because I was worried bringing it up would upset him.  Another morning and another night passed with no breastfeeding.

On Friday night, he cautiously asked for some Easy Mac.  I felt like I held my breath when he sat down to it.  He devoured it.  I realise Easy Mac is a terrible choice, and it barely qualifies as food, but when your child hasn’t eaten in 3-4 days, anything will do.  We went to bed that night and I wondered what would happen, but again he didn’t ask, and I didn’t bring it up.

And that was that.  I was really surprised and taken aback, because I never expected sickness to be the end of our breastfeeding journey.  I felt sad, not that it was over but that it was over in a way that felt really unfair.  I felt like my son had been robbed of the luxury of being able to make a decision about no longer breastfeeding.  But as he wasn’t talking about it and wasn’t asking for it, I didn’t bring it up and I resolved that if this was it, then I would let it be.

The next morning, Saturday, we could see no trace of sores in his mouth.  Thank goodness, because he had to play soccer at 9am, and his cousin’s birthday party later that day.  We had an extremely busy day that day, and although he hadn’t shown any obvious signs of illness, Saturday was too much for him.  We had a very cranky and upset child at 8pm that night.  He was resisting bedtime with all he had, and my resolutions went out of the window.  I quietly said to him that his mouth wasn’t sore anymore, and he could have some milks if he wanted to.  And then he was happy, settled and peaceful.

Until this illness, he’d never gone more than a day without a breastfeed.  I am proud of the fact that he coped so well with his illness, and I know that when the time comes, he will handle it well.  But that time is not now.

 

 

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Member Story – Gentle Toddler Night Weaning Experience

Over the last week I have been weaning my 2.5 yr old off night feeds and it has been the most loving, beautiful experience.

I was really worried that it would be filled with screaming, tears and tantrums, but she has done such an amazing job at accepting and allowing the process to unfold.

I am patting myself on the back for being the parent that I am that has also played a role in this being such a loving experience.

It started with me saying that Beeboo (her word for boobies) were really tired after being awake every night for 2.5 yrs and they really needed to start sleeping at night, when it was dark.

I asked her how she would feel if Beeboo slept at night when she slept and woke in the morning, when the sun came up, and then she could feed.

“Would that be ok?”

In the tiniest little voice she said “Yup”

So I knew that it was possible and now I knew I had to allow her to make the decision.

I explained that when she went to sleep Beeboo would go to sleep as well and when the sun came up she could have some.

She jumped up, excited, and said, “I can wake her up with a big good morning and get on.”

Then at night, when we talk about our day, I mentioned that Beeboo was going to go to sleep after she did and then not be available until the sun was up.

She went to sleep, woke up asking at around 11.30pm and I reminded her that they were asleep, but she could cuddle in and hold them if she wanted too.

So she did and every night since, when she wakes up, she gets up has some water, has a wee, then hopes into bed and cuddles in.

The only real show that she was struggling was a 10 minute meltdown on day 2, when i said no they were sleeping, but i think that was more because of the day we had, then no boob.

It has been 4 days and so far it has been bliss full and if anything I think it has bought us closer because she cuddles me now, and I no longer feel like pushing her away and feeling touched out from too much sucking.

This post was originally shared in the support group Breastfeeders in Australia, and has been shared anonymously with the mum’s permission.  The accompanying photo is a stock image, and is not of the child in the story.  Do you have a breastfeeding story you’d like to share with us?  Send us an email to breastfeedersinaustralia@hotmail.com

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5 Years – The Milestone I Don’t Talk About

My son turned 5 this week.  His fifth birthday also marks the day that I have been breastfeeding for five years straight.  Followers may recall I recently wrote about my daughter’s second birthday.  I see them doing the math – I breastfed him for 3 years or so, and have been breastfeeding her for the past 2, right?  Actually no.  My five year old son still breastfeeds.

I don’t talk about it as often as I’d like to.  It’s not for shame – I am very proud of my breastfeeding journey.  I love to call myself a lactivist and take any opportunity to discuss breastfeeding with anyone who wants to talk about it.  I WANT to talk about it. I feel like a total fraud for NOT talking about it more.  Normalising breastfeeding is hugely important to me and part of me feels like a gutless wonder for not being more open about my own circumstances.

But despite the best efforts of lactivists everywhere, “term” breastfeeding still a very negative stigma.  And while I don’t mind copping flack from the keyboard warriors about my choices, I don’t want to offer my son up to be slaughtered by people who, at best, simply don’t know any better.

More so, I don’t want him to be judged by people who actually know us.  It makes me really sad to feel like I can’t tell the people closest to us that he still breastfeeds twice a day (once at bedtime and again when he wakes).  I wish I could talk about it with pride.  They might look at me differently, and I could live with that.

