I’m writing this post with a heavy heart… Just about to reach my limit, I (we) took the decision of starting our night weaning process. What drove me to the edge? Exhaustion, tiredness beyond belief, there are many ways to describe it. Baby S went through a stage where he was feeding about 8 times overnight. The worst part? At the break of dawn. I didn’t know what to do anymore and whenever he came to me, I would think “oh no, not again”. It was no longer a pleasure to feed him at this time, and trust me, this was hard to accept. I did my best to send any guilty feelings on their path along and sought help.
Yes, I felt guilty… guilty of denying my son something he wanted. Couldn’t I just “suck it up?”. No, I couldn’t. This phase coincided with a lot of work (after having done diddly-squat for ages) and I just couldn’t focus, no matter how hard I tried. I wasn’t ok anywhere, and I felt I wasn’t there, present, in the moment with my son the way he deserved me to be, in fact the way he always deserves me to be. I took the decision to slow down and speak to a professional, in this case, child sleep specialist Andreia Neves over at Centro Pré e Pós Parto.
This does not mean I will stop feeding, it just means I’ll stop doing it at nighttime. In other words, I’ll remove my breasts from a sleep context. The idea is to provide Baby S with other sleep tools that will allow him to not depend on my breasts alone for this. If I boob him to sleep then it’s my boob he’ll come looking for if he wakes up in the middle of the night. It’s normal. He needs that comfort, which I’ve made him used to over 22 months.
The truth is, there are many other ways of offering him this comfort, but it has to be done slowly and gently and respecting Baby S. It should never be cold turkey. This has to be managed in a way that is beneficial to both parties – mother and baby. The right timing to do this is when the baby sleeps more or less throughout the night, which Baby S does. He sleeps until roughly 6 am in his own room and at this time he’ll come find me for some boob time. Making the most of a “good” moment is crucial, as it’s likely he’ll go down the feeding 8 times overnight route again and if I do that then, he’ll be too frustrated to understand the message I’m trying to send him …. That boobies are for the daytime now.
So, how can I do this? The first step is to feed him outside his sleep context, that is, outside the room he normally sleeps in. For instance, in the living room. Talk to him as I feed him, explaining what is going on (yes, they do understand everything we say. My son tried to persuade me and reason with me as to why I should feed him. And he doesn’t say a single word). Do not let your child fall asleep on your breast, that is, pick the exact moment between not sleeping, but falling asleep on his own if you lay him down. It’s challenging, to say the least. And up to now, I’ve only managed to get him to fall asleep on the sofa. Baby steps, literally.
This is the stage we’re at. As for the next steps? I’ll share them when I get there 😉