Breastfeeding: Winding down

I thought it was high time for another breastfeeding update. My aim all the way through has been to provide a realistic, truthful picture of breastfeeding that might help prepare a new mother-to-be and her partner for what it is really like. If you would like to read back and find out how my breastfeeding journey started, have a look at:

1) The Truth about Breastfeeding – things I wish I had been told pre-baby.

2) Bleeding nipples. The horror.

3) Update about the breakthrough I had with feeding my daughter

4) A look at breastfeeding 6 months in.

Today’s update was prompted by Thursday night. Thursday night, the Baby slept through from 7pm until 6.30am for the first time ever, and did not wake up for a feed.

This was a moment I had been waiting for ever since she started solids. As babies make the transition to Big People Food, there will come a point where they are so full up with Weetabix and roast dinner that they start to reduce the amount of milk they drink. If you are feeding your baby on demand, you will notice that she asks for fewer feeds, or leave longer gaps between feeds perhaps, thereby dropping one or two. If, like me, you feed your baby at certain times of day, you will notice that those feeds become shorter, your baby gets more distracted and generally doesn’t seem as interested. This is when you can try dropping a feed and seeing if they notice and/or mind.

The first feed I wanted to try to drop was the 11pm one. I dreamed of drinking more than one glass of wine of an evening, going to bed early without needing to wake up later for the last feed and perhaps even go to the cinema once in a while.

The Baby, initially reluctant to gain weight, has greeted solid food with enthusiasm and has jumped up a few centiles since she started weaning. For the past month or two she has been eating three full meals a day and her daytime feeds were getting shorter. I decided to stop waking her for the last feed, just to see if she would sleep through. She obviously disagreed with this idea and promptly started waking herself up, not just at 11, but several times throughout the night. I saw this as a sign of her displeasure at my intention to reduce her milk feeds, but now I’m thinking it was just her very first tooth coming through.

So I kept feeding her at night. And on Thursday, she did it herself. She ate her own dinner and half of her brother’s and then slept very deeply all night. We checked a few times just to make sure she was still okay, but she was fine, just sound asleep.

Friday night, she woke up briefly but was happy to be shushed back to sleep without milk.

Saturday night, I cracked open a bottle of wine and poured myself a large glass. Of course, 1AM saw me rocking an inconsolable baby. In the end, I fed her.

I felt a bit of a fool. Or a failure. Or both.

There is no need however. You cannot fail at breastfeeding. Every feed is a gift to your child. There is no rule book. Breastfeeding is a cooperation between you and your baby and how you work together is completely unique. Babies start up breastfeeding and wind it down in a million different ways – they are individuals. 

And for the Baby it has seemed to be a bit of dance from start to finish: one step forward, two steps back. Two forward, one back. Step to the side, one two quick-a-quick.

So sleep, my lovely daughter, and wake, as you wish, as you need, and I will dance with you for these few more short months until breastfeeding is done and you start to forget all about it.

Then, I’m getting wasted.

9 responses

  1. Oh Judith, it is such an emotive time, isn’t it? To get your body back and to have nights again, but to loose that special time. It’s funny, though, your last line says that she forgets all about it…I don’t think they do completely. Whenever Roh gets poorly or clingy with tiredness (she’s 4 now and we stopped breastfeeding at 9 months) she will snuggle into me and will ‘pretend’ to feed from me for a few seconds. I tell her it’s all gone, but she’s not really after a swig of milk, it’s the throw back to that comfort. Which you’d think she’d have forgotten about by now, as it isn’t a general daily topic of conversation or anything! Oh dear, am I rambling again?! Sorry. Just that as usual, you’ve written a super thought-provoking post🙂 xx

    • How interesting! She is your youngest, isn’t she? The Toddler obviously talks about breastfeeding a bit because he sees it in action, though never in relation to himself. I kind of assumed he didn’t remember doing it himself but maybe I’m wrong! Maybe I’ll ask him and see what he says…

  2. I fed CK on demand until his was 15 months old and had to stop. It felt way more emotional than we he was born (maybe because I had to give up due to medication rather than through choice). It still makes me cry a little now. Breastfeeding BB is one of my favourite things too, particularly the feed before he does his big sleep. It’s a real highlight of my day. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to cut out feeds – they grow up so quickly.

    • I do love breastfeeding, it is a very special bond to have with your baby. I fed my son for 15 months as well, let’s see how long the Baby will keep going for!

  3. Love the imagery at the end of this post. Dancing, it is all so la la, fluffy and pink. And then the final line… brilliant humour. And a throw back to you and your normal. But this right now is her normal. Well done you for seeing it that way. Before you know where you are, she will be helping herself to the milk in the fridge!

    • Quite incredible, but yes you’re right! And in between there will be the toddler years with endless requests of “milk, Mummy? Mummy, milk, Mummy?” My son finds the whole breastfeeding thing alternately fascinating and a little inconvenient. The other day he was getting dressed and standing around bare-chested. He looked down and pointed at his nipples and said: “Feed! Two feedings.” This is apparently what nipples are called…

  4. I love what you say ‘Every feed is a gift to your child’. I managed three and half months of combi feeding before my milk began to disappear. I am so glad I had the opportunity and I am glad I persevered. I am hopeful that next time things will go right from the start and I can do it for much longer. Lovely post, and I hope that you manage to get that elusive extra few glasses of wine soon! x

  5. I am so glad to have found your blog – I have loved reading and can’t wait to follow along.

    I have really struggled to breast feed but I’m so proud of myself that I stuck with it. 9 months in I think I’ll be sad when I finally stop – something I never thought I would say when it all began!

    • I know, same here! It seems like such a long time ago now that I was feeding all evening, crying and crying and not thinking I could carry on. Now it is a joy and a delight. And thank you for following!

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