Sam is 12 months old. He’s breastfed since he was born (albeit it with the aid of a nipple shield) and I’ve been through a rollercoaster of emotions along the way.
My breastfeeding journey began immediately after Sam was born, I shoved my boob into Sam’s tiny mouth and the midwife shoved my boob into Sam’s mouth, but he wouldn’t latch. She said “give it time”. Then we both had a rest, when we woke later in the day we tried again,but Sam still didn’t latch. The breastfeeding class I attended (weeks before) at the RVI didn’t talk about “what to do if your baby doesn’t (or can’t) latch on” and when I asked the teacher at the end of the session she said, you’ll be fine, baby will find a way.
I had Sam on the Monday (at the RVI) and we transferred to North Tyneside for convalescence and help with breastfeeding (I think I needed it). We tried again, and again, but Sam just couldn’t latch on. I felt like I’d failed my son. And in the those first few days Sam took my expressed colostrum from a bottle. Then one of the wonderful midwives at North Tyneside Hospital suggested I tried with a nipple shield, and we’ve not looked back.
My proper milk came in on the Thursday – and that was another thing that the breastfeeding class didn’t talk about, the pain. They didn’t warn that some mothers experience “painful let down” and I’d never heard of it until I Googled for it – desperately searching for a reason why I was in tears every time my boy fed. Was this what it was going to be like? A prickly barbed wire pain through my breast and nipples. Why hadn’t they talked about this? Why did this hurt so much? During one feed I had to take Sam off, it was excruciating. I thought breastfeeding was supposed to be enjoyable for you and baby. I wanted to stop breastfeeding there and then. I hated breastfeeding.
Within about 3 days of this on/off pain it stopped and breastfeeding wasn’t so bad again.
But my baby didn’t like his crib, he cried when we laid him down and stopped when we cuddled. We all got a better night sleep when we co-slept and I just plugged him in when he woke (after scrambling around for my nipple shield). Then there were the relentless cluster feeds, from 5pm until…until whenever we decided it was bath/bedtime. I can’t remember the number of meals I’ve eaten one-handed with a baby attached, some downstairs and some in his room (nursing to sleep). My husband did try feeding me once but it didn’t quite work, but he did cut things up small enough to scoop at, and I found a spoon was much better than a fork (less spillage).
The Health Visitor said that we needed to try and stop feeding to sleep, and I agreed wholeheartedly, but in practice I just couldn’t. As soon as I tried to pop the nipple (shield) out he’d cry for it. And I wasn’t going to let him cry.
I bought e-books, I bought paper-books, I read a whole host of internet articles about “how to stop feeding your baby to sleep” one of these books was “The no cry sleep solution” by Elizabeth Pantley. It offered a raft of techniques to help get your baby to sleep without them crying. I read and read and read it and got to the bit when it said, you shouldn’t go past this point in the book (trying the techniques) until you stop feeding to sleep. Right. The book even had it’s own technique to stop the feeding to sleep. And I followed it. But it didn’t work (for me), either that or I didn’t try it long enough, but either way, I didn’t read any further in the book. And I didn’t manage to stop feeding to sleep.
In March I went on a friend’s hen party and I stayed out (for the first time since having Sam) until around 11, Carl got Sam to sleep: feeding with expressed milk and dad cuddles until he dropped off. It was a step in the right direction, of course my boobs disagreed, by hell they were fit to burst. But we’d hit a milestone – dad getting Sam to sleep, rather than me breastfeeding Sam to sleep.
But then we slipped into the convenient habit of me getting Sam to sleep. Bath, books, bottle and finish off with the boob – or rather another hour on the boob, until Sam fell asleep. Maybe we didn’t try and stop it because….Sam had started weaning (& it might be too disruptive for him)….or because we’d just got Sam sleeping in his cot, and it might be too much for him to cope with….or because I just liked to let him feed to sleep and it was easy. Feeding to sleep didn’t improve the overnight wake-ups, he’d wake at least twice a night and 99% of the time I went to him, because I had the boobs. Sometimes I hated it, and wished I’d never started breastfeeding. I felt tied. I felt tired. And sometimes I felt like a giant dummy.
As we progressed with weaning, we cut down on the number of breastfeeds, until I went back to work and Sam breastfed at bedtime, and when he was poorly and I’d breastfeed during the day.
There have been times when Sam made a grab for the nipple shield with his hand, and just flung it across the dark bedroom, and then got upset because the nipple shield wasn’t there. So I started taking a spare one to his room, as well as the one I was using. Then on another occasion, when I’d fed Sam to sleep and laid him in his crib, the nipple shield has fallen off my boob and got lost in his cot, so when he woke through the night I had to use the spare. The next day we couldn’t find the nipple shield in the bed, we pulled the cot right out, lifted the mattress up. Eventually we found it, Sam had posted it into some baskets at the end of his cot!
I knew inside that I didn’t want to breastfeed beyond 12 months (or so). I felt that Sam had got the nutrition and health benefits of breastfeeding during those first 6 months or so. I felt that if I was to stop breastfeeding I needed Carl’s support and help, help to take over getting Sam to sleep and help during the overnight wake-ups. Especially during the first week. We began last week (Mon 12th October). Here’s my diary of how it went.
