This week I’ve struggled a bit, today marks the end of the first week of no breastfeeding for me. It’s quite a biggy for me too as between all the children I have been either pregnant or breast feeding for the last ten and a half years!
Erin is twenty seven months old now and for the last couple of months I have been conscious that her feeding has been more for comfort and while there is nothing wrong with that it was a sign that she could be weaned off the breast. I fed Rowan until he was twenty six months old and Trystan until he was eighteen months old and now Erin for twenty seven months, so I think it’s pretty fair to say I’ve done my bit and it’s time to reclaim my body!
I had just finished feeding Rowan when a month later I discovered I was three months pregnant with Erin so only really had a six month gap. I’m incredibly proud of myself for feeding my children and for as long as I have. I’ve come up against a lot of criticism with regard the right time to stop breast feeding and I started the process of reducing Erin’s feds a few months back.
Making that break and deciding ‘now’s the time’ is something only you can make though and when your child is unwell or teething taking away their comfort is not an easy thing to do. I started by stopping Erin from falling asleep on the breast just before Easter and helping her to fall asleep independently which she managed quite quickly. Yes there were tears and tantrums but I stood fast. I still let her feed at bedtime, it was a queue to telling her it was time to sleep but when she started fussing and broke away I wouldn’t allow her to feed again. Then usually twenty minutes to half an hour later she would be asleep. If she wanted a drink in between either myself or dad of 3 would offer juice or try to tempt her with cows milk. Although she still refuses cows milk point blank. Then when she woke in the morning and tried to feed I would simply tell her ‘no, it’s time for breakfast’ and we would get up (a lot easier to do on school days) Then after lunch she would feed to sleep for her afternoon nap. So essentially Erin was only feeding twice or maybe three times a day which was a vast improvement from the previous routine of demand feeding which could be ten times a day at times without counting night feeds.
I had also known since last ‘June when I booked my ticket to this year’s Britmums Live that Erin would not be able to attend with me due to her age. This fact acted as a marker for me, it may seem silly to some but I knew that my being away for around 48 hours would be make or break in terms of breastfeeding for us. So while some had told me I should have stopped by now I smiled and said I would be soon, I knew in my heart it was time to stop and that Britmums live would be the end for me. I wanted to enjoy those last few weeks feeding and make it as stress free a transition for both Erin and I. Don’t get me wrong the thought of stopping was painful at times, I’ve enjoyed the bound between myself and each of my children I’ve nursed and knowing that something will change was sad.
With that said I also felt a glimmer of excitement for what’s to come, to having more time for myself. I’ve not been tied down by breastfeeding and although in the last two years I have had a few opportunities I was unable to take up because I was unable to take Erin with me, I’ve not let it stop me doing things I’ve wanted too. Since Christmas Erin has regularly gone up to eighteen hours without a feed ( another indication it was more comfort than necessity) but the point is neither of us were ready to stop.
Last week I quietly told Erin every day that I would be going away for one night and that she would have no more ‘booby’ as she called it when I returned. I savoured those last few feeds I can tell you and although weeks before I had felt sad about it, when it actually came to it I wasn’t. So last Thursday evening I fed my little princess for the last time. The next morning she stirred as I got up to head out to Britmums Live and I kissed her as I always do if I’m popping out and told her I would see her the following night. She actually rolled over and went back to sleep! I think that deflated me more than anything, she didn’t seem bothered at all about my going.
I spoke to dad of 3 and the children a few times while I was away, the first afternoon I face timed them as Rowan had been sent home early from school with an ear ache and the pout I had from Erin was so funny. But I could see she was happy and was even drinking her juice. My mother in law had come to stay to help with the children as it was also the first time I had been away from Erin over night and we envisaged a few teething problems and an extra pair of hands is always handy. But I was happy that Erin was fine without me ( deep down I knew she would be) and I concentrated on having time for me, to embrace the conference and enjoy myself.
I think it was late on Saturday afternoon I realised I was a little uncomfortable on one side! I was surprised it had taken so long to fill up on that one side. Although it was uncomfortable it wasn’t painful which I was relived about. I must apologise to anyone who may have noticed me discreetly squeezing my left breast in talks in the attempt to make myself more comfortable! Who said breast feeding wasn’t glamorous!!
When I returned home finally in the early hours of Sunday, Erin stirred and automatically turned to feed but I soothed her and handed her her juice which she refused and went back to sleep. The next day was interesting, she asked quite a lot and there were tears when I stood fast and refused. When dad of 3 pooped out to get bread she became quite persistent almost as if she felt that if daddy didn’t see what she was doing it was fine! I simply told her the ‘fairys had taken my milk when I was away for babies who really needed it!’ okay some may not agree with that but Erin accepted it and every time she’s asked since I’ve simply said ‘the fairys took it!’ I’ve certainly made people giggle when they’ve asked this week how it’s gone but hey it’s worked for us and ultimately that’s what counts. I just hope it doesn’t taint Erin’s views on fairys in the future!
Wednesday was a day I really struggled with not because of Erin asking for a feed but because I was now so engorged and it was quite painful. Something or someone just had to graze my chest and the pain was immense, its certainly not something your told about happening when your breastfeeding and I hadn’t suffered like this since the early days of establishing our feeding so over two years! I was also aware of the possibilities of developing mastitis and I really wanted to avoid that! Those that knew what was going on were sympathetic and I joked about it but my goodness it’s so painful. I couldn’t sleep that night because I couldn’t get comfortable and in turn disturbed dad of 3 on several occasions. Regardless of the pain I’ve managed without pain relief and used hot/cold compresses which have relieved the discomfort.
Thankfully by last night this had started to ease and I think my milk is finally drying up. Erin has done marvellously throughout this process. She hasn’t asked for a feed in two days now which is great. I’ve offered cows milk but so far it’s still being refused and she’s stopped napping in the afternoon which is frustrating as she has been so tired so really isn’t ready to do without a nap. She’s also not been so cuddly with me this week, which I miss but hope will return when she realises they don’t have to stop.
And me, well I’m looking forward to reclaiming my body and shifting the baby weight at last. I’ve never lost weight while breast feeding, it’s always dropped off after I’ve stopped. I’ve a bridesmaid dress to squish into at the end of the Summer so that’s my focus now! I’m also looking forward to what comes next with my little family as the era of breastfeeding has drawn to a close.