But they might look at my son differently, and I can’t live with that.

It’s not fair.  My son is perfect (well, as perfect as any five year old boy can be).  My husband and I are often praised for raising such a great kid, but I know that if the people around us knew he still breastfed, things would change.  I have felt part of my job as a parent is to protect him until he is ready to step out, take risks and move towards greater independence.  What could be described as loving and attentive parenting would be twisted into a mother who is selfishly preventing her son from growing up.  What they currently know as his and my close bond would suddenly become creepy, perverted and unnatural in their eyes.

My son has already felt the sting of this judgement, after a family member (who assumed weaning had already taken place) joked about mummy’s milk being for the baby.  He has asked that we hide his breastfeeds and don’t talk about them with people outside of our immediate family.  My beautiful, innocent five year old wants me to hide information from adults because he is afraid they will make fun of him.

Even in online spaces dedicated to supporting breastfeeding, I have occasionally been met with shock and disgust.  Five years is too much even for some vocal breastfeeding advocates. I also feel safe enough talking about this on my blog, because even though it’s now out there for all to see, I’m small-time, and basically my blog is generally only read by people who are on the same page as me (although if this post is picked up and made viral, I’ll consider that divine intervention and a sign that I should be more open from now on).

Part of the reason why my son is amazing is because of the way he has been raised, and breastfeeding has been a big factor in it.  I wish I could point that out to everyone, but it’s never going to be received the way I’d hope.  So I’ll just have to be content with telling you.

Happy boobaversary to me.

 

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What Will Happen When I Stop Breastfeeding?

The other day my husband told me cheerfully that I won’t know myself when I stop breastfeeding. My first thought was to laugh and tell him that won’t be for a long time. But tonight as I lay down with Mr Almost-5 so he could breastfeed to sleep, he wasn’t interested.  After a quick suckle, he had a big drink from his water bottle, said goodnight and rolled away from me to go to sleep.

As I type this, Miss Almost-2 breastfed to sleep around 2 hours ago and I haven’t heard a peep from her since then. It seems like not long ago when I couldn’t even get my boob out of her mouth without her waking up.

What if the end is closer than I thought?

My kids are growing up

Before I had kids, I thought breastfeeding was just a way that we fed our babies, but it’s practically become a way of life for me!  I live and breathe breastfeeding every day. I’m active across breastfeeding support groups, I run a breastfeeding account on Instagram, I blog about breastfeeding, I’m studying a Certificate IV in Breastfeeding Education (Community) and I’m active in my local Australian Breastfeeding Association group. My inbox is literally full of messages about breastfeeding – admins and moderators about Breastfeeders in Australia, nominations for the Pumping It Forward Project and members of Breastfeeders in Australia asking for anonymous question posts or to be pointed in the right direction to find information.

I have friendships with people that I would never have known, had I not fallen into this rabbit hole of breastfeeding.

Will I still care? Will I still feel as passionate about breastfeeding when I’m no longer a breastfeeder? Will I still want to finish my training and continue volunteering with the Australian Breastfeeding Association? Will I find a new interest that will elbow breastfeeding advocacy out of the way?

What will happen to my body? Will I gain a hundred kilos without breastfeeding burning all of my calories? Will my boobs shrink or sag? Will the dark circles under my eyes disappear with all of the extra sleep I get?

Will my daughter want to sleep in her own bed soon? Will my husband want to move back into our bedroom? Will we actually have sex in our bed again, instead of everywhere else we’ve been doing it for the past almost-5 years?

I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine my daughter not asking for “milks” a hundred times a day. I can’t imagine my son not waking me up in the morning for his milk before breakfast. I can’t imaging wearing high-necked tops or bras with underwires.

I’m not even sure I want to. It’s so hard to imagine letting go of something that’s been such a huge part of my motherhood journey.  Generally I enjoy watching my kids grow, change and learn. I have celebrated all of their milestones with happiness. My son loves preschool and I couldn’t be more proud – my kids loving school is hugely important to me. Neither of us shed any tears on his first day.  But weaning is the first pending milestone I have dreaded.

He loves preschool and is sad when he can’t go

If another mum told me she felt this way, I would tell her she’d done a wonderful job in giving her kids the very best start possible, and that she deserves to feel proud.  I would tell her that although breastfeeding is very important, it’s but one of many aspects of parenting, and I would assure her that her children will continue to need her for a very long time.

Hopefully when the time comes I will have someone to tel me that, because right now I’m a little fearful that I won’t remember it myself.

