A Happy End to My Breastfeeding Journey

Breastfeeding Grace got off to a flying start. She fed with gusto from the moment she was born and only lost a few grams in weight in the first few days. Because she was so small, her latch was a bit on the shallow side so despite her enthusiasm for feeding she did cause me quite a bit of pain with cracked and bleeding nipples. I worked with an amazing Lactation Consultant (I highly recommend Kate) and by week 8 we were flying.

Without any cajoling or sleep training whatever, she’s preferred to be put down awake and settle herself to sleep since about a month old and she’s always slept three or four hour stretches, meaning only one or two night feeds. It has been bliss in comparison to Edward who fed every two hours in the night for months. Recently she’s started to sleep right through. Yes, she really is the baby the text books were written about.

I’ve loved feeding her. We’ve weathered some epic cluster feeding sessions and days where she’s been on and off the boob every half an hour. But I really have loved it. Because I know she’s my last, I’ve savoured every feeding session, staring at the top of her little head bobbing up and down and going all gooey over the way she fiddles with my necklace when she feeds. The feeling of the weight of her body and how it so perfectly nestles into mine. There are moments where I just never want it to end.

I waited until the recommended six months before I started weaning her. We had a solid six months of exclusive breastfeeding. Not a single bottle. I know there’s no imaginary parenting medal for that but it’s an achievement I’m proud of because it’s not easy.

Of course I should have known that Grace would take perfectly to food like the little boss she is. She progressed from purees to eating the same food us after just a month of weaning. I introduced the odd bottle of formula at the same time, just to get her used to it in preparation for starting nursery.

Which brings us to now. This time last week Grace had her usual Weetabix and fruit for breakfast and went for her morning nap. She woke up and showed no signs of wanting to feed like she normally would. At lunch she ate scrambled eggs and sautéed peppers and nibbled on the corner of some toast. Mid afternoon, still no sign of her wanting a breastfeed. She went down for her afternoon nap and it was only at 3.30pm that she actually fed. The next day a similar pattern, except when she was hungry mid afternoon she angrily turned her head away and struggled every time I offered her the breast. In the end I decided to try offering her some formula which she drank, preferring to have it sitting up and still being able to see what’s going on in the room, rather than being cradled into the boob.

Over the course of this week she’s continued in the same vein. Eating her food beautifully but not being interested in breastfeeding in the daytime whatsoever. It definitely feels like the beginning of the end of breastfeeding and I’m really sad about it.  Although we’re only a few weeks off the point that I stopped feeding Edward (which was my arbitrary minimum I’d set for stopping) I’m feeling super emotional that it seems to be happening sooner, and at her choice, not mine.

I know the breastfeeding purists will probably say that no baby naturally self-weans at 7 months and that I should reduce her solid food and just concentrate on getting breastmilk into her but it seems like a backwards step when she’s enjoying food so much and is clearly telling me she’s ready not to breastfeed as much now. The natural conclusion is going to be to increase food and reduce milk, whether that happens at 7 months or 12 months or whenever. Holding her back on breastmilk seems like it would be for my benefit more than hers.

The rational part of me is saying I should just roll with it and wind down breastfeeding. The emotional, wildly hormonal side of me is dying inside over the thought of never putting a baby to my breast ever again. Our completely symbiotic relationship will change into one where she can be left with others to feed her and I will no longer have a physical need to be with her day and night.

Ironically, I’ve been looking forward to this point since before she was even born. It’s the point at which I can go away for the weekend with friends again, take up hobbies and have my freedom and social life back a bit. But now it’s approaching, I’m tearing up every time I think about the final time I’ll breastfeed her.

The beginning of breastfeeding was really hard but I never thought the end would be too.

 

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