Bittersweet End To A fantastic 3.5 Year Breastfeeding Journey
August 6, 2020
It’s World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 2020) and so I want to share both my breastfeeding journeys with you. I do want to first mention that I know, understand and respect that everyone’s journey is different. Not every mother can &/or chooses to breastfeed and that is 100% ok.
This post isn’t to highlight that I breastfed and you didn’t, nor to shame or congratulate anyone for their choices, but instead to simply share my experience and story. This post only mentions breastfeeding. I cant compare, comment on or speak about using formula or bottles or struggling with certain aspects of breastfeeding – I’m totally ignorant when it comes to these topics, because all I know is my breastfeeding journey…this is my story, and thus the only story I can tell.
I breastfed Skyla for a year and up until almost 3 weeks ago my breastfeeding journey with Michaela was still going pretty strong…greatly reduced in the amount and duration of feeds, but still happily & easily going nonetheless. However, after 2 years 2 months and 19 days (but who’s counting) my breastfeeding journey with Michaela has suddenly come to an end. I’m not going to hide it, I cried & while writing this I’m also very emotional. This is my first ever blog post telling my breastfeeding adventures. I’d love to also hear your experiences (whether good or bad), advice, thoughts, feelings etc., so please share them in the comments below.
I have LOVED breastfeeding both girls. Can’t believe I’m writing it in the past tense and that it has come to an end. I do battle to admit this out loud as I know from a lot of friends and from hearing and reading other stories and posts, that majority of moms do actually struggle with some or many aspects of breastfeeding at different stages of their journey, but I was one of the rare and lucky ones that had a relatively easy and overall enjoyable breastfeeding adventure with both girls. To be very clear though, it certainly wasn’t always perfect, but I didn’t have any big hurdles or complications to overcome.
Breastfeeding was not…
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always easy – like all other breastfeeding moms sleep was interrupted, many many hours of sleep were lost and there were at least a handful of times (especially in the first year) where I clearly remember sobbing from complete exhaustion i.e. I just wanted to sleep and a certain someone else had other ideas like wanting to be attached to mom all night long; and think I was also bitten by mistake three or four times (thankfully no damage, just a bit ouchy).
It wasn’t always convenient – before the girls started on solids, I wouldn’t be able to be away from them for longer than 3 hours at a time, as I’d need to be around for a feed; the night-time feed meant only I could put them to sleep quickly (Martin could do it once the girls weren’t reliant on breastfeeding for sustenance, but it took much longer and did sometimes include tears…not from him, but from my daughters just wanting mama instead); and it wasn’t a simple task for me to leave the house at night (it’s almost like they could sense when I was trying to ‘sneak’ out for some me time and that would be the night that they would put up a fight). It definitely wasn’t glamorous – no explanation needed…don’t be fooled by all these beautiful breastfeeding photos you are seeing everywhere at the moment, breastfeeding rarely looks pretty!
BUT you know what, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Not a single thing. The sleep deprivation and other mini sacrifices are all so small and fleeting in comparison to the massive rewards I received from and feelings I had while breastfeeding. I would do it all over again. Think that’s partly while I’m really struggling with it coming to an end – I would love to have a third, but for many good and logical reasons, it’s not the right decision and so just like that, its hit me that I will never have this experience again and it officially means I no longer have a baby…even though I know she isn’t a baby and has obviously been a toddler for a while; breastfeeding just makes it feel like it keeps them smaller and younger for just a little longer.
That’s definitely why I held onto it for so long with Michaela. I wasn’t ready to stop. I loved it and think I was trying to hold onto my ‘baby’ for as long as I possibly could.
Skyla on our Breastfeeding Journey
I stopped breastfeeding with Skyla after about a year. After starting solids, she just didn’t need me to feed her anymore, the feeds got less and less until they were mainly just the night time feed and sometimes a morning feed & even then I just felt like I was being used as a dummy. So a week before I stopped I started to warn Skyla that boobie would stop. Doing a sort of daily countdown.
I didn’t really expect her to understand at only 12 months old, but strangely enough she did just seem to get it. The day we stopped, she cried for 45 minutes before falling asleep. Not a gut-wrenching cry, but a I’m-really-tired-and-just-want-my-‘dummy’-to-get-me-to-sleep cry. The next night she cried for just 15 minutes and then that was it. She didn’t ask for it again. I do remember feeling a little sad, but don’t remember crying. Don’t think there were tears as I knew we were hoping and praying to have another baby & so I knew (God willing) I would experience breastfeeding once more.
Michaela on our Breastfeeding Journey
Michaela’s feeds after starting solids also naturally got less and less and shorter and shorter. The main one was still the bedtime feed and even then it was literally like 5 minutes in total on both sides. She was then sleeping through until about 5am (sometimes then wanting a quick ‘top-up’ to go back to sleep till 7am), didn’t always have lunch time or a morning feed; and all daytime feeds had stopped a while ago.
When she tuned two I started warning her that breastfeeding would be coming to an end at some stage, but she didn’t really acknowledge what I was saying. I know I wasn’t really ready and definitely wasn’t in a rush, so I just continued, soaking up every feed as if it was my last; thinking I had the end in my control and I’d know when the time was right. Thankfully she isn’t dependent on boob to fall asleep. Sometimes she would fall asleep on the boob during her lunchtime feed, but soon after her first birthday she was still awake when I put her in bed at nighttime.
