When Extended Breastfeeding Comes to an Enforced End

extended breastfeeding

extended breastfeeding

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.

extended breastfeedingOn 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!


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17 thoughts on “When Extended Breastfeeding Comes to an Enforced End

  1. Hey guys, I am a new mother and I am desperately to get my two month baby to sleep longer during night. At the moment I’m lucky to have four hours rest a night. Thanks

  2. Thanks so much Kat, it’s been really hard going but we’ve made such massive improvements. From F waking 4 or 5 times and needing to be fed back to sleep, to him waking just once last night for water and a five minute cuddle, and sleeping until 6am. He also slept all the way through the other day, just need some more of those xxx

  3. As always Denise you’ve hit the nail on the head – although impossible to see through the haze of emotions that take over at points – sometimes the need of mummy has to come first, in order to meet the needs of child/ren.

    Sounds like you ended up with #2 where we have with #3. Not good, but it’s great to hear from someone whose been here, that they feel they did the right thing.

  4. If it works for you then great 🙂 I think the sleep-milk association is a difficult one. I am still bfing my two year old, but thankfully she doesn’t wake up in the night anymore. We did have to do a lot of sleep training to get to that point, but now she is fine. It is so tough if theyconstantly wake up during the night, so difficult to manage, but thankfully it seems that you are finally getting that much needed Zzzz 🙂 #brilliantblogposts

  5. Oh hun, you are incredible. I managed to BF the twins for nearly 3 months. I couldn’t do it any longer for various reasons (not being supported being one of them) it can’t be easy with the other two as well. You are amazing and never forget it. Hope next week goes well. Sending lots of love and hugs lovely. Xxx

  6. It was sad when we stopped. LD#1 was 3 before she gave up! I think we did a 5 day countdown until the last day, but she was always very good, it was one feed before bed. Whereas LD#2 had to stop about the age of 2 or just before, because she was like F, wanting to feed as a default, or maybe just boredom.
    I am not sure about the self-weaning thing. I don’t think it applies to all kids, or at least not to mine.
    I’ve come to regard crying differently as I’ve seen my kids grow older and despite all their early traumas, they seem quite normal and have forgotten their early childhoods now. I have come to see it as a balance between needs and sometimes the mother’s needs have to be met first because they are greater than the baby’s eg your sleep is more important than F’s feeds. However because adults have learned self control and babies only know how to cry, the effects sometimes make it seem as if the baby’s needs are greater.

  7. Oh bless him, and well done you for recognising that he wasn’t ready and carrying on. If this was our situation I’d gladly do the same, but unfortunately for us it has to be like this. I hate it Maddy, I really do. Goes against everything I believe in. Just hoping F starts sleeping now. Thanks as always for your kind and thoughtful words darling xxx

  8. Oh it’s so painful isn’t it! Glad you managed to get yours to go down without too much trouble. You’ve totally hit the nail on the head when you talk of the bigger picture. Making the tough decisions (even though they pain us) is all part of being a parent. Just hoping this one pays off, we now know that F can sleep all night, whether he does start to or not will remain to be seen! Thanks so much for popping by xxx

  9. Oh bless you 🙁 I’ve had the one boob thing as well lol. Four babies down and I’ve been feeding the littlest for 11 months now and then the other week when I was really tired he fed off the same boob all night – error, the other one became massive and lumpy. I expressed, fed him loads, expressed, massaged it in the shower, it was so painful and then gradually started to improve. he turns 1 next month and i was planning on stopping at one but I don’t think either of us are ready so I’m just going to see what happens and hope it can be gradual thing.

    You’ve done amazingly to feed for the time you have. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions for the ‘bigger picture’ and that is not easy. I hope you can sleep better now at least xxxx #brilliantblogposts

  10. Well done! I can imagine how emotionally difficult it must have been but it sounds like the right choice for your family – coping (with anything at all!) on so little sleep is a killer. I tried to wean my 2 1/2 year old a few weeks ago. I fed my first two boys for a year so he’s gone way beyond the point I expected to stop and I felt like, even though he only has one feed in 24 hrs (first thing in the morning) he was getting a bit old. So I didn’t feed him for three days and on the third evening I suddenly felt really emotional and cried about it. The fourth morning he was desperate for a feed and I thought – what am I doing? why not just feed him? I think I was feeling pressured (to stop) to fit in with some sort of societal norm which was a bit silly really. So he still has his one feed and I’m just trusting that he and I will get to the point of stopping at some point! All of which is just to say that I can empathise with the emotions and hormones involved with giving up BF (especially with a last baby) so I pat you heartily on the back even more for making the decision. Hope you’re getting lots of sleep. xxx

  11. Thanks my love. It’s been such a difficult decision to make and come to terms with, but if it means F starts sleeping 12 hours a night then it’s all good xxx

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