Bon! So today marks 11 days since I last breastfed my daughter who turned 16 months this week. Yes my dears – I used the ‘cold turkey’ approach people like to call it. In mild terms, I call it ‘turning off the breastfeeding switch’.
Unlike gradual weaning which involves reducing feeds, this approach is tough because you literally stop giving your child something they have been used to since birth and trust me, it is nowhere near easy for baby and mother, physically, mentally and above all – emotionally. Woke up this morning and thought “Hey. Let me share my experience via a blog post.”
As a full time working mother, I only breastfed her in the morning (not forgetting the night feeds or soothing I should call it) and in the evening after work.
Every mother’s story is interesting and unique. This is mine and baby A’s story…
Day 1. I felt like I was on top of the world and kind of disbelieved my sister’s story about full pounding breasts when she weaned her son. I thought to myself “I guess I’m just one of the lucky ones in many”. I was also surprised at how well baby A was handling it.
Day 2. No pain ✓ + High confidence ✓. On the other hand, my baby was not having it. She woke up screaming and crying uncontrollably and the only words of comfort I had for her were “I am so sorry my princess. This is hard for you as it is for me”, with of course the usual hugs and kisses. This did not seem to work in any way. In the end, she ended up sucking her thumb and putting herself to sleep. Knowing I could easily end all this and give in to what she desired, this was painful to watch…
Day 3. Hmm.. I feel a little lump in my right breast and it hurts a little but it’s bearable. On the other hand, I felt VERY emotional. I picked up my little girl, held her in my arms and wailed like a baby with her. All I had to keep telling her each time she tried to breastfeed was “no baby” and she’d again immediately suck her thumb and put herself to sleep. Thoughts like, “maybe I’m weaning her too early” or “I should’ve weaned her gradually” kept crossing my mind. In summary, I felt like a bad mother depriving her little one of something as natural as breast milk.
I was so tempted to drop this “I’m done breastfeeding” stance and give my baby what she wanted. Besides, breastfeeding is no crime. After all, it would make both of us happy.
Day 4: Okay this pain is getting worse. In particular, the breast which produced more milk. It was on this night, including day 3, that I had to sleep on my back the whole night just to avoid any pressure on my chest area. Also, I had stints of feeling A-OKAY — and then I’d be sunk by a piercing sadness, dread, and fear and guilt that I wasn’t being a good enough mom to my little gem.
Day 5: Oh là là! That little lump turned into absolute pain. Sitting in a work meeting, all I felt like doing was screaming!!!! Instead, I got a strong espresso hoping it would calm me down, drank tonnes of water, tea, but nothing seemed to work. My whole body felt different, not forgetting the dire headache I had. I felt like if anyone pushed me with even their little pinky finger, I would drop like a log of wood to the ground from feeling so heavy in my chest! If you are or were a breastfeeding mama, I am sure you understand how great it feels when your little one latches onto breasts full of milk – the relief…ahhhh. I always tell people it is almost like how you feel when your bladder is full and you desperately need to urinate. I am sure you get my point now.
Day 6: I felt like I was losing it. I thought to myself, “Is this what women really go through when they stop breastfeeding? I mean there has to be an easier way – even a temporary solution would be appreciated. Is there a well known painkiller for this?” I then decided to take a painkiller hoping to get some kind of relief from the pain but “rien du tout” (English translation from French: none). It was only until a colleague of mine told me I needed to massage my breasts under hot running water in the shower that I felt slightly better. So, first thing I did when I got home that day was dash to the shower while papa and baby kept themselves entertained with tickles. I actually expressed (by hand) enough milk to fill a small cup. Pain reduced a little. However, one of my worries was by doing so, I would stimulate my milk production and have to go through the process all over again.
Fast forward to day 7 and 8: Pain reduced a lot but both breasts started leaking. “Hmm…do I need to go back to wearing breast pads like I did in the beginning? How long will this continue?”
Day 9: This is a good day. No lumps, no pain, just a bit of sadness from missing our breastfeeding sessions.
Day 10: Sitting on the metro on my way to work writing this and sharing my story. I feel GREAT!
In summary, I LOVED breastfeeding my daughter so much. She was one baby who LOVED breastfeeding and even refused to take a pacifier. Brings me down memory lane when she refused to eat or drink anything the first few days of day-care (crèche) at 4 months old. All she did was wail, sleep a little and wait for me to get home at 6pm after papa had picked her up. The only reason I thought it was time to wean her completely is because I thought she would sleep better and eat better. And guess what? That’s exactly what she’s doing right now. Happy baby sleeping throughout out the night means happy mama right?
Whatever or however way or method you choose to wean your child, best believe mama knows best. You will get very good advice from all different angles. Receive it with open arms and an open mind, show gratitude, but also trust your motherly instinct. Just like all babies are different, mothers are different too. What worked for one person, may not necessarily work for you.
I kept telling myself, if she did not stop breastfeeding now, she would have to do it as some point anyway. Do I regret weaning her at 15 months? A little. Why? I miss it. Like I always say, “Nursing” is more than breastfeeding. It creates such an amazing bond (disclaimer: bottle feeding does too). The end of nursing my daughter has not diminished our strong bond not in the slightest bit!
I wish all mothers who are weaning or plan to wean their child in the future all the very best. Please enjoy breastfeeding your young because at some point, it will come to an end! The pain you first felt when you breastfed your baby right after birth is nothing compared to the beautiful breastfeeding bond shared.
“The most beautiful moments always seemed to accelerate and slip beyond one’s grasp just when you want to hold onto them for as long as possible.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”