 

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Night Weaning a Toddler

One subject that comes up frequently in our Facebook group is how to gently wean your toddler from their night time breastfeeds. This is my own story of how we made the transition away from relying on breastfeeding for sleeping and settling. Like a lot of mums breastfeeding past infancy, my son was breastfeeding on demand, I had always fed him to sleep, he didn’t take bottles and we bedshared.

 

It was a shock to find myself considering night weaning my son, because I had been working towards the elusive holy grail goal of allowing him to self-wean. To me, this meant allowing my son to breastfeed whenever and wherever he wanted until he no longer needed it. But when I formed that goal and those opinions, I had not considered the fact that I would fall pregnant when my son was 27 months old, or that he would be breastfeeding with the voracity of a much younger child. At that stage, Billy was still breastfeeding at least 2-3 hourly through the night, and more times than I could count during the day.

 

The elation of that positive pregnancy test was immediately followed with a brick wall of fatigue, nausea and sudden, extreme nipple pain. I must have unlatched Billy a thousand times to carefully check my nipple for cracks or signs of trauma. I have never felt pain like that, including the early days of establishing breastfeeding, when a tongue tie shredded my nipples into a bloody mess. Whether it was my hormones, a reduction in my milk supply, or my son’s sixth sense for knowing when I’m unsettled for some reason, his night feeds increased. He was suddenly needing to sleep with my breast in his mouth all night long and between the fatigue and the pain, I couldn’t deal with it. I suffered as long as I could, but as I ventured to the middle of my pregnancy, strong aversions came to me, in the form of feeling furious and protective of my personal space during breastfeeds. These aversions were worse the more tired I was. I masked my anger with impatience, but I knew in myself that it was not the right way to deal with the problem. I knew I needed to make some changes.

 

I was scared of night weaning. I was scared of bringing another baby home to meet Billy, and was worried about how he would react to no longer being my one and only. Continuing to breastfeed was my plan to reassure him that he was still loved. I was afraid that night weaning would damage our relationship, but it was a necessity. I couldn’t continue the way I was.

 

The only actual experience I had with sleep training was when a beautiful social worker from my local Family Care Cottage visited me when Billy was around 14 weeks old. I had just returned to work and wasn’t coping with the night wakings, and she taught me about responsive settling, which is where you put your baby down in the cot and comfort them as best you can while they are lying down. I was allowed to pick him up whenever I felt he needed to be held. As kind and gentle as that social worker was, the method was not gentle enough for me, and since my only experience, I’d only really heard negative stories about sleep training. As a mum trying my best to parent as gently and lovingly as I could, leaving my son to cry on his own was not in line with my values.

 

So I read. I searched for gentle night weaning advice and my search yielded results from many, but most notably from Pinky McKay, Milk Meg (Meg Nagle) and Dr Jay Gordon. Nearly everything I read offered insight and tips that were very valuable to me, but in the end no single method felt exactly right for us. Every family is unique and every child is unique. After reading as much as I could, I took the bits that I liked, discarded what I didn’t, and made my own way.

 

Talk about it

Respecting my child as a person was important to me, so I told him that our situation would be changing. Our kids may not always understand what we are saying, but I am always surprised at how they understand what we mean. He knew there was a baby in my tummy, and that when the baby was strong enough, they would come out of my tummy and would live with us at our house. I explained to Billy that growing a baby makes mum very tired. We talked about how my breasts hurt, and that I slept best when my breasts were held snug in my bra with no one touching them.

 

We talked about how we get grumpy and upset sometimes when we’re very tired, and how we felt good after we had a good sleep. We discussed the way that neither of us had very much fun when we were tired, and mums that are tired find it hard to go out and do fun things, like going to the park and riding the bike.

 

We discussed food. One of the key elements to our flexible approach to eating is that we have a fruit bowl on the dining table, which Billy has always been allowed to help himself to. I told Billy that if he’s ever hungry or thirsty, he can have food or a drink, even if it’s night time. We started taking a bottle of water to bed with us.

 

Lastly, we talked about day and night. We can have milk in the day time. Night time is for sleeping.

 

Move on from feeding to sleep at bedtime

The consensus among the expert advice I read was that the first step was to move on from feeding to sleep at the start of the night. Although Billy had always fed to sleep with me, my husband was able to settle Billy to sleep in other ways when I wasn’t around, so I knew it would be achievable.

