My first daughter was 15 months when I fell pregnant with the second. It was kind of a little bit earlier than I meant it to happen and so I kind of freaked out because she was still breastfeeding often throughout the night and I had no idea how that was ever going to change. So, I did a bit of research about night weaning.
Who am I kidding? I’d already done a tonne of research on night weaning and was just waiting for the “right time” to do it. This was that time.
To my surprise, it went better than expected. She didn’t protest much at all and by the third night she was happy to just cuddle up to me and fall asleep right away. Even in the evenings between her bedtime and mine got easier. That was however, where our weaning luck ended unfortunately.
Before long, I was facing quite a difficult breastfeeding aversion, which is such a strange thing to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. It’s just a very deep feeling that this should stop right now. It’s not a belief because as I said I believe in breastfeeding for as long as both want to. It’s not a fear, I wasn’t worried about whether breastfeeding one would take away from the other. I knew my body would make what it needed to. It’s just a shuddering “make this stop NOW” kind of feeling.
I’m sure it’s really just the body trying to conserve resources. Mine is famous for that shit. (Read: starvation mode in dieting)
I was still trying as much as I could when I went into labour with the little one and let me tell you, when they say nipple stimulation can trigger contractions they aren’t kidding! That attempt only lasted 10 seconds or so before daddy had to put her to bed instead of me.
Then, once little one was here, I looked forward to getting back to normal and just hoped the aversion would go away. I was so disheartened when it didn’t. The baby was tiny and when she breastfed it was just fine but her sister seemed so big and it continued to make my skin crawl. It’s funny because little E is now bigger than she was and I have no issues at all. It makes me really sad still to this day. She just wanted what always comforted her and I was unable to help.
It was a tough six months because I really wanted to let her feed until she was ready but I just couldn’t do it. I set limits, I counted to ten, I asked her to wait a little longer and her dad would pick her up and console her. She didn’t just walk around with a frown on her face, she screamed and tantrumed and it broke my heart each time. It’s no wonder she’s closer with him now after all that along with our “divide and conquer” style of parenting two kids. I do hope to manage to repair that over the years, though maybe I’m just being sensitive about it. She’s my first daughter, my first child and I hate to have made her feel rejected. For a time she said she didn’t love me, only daddy, but now she usually loves me too.
Her sister is near the age she was when she finally finished breastfeeding and is not anywhere near done, which of course, makes me feel guilty as hell. She’s also at least twice as stubborn as her older sister so I’m not sure I could dissuade her if I tried. Ever since around three or four months I’ve said that what E wants E always gets. She never backs down before I do. I can see her still breastfeeding two years from now, which of course, makes me feel even more guilty!
Ugh mum guilt! I really should find a way to let it go!
It’s looking less and less like we’re going to have a third child. For a while I was convinced we would but right now, I kind of think, maybe we should quit while we’re ahead! (And quitting while we’re ahead is an optimistic view on it really.) That means no interruptions to breastfeeding in the form of new aversions, so we should be able to wean more gently this time.
I was very lucky to have just read Memoirs of a Childhood’s post When Self Weaning Isn’t Smooth before finishing this post and it’s given me some food for thought. It reminds me that I’ll be able to talk with my youngest daughter about weaning, something that was limited in my eldest’s experience as she was only two. It also talks about keeping perspective and enjoying the moment for what it is. I do recommend it if you’re anywhere near breastfeeding a two, three or four year old.
In the end, it’s important to remember that the advice is to continue to breastfeed for as long as both mother and baby are happy to continue. As you wouldn’t force a small child to keep breastfeeding past when they were ready to stop I suppose I should accept the fact that I did the best I could to continue breastfeeding as long as I could. As my husband tells me, it wasn’t my fault that my body was fighting it and I tried really hard. Working through those feelings of guilt will be important and I’m sure that as time goes on and I feel more and more connected with my eldest daughter it’ll all be just fine in the end.
I can imagine apologising to my 25 year old daughter and getting an exasperated “It doesn’t matter, I love you!” back. And that’s all I want anyway.
For more end of breastfeeding experiences please hop on over to Life With Baby Kicks where you can gain further entries into the grand prize draw. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Keeping Britain Breastfeeding website. UK residents only.