Today is a pretty special milestone. It marks 6 whole months since my little boy took his last full gulp of booby and left my mammaries in peace!
I hadn’t actually planned an exact date to ‘stop’ him breastfeeding, and actually the whole experience was taken out of my hands (more on this later). But I also knew that the longer I left it the harder it was gonna be on all of us.
The First Days
The first morning in the hospital after giving birth, and trying to get Joshua to latch on felt like the most impossible task of the last 24 hours (yes, including the 36 hour labour!) Being told to thrust him on, and ram my boob into his gum-less newborn mouth didn’t help the overwhelming feeling of failure at not knowing if he was even getting any milk to start with.
We got home that night, and several attempts later I ended up feeling tired, dejected and feeding him a little bottle milk as I was so unsure he’d taken any of mine at all. The next day we started again, the same uncertainty, the same pot luck trials at getting him to feed. Thanfully, our local Bambis in Liverpool were amazing over the phone – they were a good balance of helpful tips, encouragement and understanding, and I didn’t get any of the unnecessary pressure & guilt that I know some of my friends had suffered from.
Just a day later and we were off & rolling with a proper full-on latch, and we didn’t look back. Not for the next 32 months! I felt very lucky that I could breast-feed. It was something I’d always envisioned & wanted, and even though I’d have been fine with bottle-feeding (please, can we stop all the ridic guilt-trips over the bottle, babies are bottle-fed ALL the time & turn out brilliantly) it was the experience that I’d craved, and I was thankful we had a chance to try it out.
I could feed him anywhere – no need for sterilised bottles or warming up milk, I could wake in the middle of the night, roll onto my side pop him next to me and both of us relax. I could whip out a boob on a plane, in a theatre, at a restaurant, on the beach or even on the Spanish Steps in Rome (a personal favourite memory) and just watch the world go by as my son fed and I hid my boob as much as practicality allowed!
As he grew bigger, stronger and longer though, the breast-feeds became harder, more of a juggle & a definite struggle to keep my modesty in public! But they were always something that suited me, Joshua & our family.
Once I’d passed the 18 month mark, the plan was to gradually wean him off the breast milk for the next 6 months, stopping when he was 2. But he had other plans! You see, the thing about breast-feeding which is wonderful is also the thing that equally makes a rod for your own back – bonding.
You see, you become not only a source of food but also the main source of comfort. Yes, as a mama you’re always there to comfort, breastfeeding or not. But your boob also becomes like a blankie, a favourite teddy or a lullaby that they can’t live without. Try taking it away from an 18 month old who is only just really beginning to understand more complex communications – like bartering & negotiation – and you’ll soon see why many women just carry on a bit longer. It’s an easier life. Simple as that. And sure it’s prolonging the inevitable for most of us. But when you’re knackered, sleep-deprived for days on end and just have no energy or mental skill for an argument with a toddler who’s on the verge of a breakdown 23 hours of the day, you grab that easy road and run with it. At least that’s what I did!
So yeah, the feeds got tougher as he got bigger – flailing arms flying everywhere, long legs extending themselves up to my forehead, and a heavier load to have to balance across my knee.
Oh, and did I mention that one of my boobs completely gave up producing milk after 8 months?! Haha, that’s right. The Melon and the Cherry, as I lovingly renamed them. So it was all on The Melon to provide 100% of the nutrients whilst The Cherry had to sit back & shrivel. (They’re both back to normal now by the way, phew, but I one stage I did wonder!)
Weaning Him Off
So in January of this year, when he was exactly 31 months old, I officially started to wean Joshua off the boob. For anyone looking to do the same, with a kid who’s boob-obsessed, this is what I did:
- On the first day I let him have just 3 feeds. One in the morning, one after lunch, and the other at bedtime. There were tantrums and demands for more, but I stuck with it and just did 3 feeds.
- I did this for 3 days on the run, and then dropped the lunch feed.
- Yes, there were tears, but be strong and stick to it if you can.
