In the middle of November our adventures in weaning began. With determination I set about to wean Freya from breastfeeding to bottle feeding and to introduce solids. I decided to do this all at once, I’m still not sure why. I decided to set a deadline of Christmas, again I’m not sure why!
Breastfeeding had gone well. It was mainly rhythmical and generally she was waking only once in the night (which is still the case but we’re working on it!). It was convenient and manageable. Despite this I knew my time with breastfeeding was done. Mainly I wanted my body back and I wanted Steve to be able to feed her with having to pump for days. Between trying to conceive, an early miscarriage, trying again to conceive, pregnancy and breastfeeding my body had been connected to growing a baby for nearly two years. While I’m forever grateful to my body I wanted it back. I was happy to be able to breastfeed for six months but I am also happy for Freya to have formula. I am more than satisfied that Freya’s nutritional needs are met by formula . But that’s not to say that I didn’t consider whether this is what I wanted to do at six months or whether it would be better for Freya to keep breast feeding for longer.
Before I embarked on weaning I did what any sensible person embarking on something new does, I Googled it. Yet again I failed to remember that the internet is a dodgy place!
What I found when I went in search of camaraderie was a general opinion that breast feeding is the sanctimonious high ground on which mothers must lay their bodies until their child says otherwise, unless of course you are a selfish witch. I also found plenty of comments from mothers saying that after all the effort they took to pump breastmilk they wanted a label for their bottles stating that their bottles contain “Pure Breastmilk” or “100% Breastmilk Inside”because the last thing the would want was to be mistaken for a “lazy mom” using formula.
As a parent you can feel inadequate, selfish and even neglectful without anyone else adding to that. Add a chorus of online voices and you can end up feeling barbaric for even considering your own needs. But before becoming a parent I was a rational person capable of making reasoned decisions for myself. Other peoples opinions have always had the ability to make me question myself and I’ll admit that nothing feels more personal than a question put over my capability or commitment to raise my children. Even if the people writing online have no idea I exist. But I’ve still got those qualities that I had before becoming a mum. I’m still a rational person capable of reading emotive and sometimes visceral comments on the internet and still making a reasoned decision as to what was best for me. With the same certainty that I knew I wanted another child I also knew that my time with breastfeeding had come to an end and I trusted that feeling completely.
While I was resolute in the decision the process wasn’t exactly planned or smooth. I took on the following thought process.
” Looking online hasn’t helped, let’s just try a bottle here and there and see how we get on. Why isn’t she taking the bottle? This is suddenly really important to me because it’s not working. Great, she’s taking the bottle. Why isn’t she settling? I shouldn’t breastfeed her, she’s not hungry. Okay I’ll just feed her for a few minutes just to calm her but I won’t do it after the next bottle. God my boobs hurt. Why won’t she take the bottle from anyone other than me? The internet said babies generally don’t take a bottle from their mothers so why is she only taking it from me? I hate the internet. My boobs are so sore. Why is she now waking in the night? My boobs are really incredibly sore. She’s awake again but I just breastfed her, that’s not the deal, she’s meant to be soothed for at least a few hours. I wonder what time it is? It’s so dark. At least I can sleep when I breastfeed her. Oh my god I just fell asleep. Where is she? Is she alright? Have I rolled over her? Oh yeah I put her in the cot an hour ago. Great I’ll get some sleep before Ewan comes in. Feck it, she’s awake again. She used to sleep at night. I definitely remember her sleeping in the night. What the fuck have I done!!”
You can expect my weaning guide to be published any day now! Transitioning to formula bottles took about 6 weeks with only an occasional breast feed towards the end but for those weeks I was an absolute wreck. The house was filled with half finished bottles, I was breastfeeding for peace and quiet and I seemed to have blown the glory days of waking once a night out of the water. I was now breast feeding her multiple times in the night because I was too tired to try and convince her that she really did like bottles. I was trying to feed her bottles in the day when I had the most energy for perseverance. Simultaneously I was hauling trough loads of food to my toddler who seemed to be experiencing a bout of hunger that only those who have been directly affected by famine could truly understand!
The word relentless kept spinning in my head. Despite the logical part of my brain knowing that this is a phase. that this won’t go on forever and she was in fact taking the bottle little by little. My exhausted brain took the helm and nothing seemed right. I huffed every time my toddler proclaimed he was hunnnngggrrryyy not only because it wasn’t humanly possible but because I had no energy to do anything else but feed him. I huffed at Freya refusing her bottle from anyone but me. I sighed at myself for feeding her to settle her and for generally not managing it all better. “Why couldn’t there be just one feed I didn’t have to do?” was my cry to the bottle Gods.
I had made the decision because I wanted my body back but now my body ached. Heavy with milk, it urged me to feed her. I resisted and the pain got worse. When she cried my body would swell further yearning to feed her. I felt like I was going against nature and so sometimes I would feed her when we were scheduled to try her with another bottle. Steve would arrive ready to try a bottle as I had started to feed her. I’d look at him apologetically and wonder what how this was ever going to even out. Or I would feed her after a bottle knowing that she wasn’t hungry but knowing that being breast feed would soothe her instantly. Other times I was so determined not to breast feed straight after her refusing a bottle I would wrap her up and take her for a walk. Being outside would calm her and I felt like we both could reset ready for our next feeding encounter. I was in weaning ground zero and no one was winning. It was a disaster. When she cried I felt guilt, is this all because I want some me time. How much do I really like myself? Maybe hanging out with me isn’t worth this!
Food wasn’t going much better either. I have since moved to buying food for her for the few weeks it takes for her to eat our meals. She only ever ate two meals that I cooked for her and that was with significant protest. In her defense the meals I made were genuinely awful. Despite various experiments I was so determined it would be a safe consistency that everything tasted of dirty water. So for the moment I buy Ellas Kitchen food pouches mainly because they use the word organic with sufficient frequency as to ease any guilt I have about not cooking for her. Plus when I taste them I actually like the taste, which is more than can be said for the wasteland carrot mixtures I was producing. She’s learning to eat and try new flavours with enthusiasm now.
As for my body. It is all mine again. It needs strength and that’s what I want to give myself this year. My body owes me nothing now but I owe it a bit of TLC, it’s had a busy few years!
As for us we are out of the weaning fog. There was no break through moment but little by little she learned to soothe herself without being breastfed, little by little she took more ounces and little by little I stopped producing milk. At this moment in time a pattern of three has emerged and I’ve never been so relieved to have a structure. I know enough to know that a pattern only lasts so long before teething, a cold a clock going forward or an inexplicable turn of events turns everything on it’s head again. But for the moment all is well. She eats three meals a day. She sleeps for a total of three hours in the day. She drinks three bottles in the day and she wakes at 3:30 in the night. There was no magic answer for how we got her, trail mixed with plenty of errors, patience and frustration. It took longer than I had excepted but a rhythm has appeared and it has quietened the din.