I’m serious! Can anybody help me? I’m the one who really needs to know how to stop breastfeeding a toddler? At the moment I’m finding it to be an insurmountable task.
The problem is me – mostly. Although for now I’m going to lay the blame for my failure on this whole Coronavirus Isolation thing.
Time To Wean?
See, I’ve been wanting to stop breastfeeding for a while now. I’d originally only wanted to breastfeed for the first 6 months but it went so well and was so convenient that when the 6-month mark arrived I just let it go by and carried on. I’d done a lot of reading up on breastfeeding while I was pregnant and knew that La Leche League recommended breastfeeding for at least the first year, ideally the first two.
Great, I carried on quite happily and thought no more about it.
As my son got older I started going to England more regularly to visit my family and was so happy that I’d continued with breastfeeding. There is nothing that makes flying with a baby easier than being able to stick a boob in his mouth whenever he starts to fuss. As long as he could have his boobie he would sit quite happily for the whole flight. (Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t feeding him the whole flight, but just knowing it was there kept him calm and chilled out.)
His first birthday came and went and we were still both happy with our arrangement. Everything was going swimmingly. Of course at one year old he wasn’t yet walking and he certainly didn’t know enough words to tell me exactly what he wanted.
Oops! To Late?
He’s 20 months old now and all that’s changed. Now he follows me around the house demanding his feed, pulling at my clothes every time I pick him up. And if I had a penny for every time I have the word “Boobie!” shouted at me throughout the day I’d be pretty well off by now, I can tell you.
It’s been like this for a while. A constant battle of the wills which I inevitably lose in favour of a quiet life. That’s why a few months back I decided enough was enough. He had an addiction, not a need, and it needed to be broken.
How Do I Do That?
The problem is I’d never thought about the actual process of weaning. Most of my friends had their babies years ago and they either didn’t breastfeed, or they’d only done if for a short while.(Although now I wonder if they were just being economical with the truth.)
Breastfeeding is still quite controversial, as ridiculous as that is, and I know from personal experience that I don’t feel comfortable doing it in public now my boy is bigger. People seem to be able to keep themselves in check if they see a woman breastfeeding a little baby but when the baby is older, and my son’s a big boy, they can’t seem to keep their thoughts to themselves.
Anyway, my research hadn’t got as far as weaning, and my friends had never really mentioned it, and I really had no clue what I’d let myself in for.
I decided that the night feeds needed to be addressed first. I was being woken up by this kid 4, 6, 10 times a night. Never less than 4. During a particular phase of teething he literally woke up every 40 minutes for the entire night.
Getting some sleep was high on my agenda.
This is what the books tell you to do:
Firstly, you need to decide which 7 hours you want to designate as “no feed” time. I went with midnight til 7am. I could feed him any time before midnight and then again after 7.
You’re supposed to start by dropping 1 or 2 feeds a night, and making the feeds shorter until phasing them out altogether. You can offer water when the baby wakes up during these hours, but not the breast. Eventually the baby is supposed to not bother waking up for just water and thus, sleeping through the night. Hooray!
Hmm, that’s not exactly what happened.
Big Fat Fail
When he woke up and I only offered him water he went mental. I wasn’t expecting him to be overjoyed about the situation but he had a meltdown like I’ve never seen. Full on Exorcist stuff, with body stiffening and contorting, and projectile vomiting just to top it off.
He has this thing where he stuffs his hand so far into his mouth when he’s screaming that he almost always ends up throwing up. I’m pretty sure he does it on purpose, his final act of defiance. We co-sleep so the clean up in the middle of the night is a right pain, and he knows it.
But I did what I had to and I didn’t give in that first night. And neither did he. Needless to say no one got much sleep. Not us, not my husband, not the neighbours.
The whole experience was absolutely horrendous. It feels terrible to have this kind of power. The power to comfort your child instantly and the power to refuse them that comfort. It’s not a good feeling and not one I though mothering would be about.
It was a tough night, followed by a tough day. We were all exhausted. I felt sad and conflicted. Sad that my baby had to go through this and not understand why, and conflicted about whether I really wanted to stop breastfeeding even though I really wanted him to start sleeping through the night.