For me, because Joshua fell asleep on the boob, the nighttime feed was always going to be the last one to go. Taking that away would have been horrendous for us all, so gradually reducing his milk intake throughout the rest of the day at least got him used to not having it in the long run.
Stopping For Good
After 1 month of just 2 feeds per day, the whole thing was completely taken out of my hands, exactly 1 month later on his 32nd monthday.
I woke up to a painful milk blister on my nip. Nothing out of the ordinary, happens to us all, but it meant that it was a) physically impossible to extract milk and b) ridiculously sore to even try!
So when Joshua was crying for booby, I legitimately said ‘Mama’s booby is broken!” And it was! There was nothing either of us could do.
And that was a genuinely weird & also sad experience. Here I was, with a 32-month-old having breastfed him all that time, and all of a sudden the ‘decision’ to stop feeding him was taken out of my hands.
I guess I should be thankful really, because it meant there was no way I could cave on it – it was decided for me and was maybe the extra push both Joshua and I needed to get over that last hurdle. But it was strange to know, deep down, even on that first day of stopping, that I’d never feed him again. After all of that time having him sprawled across me, day & night, at home & on vacation, when I was happy or sad, energetic or tired….
So what did I learn from all of this? What wisdom can I pass on to breastfeeding mamas out there? Well I’m not sure if it’s wisdom per se, but here are some friendly musings that might help you get through (and get out!)
1. Only if it’s enjoyable
Forget this ‘breast is best’ nonsense. Yes, breast milk is packed with lots of goodies, sure. But bottle-fed might be best for you if you’re struggling to get a latch, you’re in pain, you’re not producing enough milk, or you just don’t want to/can’t be the sole feeder. Don’t buy into the guilt of breastfeeding. Only ever do it if it suits you and your family x
2. The Heat is On
Keep a hot water bottle nearby. Chances are you’re gonna get mastitis, sore boobs or blisters etc during your breastfeeding journey. And a warm water bottle can work wonders to alleviate the pain and help the flow of milk return.
3. Nip Talk
Sore nips? Grab a little coconut or olive oil to soothe them. You can buy nipple cream but the oils work really well, and that way you’re not worried about baby’s lips ingesting some chemical cream, just edible oil.
4. Pillow Time
Breastfeed laying down (see caution below) Oh wow, I remember when my cousin’s wife advised me to lay down and breastfeed at night – it was like a new world opened up to me (thank you Kiran!) I’d grab Joshua from his cot next to the bed, lay him next to me, and thenrest my head as he slept. It gave me some physical rest and helped support my already-tired neck & head. BE CAREFUL THOUGH – don’t do this if you’re sleepy yourself and there’s any chance of falling asleep with your baby in the bed. Cosleeping isn’t recommended for young babies AT ALL. So only do this if you’re awake enough to place baby back in their own crib.
5. Oats So Good
Eat oats to keep your milk supply up – a bowl of porridge does wonders
6. Cabbage Bras
Place a cabbage leaf over your boob to stop milk production – yup, seriously, no joke! If you want to stop production or you’re lactating too much, you can reduce the production by place a cabbage leaf into your bra over your boob – the weird wonders of the natural world, eh?!
Go for the ‘booby is broken’ line. It wouldn’t have been something that I’d have thought of myself, but it worked. So it might for you too – let’s just hope you don’t have to suffer the blister in the first place!
8. Replace & Replenish
Make sure you replace fluids for your little one. They’re used to getting a lot of fluid from your boobs, so have lots of water bottles around the house that they can grab and rehydrate with.
I cherish every moment of the 32 months, I really do. Even the tears I shed when I was too tired or the pain from having a mouth full of teeth accidentally bite down (I can’t even tell ya!)
I’ll be forever thankful for the experience. For the bond and the physical closeness it gave us. But I’ll also be relieved that my body became my own again and my little boy was a little star in adapting to the new situation.
And of course, The Melon and The Cherry will be forever thankful that they’re finally now back to being The Apples…
Oh alright then, The Small Nectarines.