For the last two years I’ve been sharing my body. This week am I going to stop sharing. I’m starting the painful night-weaning journey. Don’t get me wrong – it was enjoyable for a while. I enjoyed the feeling of breastfeeding (BF) and nourishing my Baby-O, knowing I’m giving her a good start in life, but as she’s getting older and wiser, she now knows how to play the tantrum card to make me cave in if I don’t give her the goods. I’m over waking up in the night with little vice like hands grabbing, ney, pulling my nipples until I feel like they’re going to twang off. Now I’m ready. I heard a phrase recently; I’m all touched out. Sums it up perfectly. I want to reclaim my body.
I’d been waiting over the last few months to feel mentally strong enough to deal with the exorcist style behaviour of my little one when I deny her comfort at night. We’ve also been through major changes moving up to my parents and I didn’t want to take away the one constant in her world until I knew she’d settled. She’s just turned two – I don’t think there is much milk left for her, so I don’t think it’s a hunger thing when she sits up in her cot at night and shouts for ‘Mummy’ or ‘Milk’.
I don’t think she is actually awake either. My mum helped me out earlier on this year with getting her to sleep with no help from me – she can now lie down at the start of the night contentedly at night and fall asleep without BF. When she wakes up at night and can’t help herself back to sleep, I think she has maybe just roused herself from sleep (maybe to pee?!), sits up immediately, almost as if sleep ‘walking’, and won’t lie back down in her cot.
I try to resist picking my little sleep thief up but, she starts moaning, and, of course as my downfall, for most of her life I’ve just brought her into bed with me and breast-fed her right back to sleep again. I MISS MY SLEEP!!
So last night I steeled myself to battle through screeching and squealing, hitting and kicking which is so distressing, and so loud I’m worried will wake the neighbourhood dogs, and went my first night since her birth, without feeding my daughter back to sleep.
As morning arrives I have a feeling she’s going to be as tired as me today I’ve gone for 31 hours without feeding her. Just as I think I’m not producing much milk, by mid-morning my boobs feel like they’re going to explode – like I’m stowing two rapidly inflating beach balls. The pressure.
I get to an Aqua Aerobics class. The motion of the water as I’m bouncing away almost gives me a massage and the cool water feels so good on my chest! Plus the upper body workout should hopefully boost the circulation, and my increasing beach balls start to feel soothed.
I think they accurately call it ‘Engorged Breast’. Exactly how I feel – Engorged. (I read that cabbage leaves can soothe milk filled boobs? Hmm – attractive!).
Throughout the early night my boobs feel so uncomfortable and I begin to think about the best way to pump some milk. Hand pumping through the pain doesn’t appeal. The last thing I need now is a squeeze. I have a laugh at myself – I was willing Baby-O almost to come to MY rescue. I wait to see how the mini mitts clamouring at my nipples at 3am will feel if I resist her milk…and I wait. I wait, lying AWAKE in pain, starting to feel feverish, until she wakes up around 1am and I crumble – she has a feast on both sides, relieving the pressure around my chest. Baby-O and I both fall back to sleep satisfied and relieved, respectively.
Day 2 of my mission, on repeat of resisting the feeding, with the anticipation of the previous day’s discomfort and distress, we are both much calmer. Miraculously I don’t get the same pressure in my chest. It’s almost as if someone has started to turn off the tap. I think my milk flow is starting to adapt.
One week later
Over the week to come I’m down to only one ‘feed’ (I think she’s just using me for comfort now as I don’t think there is any milk left!), mostly in the break of day around 4am, when I still relent into a moment of whatever it takes to get Baby-O back to sleep. This is progress. She still wakes earlier in the night and I’ve resisted feeding her – hoping it sends the signal of ‘it’s dark and there’s no milk at nighttime’.
I have no desire to go back to the new-mum reading frenzies of the many conflicting blog/mummy community/sleep expert advice at 2am whether for sleep training tips, minor illness etc, which usually only happened in my bleary eyed state during the night. I always ended up confusing myself even more. Now I’m going along with instinct, trusting that surely soon enough she’ll crack on…preferably not when she’s 5 and still attached to me. I hope this is the start of dropping the only ‘feed’ of the day completely. I have to remember I’ve got this far, it probably won’t take much more to go the final steps – of not bringing her into bed with me at all. I’m hoping soon enough she won’t wake up so much…must stay strong!
I think I’ve cracked it…
Before I know it I’m 2 weeks on and I haven’t breastfed her for 3 days. I think I’ve cracked it. She still delves into my top during our cuddles when she’s bumped her knee etc, but I gently prize her hand out, telling her there’s no Mummy’s milk now, and she gives up!
I am having a moment whilst I type this. It’s the end of an era. The end of my little girl’s baby phase, as she is no longer reliant on me for her source of liquid food…as much as that is possibly the last time I’ll have another life so dependant on me, it feels empowering. I knew it would have to happen some day soon. The distressing nights when I never thought it would happen seem a distant memory – and to make me feel like it is all worth while, she actually slept for 10 hours solid last night in her own cot! Then I remember why I’m doing this. To make a full night’s sleep normal again for me!
We’ve come a long way
I love looking back on my journey with Baby-O and the remarkable things my body has done to produce this perfect little being and the care and nurture I have given to make her as healthy and happy as she is today. I think about the post-natal recuperation my body has gone through: walking, swimming and doing Pilates to get stronger again; strengthening my posture to repair some niggly tingly muscle spasms after the hours of slouching whilst feeding her, no matter how mindful I tried to be; knowing my pelvic floor has a way to go so I don’t have to cross my legs when I sneeze; and trying to get my dancing fit body back (still a little way to go!).
I feel though this is the last piece in the jigsaw of transitioning her to find her independence, from giving my body to help her nourish and flourish. And for me to transition away from my ‘New Mum’ phase, to the next stage of my woman-hood, by reclaiming back my body.