When breastfeeding goes tits up...

I’ve been breastfeeding on demand now for a total of 11 months. That’s 334 days of providing nourishment for another human produced by my own body. Thats 8016 hours of having another human dependant on me for what my body produces. 

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It’s a shame that in this day and age, I genuinely feel like I couldn’t write a blog about how much I love breastfeeding (which I do, most days) because I feel it would upset those who struggled to breastfeed or would be seen to be bragging to those who bottle feed, thinking I’m writing about being superior for whatever reason - which totally isn’t the case.

I’m going to put it bluntly and let it be said, that I have no problem with formula whatsoever and in most cases you cannot tell the difference between a breastfed baby and a formula fed baby. The technology these days for a powdered drink to be as similar to breastmilk is amazing and I truly am an advocate for ‘fed is best’. I see no point in a Mum being depressed, unhappy or feel pressured into breastfeeding if it is not making the Mum mentally or physically happy. However, that being said, what I don’t agree with, or like to see, is babies being stuffed with thick ‘Nighttime hungry baby milk’ to make them sleep, babies crying and shaking their head while Mum’s force feed them an 8oz bottle while chatting away to their friends or babies being left to feed themselves either in a carseat or rocker while the Mum gets on with something else. I believe this to be unsafe, unhealthy and lazy. More power to you if you bottle feed and avoid these traits - feed that baby!

Breastfeeding is an incredible science and if you take the time to read how it works and how the Mum produces exactly what the baby needs, it is truly mind blowing. A few examples: on a hot day, breastmilk will change its consistency to be much more watery so that the baby stays hydrated. If a baby is poorly the milk will turn blue in colour where the milk is full of antibodies, within 20 minutes of someone sneezing or coughing around the Mum, antibodies for that virus will be in the Mums milk in order to protect the baby (this does not mean breastfed babies do not get colds- believe me). Breastmilk is rich in melatonin which induces sleep - although breastfed babies tend to wake more because breastmilk digests in 20 minutes, it’s so helpful to have that sleepy milk to get them to drift back off to sleep.

I would say my breastfeeding journey has been average. To have a premature baby not latch onto you for the first week of their life and to have to establish your supply using a pump is no easy task. Your supply is best established at night, which I’m so glad I was correctly informed about. Had I given birth, pumped a few times in the day and then gotten 8 hours a sleep a night while Oscar was in NICU - my supply would have been seriously compromised. It was really tough and I was getting about 40 minutes of sleep between pumping, sterilising, storing, tube feeding and nappy changes over night, setting my alarm for every 2 and a half hours to start expressing. Although those first few weeks were tough, I have been so lucky not to experience any hardship since. Breastfeeding has been a breeze for me. 

Oscar cut his first tooth at 6 months old and has been teething ever since. This is really rare and for him to have 8 teeth by his age now (11 months) is a lot. Yes, you heard correctly, he has 8 teeth and I’m still feeding him. There has been some issues with him readjusting his latch while his new teeth come in. When the shape and feel of his mouth changes, to him, he’s like “What the crap? How do I suck on this nipple now?” And it takes a few days/weeks of him working out how to latch on. This is uncomfortable but bearable. When he is in a playful mood is the worst, luckily I can anticipate when he’s going to bite me as he goes in teeth first rather than a wide mouthful, so I usually pull away and tell him “No!” and he grins at me like he’s hilarious. Luckily, he’s never bitten me where I’ve bled. But I do generally feel bruised and it hurts for him to initially latch on. And of course, somewhere that is bruised is difficult to heal when it’s continuously being harmed in the same place.

