Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Goodbye Nahnah: The End of the Breastfeeding Journey

This poem really speaks to me at the moment- especially the last two paragraphs. After almost two years of breastfeeding, December 2015, just before Squish's second birthday, was when we decided it was finally time to swap the nursing bras for Wonderbras again. Two years seems like a logical time for weaning and felt right to me- I was finally able to have a meaningful two way discussion with my son about the topic by this age. Two years also happens to be the time period recommended for breastfeeding by both the World Health Organisation and the timeframe recommended according to my religion- if that is not a sign that this is a good time I am not sure what is!

The breastfeeding journey was a tough one for me (read more about my journey here). I must admit, the last few months of breastfeeding were a bit easier, but after two sleep deprived years, I knew it was time. 

We had previous failed attempts at weaning after about twelve months. La Leche League's recommended method for weaning is 'do not offer and do not refuse'. Let's just say that was an epic failure and I am fairly sure I would be feeding through the high school gates if we stuck to that mode of weaning. Previous (less subtle) weaning methods tried also included putting foul tasting substances on my breasts, from bitter aloe to balsamic vinegar ( both of which Squish just responded to with a bit of a funny face but then proceeded to suck off the offending substance nonchalantly) and wearing polo-necked tops (which literally got ripped open).

So when I tried weaning again this December, I was ready for a tough fight, which to my surprise never came. We waited until the holiday season, when A was on leave. Night time is when Squish tended to drink the most so we anticipated some sleepless nights. On night one, I did something that I never did before. I packed an overnight bag and Noodle and I spent the night at my mom's house (which is close enough for me to return on case of emergency). While Noodle and I had a night of Monopoly, Squish was home with daddy. I do not know what happened in my absence (though I suspect Squish was lulled to sleep by Youtube). I am told there were a few tears but that he only woke once or twice during the night and went back to sleep quite easily. 

The next morning, I returned, with large plasters across my breasts (and a dot or two of fake blood for theatric effect). When Squish saw it, I expected a fight but instead he said sweetly, 'sorry mommy' and gave me a big hug. He kept asking to look at it, but instead of trying to drink, he came to give me hugs and say sorry each time.

For the next few days, he did not try drinking at all, though he did ask to look at my plasters every hour or two. For a few days, he replaced his 'nahnah' with (oddly), copious amounts of grapes. Even now that the plasters are off, he still asks to have a look at his old comfort objects at least once a day. 

Nap times and bed time was tough for the first week or two as breastfeeding had always been our method of choice for getting him to drift easily to sleep. Slowly, we developed a new routine, which included the old elements, bath time, a shower and a bedtime story, but now we switched off the lights and had one extra bedtime story in the dark- each day we now have made up stories about a character, Bubbles, who is the star of all our stories. When Squish is ready to sleep, he covers his entire face with the duvet and then is asleep in a minute or two. I then move him to his cot, where he sometimes sleeps right through the night- something that never happened back when I was breastfeeding. 

What nobody told me is how painful the weaning process would be for me! See, the recommended method is slow weaning. To some extent, this was a slow weaning process as we had already eliminated all daytime feeds except before nap time. However, till now, Squish still fed several times each night and we stopped the night feeds abruptly, which is apparently not ideal for mom. I did not expect the assault on my breasts. To say that weaning was a (physically) painful experience for me is an understatement. I quickly developed all the symptoms of mastitis- very painful, engorged breasts, a slight fever and excruciating lumps caused by plugged ducts, made worse by me plugging my breasts up with plasters. While the pain level was almost comparable to being in labour, by this time I was away in the bushes for a few days so cabbage leaves and Nurofen was as advanced as pain alleviation treatment was going to get! I was leaking giant puddles of milk everywhere and had to change my clothes several times a day. Charming, I know. It took a few weeks before the pain slowly subsided but eventually it did.

It turns out that the weaning process was actually quite easy for Squish (which is what counts most for me). He has adapted very well to our new routine and, apart from asking to look at my breasts or holding on to them sometimes when he is upset, he has moved on. I will miss that giddy look of elation as he took the first sip at each feed, the feeling of closeness and the way his eyes would almost roll back in his head in ecstasy, but seeing my little boy growing up into an independent little person is equally rewarding. Now we start a new chapter, one without breastfeeding but with a whole new independent world to be explored.