My son (and third child) slept well as a new baby. At three months old he would go to bed at the same time as hubby and I (around 9pm), have a feed, sleep until around 4am, have another feed and go back to sleep. After those blissful seven hours, I would be more than happy to start my day. I even managed to write the first draft of my book in the space between that 4am feed and the rest of the family waking up. Unfortunately F’s sleep started to decline, and somewhere towards the end of last year it went to pieces. My post ‘when breastfeeding comes to an enforced end’ contains all the details if you need them.
“Just let him cry it out”
“Buy ear plugs and let him cry”
“You need to get tough on him Ren”
Controlled crying just isn’t for us, and never has been. Another plan was needed
F would wake four or five times every night wanting milk, and it started taking it’s toll – begrudgingly I had to concede that we needed to fully wean him off the breast. I stopped his daytime feeds two weeks before W DAY, and sent the girls for a two day sleepover at their Granny and Grandad’s for the first two days in anticipation of what was coming next. Just in case our experience could possibly help someone else in this situation, I thought it might be useful to publish a detailed account of how it all panned out.
We went to a family party on Saturday and got back late, so F went to bed without a fuss through sheer exhaustion. The night was heart wrenchingly bad though. An utterly horrendous experience that will haunt me for a long time. The original plan was for hubby to pacify F when he woke but F was having none of it.
He wanted me, which meant as well as dealing with the emotional side of my boy crying his eyes out on and off all night, my poor left boob went haywire (my right side stopped producing milk ages ago). I had been asleep for less than fifteen minutes when he first woke up, and he didn’t go back to sleep properly until 2am. He was then up again just after 4am for almost an hour, and up for the day at 6:30am. I cuddled him throughout, and gave him drinks of water, and a little bit of yoghurt in case he was genuinely hungry (which he appeared to be at points).
F was an absolute delight on Sunday morning, and ate a good breakfast. I had a day out with my best mate which had been in the diary for months, and we decided that I would not come home for bedtime. The logic being, if hubby put him to bed then he wouldn’t wake up wanting me. According to hubby they had a lovely day together, he ate fairly well and bedtime wasn’t that bad, but he still woke up wanting me in the night and wouldn’t go to hubby. I was up with him three times, but only gave him water, and managed to settle him back to sleep within half an hour. He slept in until gone 7am so a huge improvement on the night before.
Monday morning F wasn’t so delightful, and didn’t eat such a great breakfast. If I’m being completely honest I’d say he was annoyed at me for going out the day before. Getting him down for a nap was really difficult because he was in a right old grump; my left boob was still engorged and painful; and I felt on the verge of tears all day long. Hubby went off on the four hour round trip to collect the girls from his parents, so at least I had a little bit of breathing space. When they came home they were tired, over excited, and very hard work (which we were expecting because they’d never been to their grand parents for a sleep over before).
Hubby tried for over half an hour to settle F for the night, but he was unable to, so I took over after putting the girls to bed. Figuring that he’d had enough cajoling, I put him straight in his cot, but kept my hands wrapped around him and spoke quietly to him. I wasn’t holding out much hope, but surprisingly he was asleep within ten minutes. Even more of a shock was that he slept all night! Ten solid hours without a peep, and an extra two after giving him a drink of water and cuddles at 5am.
As well as F having the most continuous sleep he’d ever had, both girls slept all night. Hubby and I felt shiny and new on Tuesday, and we had a pretty good day. Tuesday evening I settled F as I’d done the previous night, then crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
Unfortunately we didn’t have such good results, with F up three times in the night. Drinks of water and cuddles got him back to sleep fairly quickly, but it was a far cry from what we’d achieved on the Monday! It poured with rain all day, so we went to the cinema to see Inside Out. We didn’t even get 15 minutes into the film before F started kicking off and I had to take him outside. A month ago I’d have just whipped out the boob to keep him quiet, and enjoyed the movie. It made me sad that I couldn’t.
We had a slightly different bedtime Wednesday night, in that hubby sorted out the girls and I was with F from start to finish. When it was time for him to go to bed, I hugged him until he was sleepy, then put him in his cot and kept my hands on him as I’d done previously, and he was asleep within five minutes.
Again F was up three times, needing water and comfort. He woke for the day at 7am (rather than 5am) though which made all difference and was super cheerful in the morning. He had a fairly late long nap in the buggy that afternoon (over an hour and half), and was up twice in the night, but was fairly easy to settle back to sleep. I used to be convinced that there was a link between a good nap and good night time sleep, but I don’t think it works like that with all babies.
Friday followed the same pattern. Out all day; lots of exercise and stimulation; 90 minute (ish) nap; happy F for the most part. I got him down for the night before 7pm, so he definitely wasn’t over tired, and again he was up twice – at 1am and 5am needing water and cuddles.
We’ve made significant progress, from F being up four or five times every night feeding for up to half an hour, to only waking twice for water and a quick cuddle. Hopefully the next update I give, will be to say that he’s sleeping all night as the rule rather than the exception.
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that F was not ready to be weaned off the breast. I’ve heard time and again that baby boys’ attachment to their mother is stronger and lasts longer than girls, and it’s felt like I’ve been fighting mother nature by doing this. She’s punished me too, just look at the photo above!
We could not carry on the way we had been though – we all need our sleep to be better. I know we’ve done the right thing for the family as a whole, but it doesn’t necessarily feel that it’s the right thing for F. Or my left boob, which is still engorged and hurts like hell a week later.
A few pieces of advice for anyone else planning on doing this
– enlist as much help as you possibly can, especially if you have older kids.
– be prepared for the baby to be up all night that first night. You’ll need an iron will not to cave and feed them, so have drinks and snacks prepared to offer them instead.
– I wasn’t expecting to feel so emotional, or to be in physical pain. Fortunately for me I had my day out with my mate, which is always a good tonic. Do something similar, or book yourself a massage; or even go for a coffee and read a book for an hour. Try and do something nice for you during this time, and be gentle on yourself.
– above all else, try not to feel guilty. You’re doing this for the sake of your family and that has to be a good thing.