Cut a long story short, nobody tells you how difficult it is to STOP breastfeeding. Yes, the support to breastfeed in the first place is everywhere you look. “Breast is best” “#normalisebreastfeeding” yes, yes, we get it that breastfeeding is great but where’s the help when you want to stop? Babies don’t “need” formula or breastmilk past the age of 1 and by this point should be having a balanced enough diet that they can get all their nutrients from food. Any sooner than 1 and if you wanted to stop breastfeeding it would be quite simple, I imagine, to wean your baby off the breast and swap their feeds with bottles. But what happens if you breastfeed till 1 and then want to stop? How do you explain to a baby that can’t communicate, “Oh sorry, now you’re 1 you don’t need milk so I’m going to stop feeding you - also it’s so painful to feed you so I’d like to stop anyway” 

To naturally wean a baby off breastmilk, where by it is their decision as they tend to lose interest, would usually take you to breastfeeding a child until they are around 2. The thought of breastfeeding for an entire year more sends shivers down my spine. I want my life back, I want my nipples back, I want my body back. I’ve sacrificed my body for a year which is more than enough and no one can say I didn’t give it my all, hell, I even pumped for another baby. But to breastfeed until 2 just isn’t in my future. But how the bloody hell do I stop?

Oscar hasn’t ever slept through the night and definitely has a sleep association with falling asleep on the boob. He still has about 5 feeds a night minimum. I really don’t mind getting up that much but I am so bruised I really wish I could stop and it be easy. Due to the fact that I’m not naturally weaning him off the breast, it’s purely my decision to stop feeding rather than his or ours, there will undoubtably be tears. When I got rid of the dummy it was fine because instead of having the dummy to suck, he had me to suck. But now, if I take away the boobies, from a baby that is used to that comfort all night long - oh man am I in for a treat. 

Oscar has a cold at the moment and a really snotty nose which is why I’m not planning on doing any night weaning for the meantime (at least, this is what I tell myself - really I’m just too much of a pansy, I can’t bare to hear him cry and do nothing about it). I’ve been to a breastfeeding support group and the woman advised that Oscar ought to have his last feed before bed, and then before he falls asleep on the boob, to be placed in his crib and left to fall asleep. My God, this is easier said than done. I hate hearing him cry and I hate knowing it’s my fault. I simply don’t have the strength to fight ALL my natural instincts to go to my baby when he cries and leave the room or let him cry himself to sleep. I have tried sitting next to him with him in his crib, rubbing his head, his back, shh-ing him, offering water, picking him up, putting him down, but ultimately, he will not settle unless he is being held.

I would really love to look back at this post in 6 months time and be writing a new one about how I got my baby to sleep and stopped breastfeeding gently, with minimal tears and maximum cuddles. It breaks my heart to think of stopping cold turkey, but then am I confusing him by allowing him to feed at night sometimes and not others? One night when I was determined not to feed him throughout the night, he woke 5 times between 6:30 and 11:30 and each time I rocked him successfully back to sleep. Had I fed him the first or second time, I believe he would never have woken 5 times as he would’ve been knocked out from the milk and been in a deeper sleep, so just rocking him definitely keeps him in a light sleep. I lasted until 11:30 because by this point he was grabbing at my top and opening his mouth while crying, I knew he wanted feeding and by this point he just looked desperate. I fed him and he threw up. I think he fed like he knew he wasn’t going to be fed for the next 5 hours again and took far more than he needed resulting in him puking everywhere with a crazy full belly.

Before I go to bed, I am full of energy and ready to stand my ground and commit to stopping nightfeeds, I am prepared for a few tears and lots of rocking. When night falls and I’m cosy and warm in my bed and have to get up for the tenth time, while peeling my eyes open, I have zero willpower and will feed him ten times if it just means going back to bed. The past week I have TOTALLY given up and he has slept in my bed, with me, having an open buffet all night and no sight of his crib.

I would love to stop feeding at 1 year but right now it seems like the impossible. It would appear I am for fed is best by 1, as breastfeeding is no longer what I want to be physically doing any longer, and if he is on three meals a day, I am happy with him being fed, even if the recommendation is to feed till 2.

I daydream about the day I’ve stopped breastfeeding and can wear pretty lace bras without a hideous clip, the day Oscar starts sleeping better at night because he doesn’t need to be fed, that he can spent the night at his Grandparents (who have been offering for months!) and his Dad and I can have our bed to ourselves and not to mention a few glasses of wine!

Stay tuned... I pray I will be posting a blog in a few months about how I stopped breastfeeding and how smoothly it all went and how glorious life is now. Ha.