At the end of May I realised that if I didn’t want to either tandem feed my toddler & newborn or cause lots of sadness to my toddler on baby’s arrival, that I needed to wean her fully off the boob some time before her little brother’s arrival. I have to make it clear that it’s not something I think anyone else shoulddo, I just personally don’t want to be feeding my 21 month old and a newborn because then I have no idea how I would wean the toddler. If I wasn’t pregnant I wouldn’t have minded the occasional comfort feed or night feed. Similarly I have no opinion on people who continue extended feeding, everything his just personal preference.
Ok, anyway, I had hoped to have a few months, 3 at least before baby boy arrived but it didn’t work out. I was trying to wean her off, she was pretty much only having middle of the night feeds and occasional comforts at times of stress such as teething or if she hurt herself, so there wasn’t a lot to get rid of but those middle of the night ones were tough because when everyone needs to sleep I find I’m pretty happy to do almost anything to get her to sleep, even if I don’t want to be doing it, read breast feed, co sleep (in our bed or her toddler bed 😫), dance a jig whatever! So roll around my husband’s birthday in June and I had organised a weekend away, with Nanny babysitting. This was a final hurrah before we had 3 kids to contend with, a dirty weekend (7 months preggo 😂), and a chance to just hang out the two of us, so it was a big deal to me. I was pretty freaked out because I had only ever spent one night away from my littlest daughter and that was on our wedding night when she was 15 months old, so I didn’t know how I was going to cope with 2 nights, let alone how she would manage. I also had the added stress of not wanting her to be distraught without me (or my boobs) so I had this weekend as my focus for by baby and my boobs to break up! The weekend away was a surprise so I found additional difficulty in going through the mental strain alone, I couldn’t explain to my husband why I was so upset about everything, but that’s just an aside (basically I just made things harder for myself).
My parenting style is probably best described as gentle attachment with a side order of practical mama, so I generally want to be careful and gentle but I am also realistic, and to coin a phrase, know that to make omelettes you have to break a few eggs. So I didn’t have time for her to simply decide she didn’t need the boob, I needed to steer her that way. I started with in the day time if she went for the boob, to laugh and say ‘no’ playfully and tickle her, telling her she was a big girl and didn’t need mummy milk, she laughed and was fine with that….RESULT!
At night, after her bedtime or middle of the night bottles, if she went for the boob, I would just cover them with my hand a stroke her hair, cuddle her etc and try to distract her or gently say no. By the time we went away she had been off the boob for 11 days and nights straight and I was feeling super proud. She seemed totally fine. She did asks for it occasionally but showed no stress when she was guided away. That was about 6 weeks ago…. She has been mostly off the boob but there have been a few relapses. There was one morning where I slept in her room, she had a terrible night, she wanted the boob all night, I managed to settle her (eventually) without it but had virtually no sleep. In the morning my husband woke up to her and brought her to me, we cuddled and she went for the boob, I was too tired to argue, she fed and we slept together for about 2 or 3 hours, we needed the sleep more than I needed her to not be on the boob. I felt so conflicted after, I knew I needed to be kind to myself and at 7/8 months pregnant I really needed to sleep, and I was also glad to be able to provide comfort to my daughter as I felt that strange mixture of pride (in my strength) and guilt (in my refusal) at not providing what she was asking for, but I also felt like ultimately I wasn’t helping her because the baby is going to arrive soon and he will be the only one with access to the boobie bar and my biggest fear is causing her undue stress or making her resent her brother because he can have the boob and she can’t. Mother’s guilt seriously sucks!
Since then she has probably has what I would call 2 or 3 “feeds” and then a couple of sneak attacks where she has snuck on (I’ll explain how that’s possible in a minute) but together we have gently ended it within a minute. The latest sneak attack was just a couple of days ago with baby due in a week. She tried to get them last night, but this time I anticipated it, so I was able to redirect rather than having to remove, but needless to say with 4 days until due date I am nervous about the impact his breastfeeding will have on her.
So how does a baby sneak on to your boob you might be wondering? Since we ended the boobie relationship, she developed a new habit of playing with my nipples as she drinks her milk or goes to sleep (for her daytime nap she has a story and a cuddle but no milk), or wants comfort – yes at the supermarket the hand goes down the top – lovely. I really don’t enjoy this nipple twiddling, especially with pregnant highly sensitive boobs, but I felt that I could go one step at a time and didn’t want to cut her off entirely – now I’m thinking cold turkey would have been better but hindsight is a wonderful thing! So in the night / early morning if she is in bed with me, which usually happens around 2-4 am, she will sometimes go to sleep no problem with the bottle but sometimes needs to fondle my to get to sleep, this is when the sneak attaches happen (and why I always sleep in a top now) but sometimes if it’s a vest / singlet or looser fit t-shirt she can still sneak a boob out and suddenly the unpleasant pinching rolling is a little mouth suckling and I’ve been snuck up on!
So this is where I’m at, baby is going to be here any day now (hopefully) and my big girl is still desperately attached to my boobs. I feel like a total failure that I haven’t been able to wean her and at the same time that I am not just giving her the comfort that she is asking for. I am so nervous about the potential upset this is going to cause her, being denied the boob while watching her little brother on there (constantly if I remember rightly). It’s so late now that there isn’t much more I can do but continue what I have been doing which has been working, sort of, but not completely. And I also need a strategy to end the nipple twiddling which seriously is the worst!