Our end of extended breastfeeding journey
There are many posts out there documenting the end of breastfeeding journeys. I’m not sure of the official numbers, but according to articles I’ve read over the years approx. 90% of women stop breastfeeding in the first six months, and by the baby’s first birthday the numbers have decreased even further. A tiny amount carry on past a year, and those that do usually adopt the attitude of stopping when baby is ready to self-wean.
Unfortunately for my family, it became clear that our 18mo (baby #3) was not going to start sleeping better until the milk/sleep association had been well and truly broken. Trudging through the day on four or five hours kip has taken its toll. We had some success in weaning him off night feeds at the start of the year, but for one reason and another (largely guilt over him HATING nursery) we fell into bad habits and he would wake four or five times every night. When you have two other children – one of whom is a terrible sleeper – it is very difficult to establish better habits, which will always involve tears (even though we never did controlled crying).
What happens to those of us who go against mother nature, and wean our bubba’s off their beloved boobies well past one, but when they aren’t quite ready? I can only talk for myself of course, but here’s the low down!
I stopped feeding F during the day two weeks before weaning in preparation, and Hubby managed to settle him to sleep a good handful of times (he’d mainly been fed to sleep before that). I had naively thought he might just lose interest all by himself, or at the very least stop being so dependant on his last feed of the day. I was unprepared for the amount of tears that he would cry, and it was heartbreaking that no amount of cuddles was enough comfort for him. He was up almost all night that first night, and I think it will take me a long time to get over it. Every single maternal instinct was saying feed him, feed him – I gave him water, plain yoghurt and banana instead.
On a physical level I was in a lot of pain, with a very engorged boob. F favoured my left side, and over time he stopped feeding from the right. This led to the right side not producing any milk, and an over abundance of it in the left. If I could do one thing differently, it would have been to continue alternating between each breast to ensure this did not happen. This is potentially why I ended up getting mastitis in July.
With everything else going on in my life, I didn’t really allow my raging hormones to be taken into consideration, which I don’t think helped my mental state. We sent the girls off to their grandparents for a two day sleepover, to help get us over the worst, but they came home absolutely exhausted and fought like cat and dog. It was business as usual dealing with grumpy kids at the end of the summer holidays, and no time to reflect on this monumental task.
Was it worth it?
If you’re still reading then thanks! You might be wondering why on earth we continued and what the results were. The bottom line is this: our autistic child, who isn’t a great sleeper, is returning to school next week. It’s become impossible to successfully meet her additional needs, as well the needs of her sister and little F himself on such a small amount of shut eye. As awful as this experience has been, I know it’s for the greater good of the entire family.
The first two nights were truly shocking, but night three we saw an improvement, and night four he slept 7pm to 5am, which is the most continuous sleep he’s ever had. I will write a follow-up post for anyone that’s interested in the details, but for now I’m keeping everything crossed that we’ve broken the spell and will all be getting a few more Zzzzzz’s as a result!