Our bedtime routine would then include singing a few songs, rubbing her tummy and/or head and Michaela would put herself to sleep. I also knew she wasn’t really getting anything from me. Maybe a little bit of a drink at the very start (confirmed, when after stopping breastfeeding I had no engorgement like I experienced after stopping with Skyla…absolutely nothing changed this time around), but I’m gathering it was just for comfort – a familiar happy place; and for me it was an incredibly special bonding time. I loved and treasured our little night time feed, routine and cuddle. My heart exploded every time she said ‘’I love boobie’’, when she poked my breasts and would say ‘’1,2,3 boobie’’ (not sure what the 3 was about he he, but we always had a little giggle after); and that look she gave me just before her latch like she had just seen the best thing ever. I just wasn’t ready to give it up just yet. Both girls didn’t take to dummies. I guess I was their sort of ‘dummy’ and to be honest I was perfectly ok with that.
The exhausting night that got the ball rolling to the end of our Breastfeeding Journey
One Thursday evening a few weeks ago, Michaela woke up a crazy number of times, crying out for boobie-milky (what Michaela calls boobie time). Then asking to come to our bed. She literally wanted to be attached to me the entire night. I couldn’t understand why this was happening, because as mentioned, she had stopped her feeds after her daily bedtime feed, most feeds were not more than a few minutes, she didn’t need boobie-milky as she was eating all her meals really well and she wasn’t actually getting much from me. I let it carry on for quite a few hours. We both weren’t getting any sleep and were exhausted.
She kept tossing and turning and asking for more boobie, wanting to be glued to me, crying if I tried to ‘close up shop’. It really wasn’t like her. Something was up and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I guessed some sort of physiological or developmental change and all she wanted was to be as close as she could and get comfort from her ‘dummy’. I then realised that I could show her that she didn’t need to be breastfeeding to get this comfort and could instead when she was upset she could receive cuddles or come sleep next to me.
So after having her breastfeed on and off for most of Thursday night, early Friday morning I eventually said: ‘’baba, no, that’s it, it’s stopped now, that’s enough, no more boobie now, its finished’’ (meaning it’s finished right now and not as in forever). I thought here we go; she is going to scream blue murder. She moaned and screamed for boobie for a few minutes and so I placed her on her back next to me, started rubbing her tummy and singing her du-du song. She instantly passed out. It was crazy how fast it happened. I was so shocked as I expected her to put up more of a fight (like she had been for hours before this).
The plan of action
I then decided I would slowly start reducing feeds over the coming weeks. Starting with immediately cutting out the late night-early morning feeds, then stopping the random (they didn’t always happen) lunchtime feeds and then finally the bedtime feed (which I imagined was going to be the hardest).
So I started to implement my plan. Throughout Friday I reminded her that boobie-milky was going to come to an end soon or it’s going to stop. I gave her the normal bedtime feed on Friday night and then strangely she tried to do the same thing as the previous night with crying and asking for boob and so I implemented what I thought was step 1 of my 3 step plan i.e. which was to tell her that there was no boobie now. She cried for less than a minute and surprisingly handled it really well.
Again I placed her on her back. She was snuggling right next to me in our bed and I just rubbed her tummy and sang quietly in her ear. She tossed and turned for a bit and once again passed out. I was like, oh wow, yay, step 1 was completed much easier than I expected. Next challenge will be step 2, so on Saturday I thought, well, if that went so great last night, maybe I should start cutting off on the lunchtime feeds. It was a pretty full-on Saturday morning and so by lunch time Michaela was really exhausted.
She started repeating ‘’boobie-milky, tired’’. I said: ‘’baba, no boobie now’’ and then started ‘roughly’ rocking her in my arms and singing our du-du song. For the first 30 seconds she started to put up a fight, arching her back and crying like she wasn’t going to have any of it, but I persevered and suddenly a few minutes later she ‘let go’ and passed out. She did then wake up when I placed her in her bed, but instead of asking for boob, she wanted a cuddle. I gave her a cuddle, placed her back in her bed, rubbed her tummy, sang and she fell asleep again and ended up sleeping for 2 hours. I was like score, level 1 and level 2 tick.
How our Breastfeeding Journey ended
Saturday night comes and I’m ready to give her her normal bedtime feed. I thought I had already achieved 2 levels within one day, I didn’t want to push her too far and I wasn’t actually ready to end it all just yet. So while I’m changing her nappy before bed, I asked her what’s happening with boobie tonight and she replies ‘’boobie finished’’. Good grief, say what?! I decided to confirm with her that there wouldn’t be any boobie tonight, that she would go straight to du-du, that I would give her cuddles and sing her du-du song; and she seemed pretty happy with my suggestion. I honestly thought it was too good to be true. Low and behold, she doesn’t ask for boob. I just start rocking her and singing and tapping her back.
She doesn’t fight it. Not a single tear. She doesn’t fall asleep straight away, but doesn’t ask for boob once. Instead she keeps asking for cuddles. I eventually put her in her bed, rubbed her tummy for a bit, said goodnight, sat on the feeding chair in her room looking at my phone and she put herself to sleep and that was it. No turning back. Little did I know that Friday night was my last feed with her. A very sudden end to my breastfeeding journey with Michaela. I’ve had quite a few tears as I wasn’t mentally prepared for it and it just kind of happened, but on the other hand I am so relieved that there was very little fight and tears from her end and it was actually a relatively painless and very quick process.
It’s been almost 3 weeks since I stopped breastfeeding Michaela. She completely understands and if asked, she will say ”boobie-milky finished”. However, she doesn’t ask for it and is so happy with just cuddles and singing before falling asleep. When she wakes up in the middle of the night or early morning I just give her some water and a cuddle and after a few minutes she is back to sleep. I still miss it.
Thinking about it still makes me tear up, but I will forever treasure these memories of my breastfeeding journeys with both girls! I didn’t only write this to share my story with anyone that can relate or is interested, but I also wanted to document step by step how it all unfolded and try capture my exact thoughts and feelings of my breastfeeding journey soon after it has come to an end. Something for me to look back on, read & fondly remember; and hopefully at the same time something you enjoyed reading.