Thankfully my little dude was fine though. A little bit tired and cranky but he didn’t seem to hate me for it so that was a relief.
I’m a fan of Janet Lansbury‘s podcast and I’ve read a couple of her books so I know that one of the most important things to do when implementing change is to make your decision and act on it with conviction. Kids need to know their boundaries or they can feel insecure and that causes them to act out.
On the second night I was ready. Ready for the screaming and contorting, ready for a quick reaction to the vomiting. Hell I would have been ready if his head started spinning round. What I wasn’t ready for was that he’d wake up only once, have a little moan, drink some water and go back to sleep.
I couldn’t believe it. I was so chuffed. I may have been a bit delirious as I hadn’t slept much, what with being ready and all. But he’d slept, and that was good enough for me. Wow, I thought. Great. Job pretty much done. Oh, naive little delirious me.
Night three comes around and I’m exhausted. Looking forward to a proper night’s sleep with my little angel. Ha! Fat chance. Turns out night two must have just been a fluke because he was so tired from night one. Once again, my son turned into Regan.
I did try, but I was just so tired.
He cried like his heart was broken and it broke my heart. I know that I did the wrong thing. I know I was supposed to have conviction, but I lacked it and I’m pretty sure he could sense that. I was defeated. I gave in.
I gave in, he calmed down and we both went to sleep.
I know from every book, website, podcast that you’re not supposed to give in. You mustn’t back track. When you make a decision you must stand by it.
That’s easier said than done when you haven’t slept for nearly two years and your baby is crying their heart out.
The problem I found with all the advice I read was that no one had said how difficult it would be. I don’t think I’m the only one, although maybe I am, I haven’t read about any experiences that I’ve related to. But I can’t be the only one that has found the whole thing just horrible.
I don’t think that sticking to something that is so upsetting for everyone is really the only way to do things. I’m sure it works for many families, and some kids are probably fine with it, but if they’re not then there must be a better way.
You’re not supposed to give in but surely that’s not the worse thing you can do, is it?
Waste Of Time?
Unfortunately, my lack of conviction meant that the whole episode had been for nothing. We’re still waking up every night, but at least some nights it’s only four times. You can imagine just how delirious I am that I think waking up four times is a good night!
Anyway, that brings me to now. See, I’d started to wean him during the day thinking that might be an easier, gentler option that would lead to greater things.
I manged to stop all feeds except the first one in the morning and the last one at night, and things were going OK for about a week. Not much drama, I just kept him busy with other things like going to the beach, or going to the park. You remember, those normal things we used to take for granted.
And then came the “Rona” and the whole world went in to lock down.
Being stuck inside all day with not much to do suddenly reminded my boy of what he was missing. And so the struggles began.
Of course, it’s my fault again, but living with a toddler during isolation is like living with a wild animal. You do whatever you can to placate them. So yes, I was defeated… Again.
What’s The Big Deal?
You’re probably thinking, “What a lousy mother. Her kid walks all over her”. And you’re probably right. I’m not a Type A personality. I’m not a planner, an organiser, or a leader. I’m definitely Type B. More of a go with the flow and hope for the best kinda gal.
So this is where I’m at. Completely torn between wanting to just go cold turkey, and also having a hard time letting go. When it’s going well breastfeeding is such an amazing thing. It gives you so many calm, special moments with your baby.
I know that when we stop (which will be soon, one way or another) I’ll find other ways to comfort and bond with him, just like all the mums that don’t breastfeed do. But it will be always be something I’ll think of as a really special time in our lives and there is definitely sadness in it coming to an end, even if some days I’d gladly chop my boobs off just to get some peace.
At the toughest times I just try to remember how quickly time passes and that soon this will all be but a fond memory.
That’s motherhood I guess – Trying to figure it out as we go along and hold on to those special moments just a second longer.
If you’ve gone through this and have any advice I’d love to hear it. Any advice at all! Please share in the comments below.
Thanks for letting me rant,