Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m completely done with breastfeeding.
Some people might read that and say, “Woah, what are you talking about? It was definitely time!” But those of you who have breastfed a baby — or are currently doing so — understand what I mean.
Because it is a HUGE part of your life!
Breastfeeding is something you think about at least every few hours, whether you’re with the baby or not. It dictates what you wear (from certain bras to easy-access shirts to — sometimes — limiting tight-fitting shirts or dresses). It is a completely physical thing AND a completely emotional thing. And when it’s gone, it’s … weird.
I was determined to get to the one-year mark, and happily, I did it. Once Baby Boy turned one, I knew I would kick into weaning mode. I was a little more reluctant than I thought I would be, but I still stuck with my decision.
I made a plan to wean slowly, over the period of a full month. Let’s refresh …
Stage 1 (just before he turned one): I cut out all “in-between” nursings (i.e. randomly throughout the day) and stuck to only before his morning nap, before his afternoon nap, and before bed (as well as once throughout the night).
Stage 2 (a week after he turned one): Began cutting out one of his before-nap nursing sessions
Stage 3 (two weeks after he turned one): Stopped nursing at all during the day. Nursed only at bedtime and during his one wake-up (around 4:30 a.m.). If he woke up at midnight, I would not nurse — just gave him his soother.
Stage 4 (three weeks after he turned one): We would only nurse at bedtime, and not at any other time (including during the night). If he woke up in the night, Darling Husband or I went in to re-soother him. *This* was the key point where he started sleeping through the night — from 8 or 8:30 p.m. until about 6:30 or 7 a.m. Woohoo, holla and yayyyyyyyyyy x 1,000,000!
Stage 5 (hit the 13-month mark): We nursed for the very last time the night before he turned 13 months. He slept through the night, and when he woke up in the morning as a big, grown-up 13-month-old boy, that was it. Done. Finished. Over.
If you had asked me at the six-month mark how I thought Baby Boy would handle weaning, I would have laughed and snorted something like, “He’s NEVER going to want to stop!” Because, seriously, big eater? Boob man? Mama’s Boy? He’s all of the above.
I knew since he was such a big eater, we would need to replace those feedings. Even though, yes, he was a big strapping 13-month-old boy — and definitely didn’t NEED breastmilk at night the way he did when he was younger — he was still used to eating something.
So what did we do?
It sounds so frickin’ simple, I could kick myself.
We started giving him a bedtime snack.
I knooooow, right??? Why wasn’t I doing this beforehand??? But! But! We used to give Baby Boy some rice cereal before bed — back in the days of our Oh-whyyyy-won’t-he-sleep-through-the-night agony. But after a while, he just hated it, so we stopped.
Yeah, we were dumb.
So we re-introduced the bedtime snack — at the suggestion of my lovely friend C, who is always giving me good ideas because her son is seven months older than Baby Boy. We would give him Cheerios in milk. Or cheese and crackers. Some fruit. A cup of milk. More Cheerios. WHATEVER THE KID WOULD EAT! We packed him full, every night at bedtime.
And you know what? That, combined with the weaning — or maybe just one or the other, who the hell knows with these unpredictable little people — worked. And suddenly he was sleeping through the night. It only took 13 months *grumble, grumble.*
Now, Baby Boy drinks cow’s milk with lunch and dinner, and has some on his nightly bowl of Cheerios at bedtime. He never really had any formula, other than a couple of sips around the 10-month mark as I (stupidly) thought he would seamlessly transition from breastmilk.
Would I do anything different the next time around? Namely, would I introduce formula earlier? I don’t think so. I enjoyed breastfeeding — and not just ’cause it shlepped off the baby weight, ha. It was a special bond between us. It was convenient. It was free (ahem, now that I won’t be buying nine million nursing tops).
While I would encourage a friend to breastfeed, I would never care if they didn’t. While I do think it has good benefits, I am also not deluding myself into thinking it is the be-all, end-all and that it works 100% of the time for 100% of the people in the world. While I think it can be convenient for everyone involved, I’d be fine to use formula if things don’t go as well the next time around.
But I will DEFINITELY introduce bedtime snacks earlier, as I fear that might be the real reason he didn’t sleep through the night until he was so old.
Weaning gradually really worked. For the first one or two nights, we would settle into the glider with our storybook as usual, and Baby Boy would pull out his soother and … well, TRY … But I just calmly kept my top up and began reading. He cried in frustration and it almost broke my heart, but he quickly recovered and just put his soother back in.
After a couple of nights, he stopped expecting it.
I don’t know if he had forgotten all about breastfeeding, or just understood it was finally, really, truly over.
I hope he understood.
Because I will never forget it.
And I like to think he won’t, either.