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.