Monday (Day 1): Sam had his usual bath, stories and bedtime bottle but instead of finishing off on the boob, Carl took Sam and I left the room, Sam protested for about 10mins and Carl rocked him to sleep. Carl was back downstairs within 20mins – I was amazed! Sam woke once in the night and Carl saw to him – rocked him back to sleep (it took all of about 15mins), and Sam went back to sleep until 7.30 in the morning.
Tuesday (Day 2): Given the success of Monday, I asked if we were going to stick with this, Carl said yes, so that was it. I didn’t have time to cry over my last breastfeed, if I knew on Sunday that it was my last I might felt differently. But it was Tuesday and Monday went much better than I expected. And sleep felt so good! However boobs felt full, engorged and achy. At mid morning I nipped into the loos at work to hand express just to stop feeling like I was going to burst. When I got home I used a manual pump and took a bit more off, to ease the pressure. Felt very uncomfortable. .
The internet gave me some advice on how to dry up your milk supply: 1/4 tap of dried sage 3 times a day, anti-histamines, sudofed (it contains Pseudoephedrine which apparently dries up your milk), cabbage leaves on the boobs, ibuprofen for the pain and to wear a very supportive bra. I took a 1/4 teaspoon of dried sage in the morning and evening (with a teaspoon of peanut butter to make it taste better) and ibuprofen. I decided to have the sudafed on Thursday if things were still bad.
By the end of Tuesday my boobs were big hard sore uncomfortable to touch, uncomfortable to brush anything against and I found it difficult to sleep. I wore sports bra all day and night. I looked like I’d had a boob job!
Wednesday (Day 3): bought cabbage, after work I stuffed my bra with cabbage leaves and left them in overnight. Not entirely sure what they’re supposed to be doing, but we’ll stick with it. Had more sage and peanut butter as well as ibuprofen. Boobs tender and lumpy but didn’t need to express. Tender when holding Sam and I’m holding him close to me. We started calming Sam with a musical seahorse that glows, it seems to work – so we’ll stick with it.
Thursday (Day 4): Carl did bedtime and overnight duties, and was back downstairs by 7.50 (I’ve nicknamed him the baby whisperer). Sam woke once through the night, although it took nearly 2 hrs for Carl to get him back to sleep.
Friday (Day 5): Feeling like I can wear an underwired bra now, boobs are feeling more normal-sized, but lumpy and still slightly. No cabbage leaves in today, just sage and paracetamol. After work we went to my parents, Carl did bedtime and I did my first overnight. It was hard work, the room was unfamiliar to Sam and there wasn’t much furniture so I had to hold him and wander around the room, I rocked him until he fell asleep, but when I went to lay him in the travel cot he woke. I fed him some cows milk, and he settled a bit, but just didn’t want to sleep in the travel cot. After an hour of me trying Carl had a go then Sam got very upset, we got back to bed at nearly 5. And Sam’s crying woke my parents. My mum let us sleep in and took Sam at 8.20
Saturday (Day 6): Boobs have improved again, getting smaller (more like they used to be), still a bit lumpy and tender but much better and Sam is no worse off. On Saturday night Carl did the bedtime and I did the overnight. I gave Sam a bit of cows milk (from a bottle), rocked him and then we laid on the sofa in his room and he fell asleep. I transferred him to his cot and I crept back to bed. Sam didn’t wake up until 8.50 on Sunday morning – that’s been the best sleep in since I had him!!!
Sunday (Day 7): Carl was on bedtime duty and overnight duty. My boobs felt tender. but not achy or engorged. When I laid on them (and put pressure on them) they leaked a little. Sam didn’t wake up during the night. In fact he didn’t wake until 7.15 the next day. We had a fantastic sleep.
Monday (Day 8): My left boob feels more normal, a bit lumpy but much better, although quite itchy today. The right one still feels a bit lumpy and tender underneath. Carl did the bedtime and overnight duties, although I was involved in the overnight wake-up, Sam had a temperature so we gave him Calpol, my boobs seemed a bit leaky, when holding Sam. Carl took Sam off to cuddle and rock back to sleep.
Tuesday (Day 9): my boobs have a little bit of lumpiness to them, they seem like they will still leak if I put pressure on them, but they’re feeling much better than last week. Things have gone better than we both expected. Had my 1/4 teaspoon of sage (& peanut butter)
Wednesday (Day 10): Carl was away with work so I had to do the bedtime routine for the first time since I stopped breastfeeding. I was worried that Sam would try to pull at my top and try to feed, but he didn’t. To get Sam to sleep I stood and rocked him, then we laid down on the sofa in his room and I stroked him, but we ended up making each other giggle, Then I laid Sam in his cot, but he was having none of it, and he sat up. So we started again. He didn’t try to peel my top up/down, he didn’t grab for my boobs, he just wanted to cuddle up and sleep. Eventually he calmed down and fell asleep *phew*
Lisa Vincent | Loopygirl
The Birth & Baby Network