The drama of breast feeding and weaning

Every child is different. Their needs are different. And so is every mother’s. There is no ‘one solution for all’.

Breastfeeding is an emotional attachment for both, mother and the baby. I am not saying that you cannot have an emotional attachment if you don’t or can’t breastfeed. But once you start feeding, you realize that it is a completely different experience. It is so different, that I have nothing else to compare it to. It belongs right there in the league of baby experiences like baby movements inside the belly and giving birth. They just cannot be described and cannot be compared to anything else. Not even to each other.

After Baby A’s birth I realized that the her nutrition will solely depend on the quality of milk that my body produces. And that scared me. To add to my worries, Baby A lost a lot of weight in the first week looking a lot thinner. PND (Post natal depression) is a real thing and people visiting to see the baby can’t seem to shut up about how the baby is a lot thinner. It did not help at all. I snapped at anyone who tried to comment on the baby. I felt like I was being attacked and criticized, when I myself was trying to get a grip on reality.

Like most mothers, I too had problems with latching initially. I would grit my teeth through the pain, while she suckled and just hoped I was making enough milk for her. Soon, Baby A championed breast feeding. She started loving it and I started getting bored of it. I had to lie down for more than half an hour for single feed. It was difficult at times, frustrating even. But I knew she needed it. I didn’t really want to introduce formula at this point. Then I got a brilliant idea of pumping. It took a long time before I got to know how to really do it.

I pumped milk for her to drink when we went out. I used Avent manual pump and used it every morning after her first feed. I fed her on one breast and pumped from the other.

Baby A is now 2 and half years and she was completely weaned at around 20 months old. She drinks around 200 ml of full cream milk, but truly I don’t mind if she drinks any less as she is a good eater. It took me more than the time I thought it would take, to wean her completely off breast milk. She easily gave up her day time feeds. She liked eating her semi solids and fruits/veggies. I worked through cutting one milk feed at a time till she was comfortable with solid food.

At night, however, it was a struggle. I would be up all night trying to sway or rock her to sleep because I didn’t want to put her on the breast. I thought and read about it all the time. It was an all consuming thing in my life at that time. I had started feeling like I need my body back, all of it. And as a one year old she was ready for night weaning. Or so I thought. And this is where I went wrong.

I need to record this so I can remember it, the effort that went into it. Also, if like me, you too are this short of pulling your hair out, just know that ‘this too shall pass’. It is just a phase and like me, you too will figure it out in the end.

Be patient, don’t hurry

I had decided, even before Baby A was born, that I will breastfeed her for one full year. Once she was a year old, it took me a while to get it into my mind that soon she would stop breastfeeding. However, it is not a switch that you could just switch off at your time of convenience. It is a bond. The baby uses feed times not only to feed but also for comfort and security.

Be perceptive of your baby’s needs

See for signs that your baby is ready or not to be weaned. I got my signs early on when I started introducing semi solids that she is happy to try new foods during the day. But weaning during day is not equal to weaning during night. Her needs were different at night time. She woke up 5-6 times a night when I refused to feed her. In the end I had to put her to breast to get some sleep myself. She wasn’t ready to give up milk at night time and I didn’t want to introduce bottle as she was old enough to skip the bottle altogether.

Don’t obsess

I know it is easier said than done, but trust me, it does nothing good to your health or life in any way. If it is not happening despite your patient efforts then let it be. Keep your efforts but don’t think about it all the time.

Initially I tried too hard to make it fast, so I can be completely free of having to breastfeed and so she doesn’t have to depend on me for her sleep. I know it is a bad habit that I made way for, but it was working well for both of us. But later when it was time to stop, or so I thought, she just didn’t get the message. It was useless of me to overthink it. I just held on until the time was right.

Persevere

Don’t give up trying. Keep your efforts going and at the same time try to talk to the baby during day time that she needs to sleep without milk at night. Try to use a different method to put the baby back to bed without feeding, just as long as you can. When you feel like you are too tired, just give it a break  for few days and then try again. She will ultimately get the message.

I had to go cold turkey after a bout of illness during which I nursed her through the night. All the sleeplessness had taken a toll on me and I decided this is it. If this doesn’t work then I’ll try again after a few days. But thankfully it worked. I just said no more milk and put her back in her cot n patted her to sleep. And it worked. She stopped asking after three days.

Don’t fret if it isn’t working out right now.  It will happen, when the time is right for the both of you. Just make sure not to take out your frustration on the baby. Happy weaning.

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