 

And we began. We would go to bed as we always had, and I told him that I wanted him to finish his milk before he went to sleep. I breastfed him in my bed just as we did every other night, but when I noticed his eyes starting to roll and flutter, I asked him to hop off so we could go to sleep. His eyes would snap back open and he would continue feeding for another minute before he started nodding off. I would unlatch him by putting my pinky finger into the corner of his mouth and I asked him if he was ready to sleep. If he said no, he was allowed to suckle again, but as I noticed he was falling asleep, I asked him again if he was ready to sleep.

 

This step was actually not too bad for us. My son was always tired when we went to bed, and he didn’t put up as much of a fight as I expected. He found it irritating that I was interrupting his sleep and that I would physically break his seal at my breast and make him unlatch, and there was a little bit of moaning and wailing, but overall, he handled this change very well.

 

Move on from feeding to sleep during the night

I continued my plan throughout the night. If Billy was seeking a breast, I allowed him to suckle, but I counted to ten out loud. When I reached ten, I made him unlatch. I asked him if he was finished and if he said no, he was allowed to latch on while I counted to ten again. My end goal was to cut out breastfeeds between bedtime and sunrise, so I repeated my mantra over and over – night time is for sleeping, you can have more milk when the sun’s awake.

 

Some nights he was really upset and insisted he needed more milk. I would offer him something to eat or drink. There were many nights when he ate a banana and had a drink of water before lying back down to sleep.

 

This step was very upsetting for Billy, and it really tested my resolve. There were two or three nights where Billy would work himself up into hysterics at least once during the night. I felt awful about upsetting him the way I did, but I was confident in my decision to instigate night weaning, and knew that it was necessary for us. I think the confidence in my decision made my resolve stronger on those really hard nights. I stuck to my rule of not feeding to sleep and although it hurt me to see Billy so upset, I was always there with him offering cuddles and reassurance.

 

Celebrate the small wins along the way

After about three long nights, Billy was handling these changes much better. It felt like a massive step the first night when he suckled and then lay down in my arms and let me cuddle him until he went back to sleep. As we stayed consistent with this method, over the next few weeks Billy started only suckling until I counted to three, and then to one and he was happily unlatching and going back to sleep with a cuddle.

 

I was so happy with this progress, that I kept this arrangement in place for a few months. I was getting more sleep through the night and still knew Billy’s needs were being met, so I felt no need to push to the next step of refusing any suckling at night.

 

My changes didn’t stop Billy from waking every 2-3 hours, but he was basically waking up for a cuddle and then going back to sleep, rather than hanging off my breast, making my nipples hurt or leaving me in uncomfortable positions, which was unacceptable to me while I was pregnant.

 

Then my daughter was born and my milk came back, and Billy’s nursing frequency increased. A combination of the excitement of a really abundant milk supply and the need for reassurance with a beautiful but demanding baby joining us meant he was nursing as much, if not more than his baby sister. He actually gained a kilo in the first month after Penny’s birth. It was also really handy for me to have a convenient way to relieve my engorgement.

 

By three months post pregnancy, I felt like we’d found a good rhythm within our family, and I was ready to move to the next step of ceasing all night feeds. I felt mentally prepared for this step. Although I knew it would be distressing for Billy, I knew my approach was as gentle as could be, and I didn’t feel guilt. I was prepared for difficulty with emotions, but I was confident that Billy would handle this step, because he’d handled our previous progressions to this point so well.

 

We talked about it again. We had a new baby in the home, and Billy was already afraid that Penny would take all of my cuddles, all of my kisses, all of my time and all of my love. He didn’t tell me this, but he did tell me that he didn’t want Penny to take all of his milk. I promised him that I had enough cuddles, enough kisses, enough time and enough love for two kids. And I definitely had enough milk. I told him Penny needed a lot of milk at night and he didn’t – we already knew that if he was hungry at night Billy could have a banana and a drink of water. Penny couldn’t have a banana and a drink of water. But I assured him that I would “save” his milk up so that he could have a big drink in the morning.

 

And we began. As I expected, he was upset. But not as much as he’d been when I had previously counted to ten during his night time feeds. And again, after about three nights, I saw a big improvement after about three nights.
Initially night weaning didn’t make much of a difference to Billy’s waking habits, but they gradually improved. At a few months past four years old, he is still waking usually once but up to three times between bedtime and wake-up time (so between 9pm and 7.30am) but there is no distress and the disturbance is minimal.

 

In the end

I’m really glad that I researched as much as I did to tailor a solution that worked for us. Being able to make our own plan based on informed decisions made the process much less complicated. I didn’t wonder if I was doing the right thing – I’d read enough to be confident in my decisions. In the end, I believe night weaning helped Billy’s and my breastfeeding relationship. Not only was I sleeping more at night, but the reduction of angst around night wakings and feeds made me feel capable of being a better parent during the day.

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