It’s been about 7 weeks since I stopped breastfeeding and I finally feel like myself again. Bit of a statement there!
My breastfeeding journey has had its ups and downs. Like many others, breastfeeding didn’t come naturally to me and my little one Rory, and it wasn’t until he was about 12 weeks old that we started getting into the swing of things. Here’s a summary of my feeding journey up to that point where I spoke about my challenges and also shared some resources/ blog posts and purchases that helped me out.
Breastfeeding has been one of the hardest but also most rewarding things I’ve done. Those night feeds can be so hard but when you look down at your little one and they start snuggling in or wrapping their arms around you for a cuddle, you can’t help but smile and all is forgiven for the lack of sleep.
I had always wanted to try and get to 6 months and I did (yay!), however the choice to stop at this point was taken out of my hands. I had assumed that a baby would always have a bottle if offered… how wrong I was! Due to our 2nd trip into hospital and having to give Rory top ups for the first month of his life, he’d taken to having a bottle so well. Tim then would give him a couple bottles a day and it was just the cutest thing ever to watch. This pic (see below) has to be one of my fav of them at the time… I mean look at Rory gripping his hand around Tim’s finger! It meant that I could have a bit of a break too and also get a bit more sleep. When I kept getting clogged ducts and mastitis something had to change and at the recommendation of my lactation consultant, I stopped pumping and giving Rory the bottle to try and sort out my supply. Naively, we didn’t realise that this could mean that Rory would start refusing a bottle… apparently it can be quite common for babies who previously accepted a bottle and then don’t have one for a length of time can start refusing. Rory obviously liked the real deal as well as the experience as a whole (close contact, cuddles etc.) rather than just getting the milk.
Unfortunately, we realised he wouldn’t take a bottle when I tried to see friends in London for the day. Rory hadn’t taken a bottle in just over a month, but like I said it had never been a problem before. We’d stayed at my mum’s just outside London and Tim drove back up to Birmingham with Rory while I went into London for a friend’s birthday brunch. I’d literally been at the restaurant for less than an hr when Tim text to say Rory was refusing a bottle. By chance it was a super-hot day in July so I felt like the worst mum ever! Mum guilt sucks! I gave my apologises and jumped on a train back to London as quick as I could. There were many tears (on both Rory’s and my part) and I still remember that day so vividly. About 2 and a half hours later I arrived at Birmingham International and Tim had stripped Rory down to his nappy to keep him cool and was trying his best to distract him in the car. We moved the car into the shade and I then fed Rory for about 20 mins which is a loooooong time for Rory – he’s always been a very efficient drinker. Poor little boy. After about 10 mins he popped up to say hi and then went back to it. He was about 4 months at this stage.
Mum guilt absolutely sucks and I think I’ll have to do another post on that. Gosh, the amount of things I want to write but just finding the time is difficult! I’m now back at work full time and trying to find time to clean the house, blogging, sort out life admin in between working and looking after Rory around nursery and the weekends is hard. Sorry… got side tracked there… back to the topic!
After 4 months, we tried giving a bottle many more times but Rory shot that down! It was a bit of a catch 22… we’d sorted out my lumps etc. but now I was solely responsible for Rory’s milk.
Since then, we’ve definitely had our ups and downs. Feeding Rory to sleep and those gorgeous, comfy cuddles where you forget about the rest of the world or just being able to give him some boob quickly while you’re out and about was so convenient. On the flip side it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Rory went through phases of biting and omg it was so painful. I had thought the milk blister scenario was awful but the anticipation of not knowing when he was going to bite and the bloody nipples had me in tears and wanting to stop but not being able to. This biting always coincided with teething and it felt like he was teething for months at a time. It was emotionally and physically exhausting and impossible to explain to a baby to stop it. I had to dig out the lanolin cream to apply after a feed and wear breast pads again. If I didn’t remember to put the cream on, the open cut would stick to the breast pad/ bra and I’d have to pull it off which most times resulted in it starting to bleed again. Most nights I’d try and clean them with a damp wash cloth so that they wouldn’t get infected. This happened several times but not every baby is a biter when feeding! Also some babies don’t even get teeth until after some mums stop breastfeeding! This happened with a friend where her little one didn’t cut her first tooth until she was 13 months and by this time they’d stopped breastfeeding.
Going back to work in January had me super stressed out. Rory was showing no signs of slowly up feeding and refusing to take milk (breast milk/ formula/ cow’s milk) from a cup so I reached out to the Health Visitor. She put my mind at rest and said by 10 months he’d be getting solids at nursery so that would impact the amount of milk he’d have anyway. I was still feeding him before and after nursery, at bedtime and during the night so he was still getting a decent amount of milk. Until just before his first birthday we still sent in milk into nursery in the hope he’d have some from a cup which he did for a few weeks and then outright refused.
I had to go back to pumping when Rory started nursery which coincided with me going back to work and I definitely didn’t miss it! I’d misplaced my pump so used a friend’s Medela Freestyle which was amazing! That first day back at work was stressful as it was the longest I’d ever been away from Rory and the nursery app wasn’t working so I wasn’t getting any updates through. I couldn’t find my pump and for the first time ever the Haakka wasn’t working! I was super stressed and my left boob was so painful from trying and failing to manually pump. It was the first time in about 8 months that I’d gotten a lump but luckily it went down after a couple days. Once I had the electric pump I started setting private appointments in my work calendar to remind myself to pump and luckily working from home this wasn’t too much of an issue.
I was shocked to see that work places in the UK don’t have to provide a separate, private, lockable room and instead this is only guidance. The one day I ended up having to go into the office, I had to pump in the toilet. Luckily it was a fairly posh and large loo but it did make me quite pissed off that the facilities weren’t available especially as I most certainly wasn’t the first woman to come back to work and still be breastfeeding. I only had to do this once in the office. I’d also forgotten to wear breast pads that day and got some leakage as a meeting overran and I was late pumping! Luckily it didn’t show up through what I was wearing!
So… it’s definitely been a rollercoaster journey!
My journey to stopping breastfeeding basically started when I went back to work. This was my feeding/ pumping schedule:
Fed Rory at wake up
Fed Rory after nursery
Fed Rory at bedtime
Fed Rory throughout the night
I dropped the lunch pump
I dropped the mid-afternoon pump
I dropped the mid-morning pump which resulted in me no longer having to pump:
Fed Rory at wake up
Fed Rory after nursery
Fed Rory at bedtime
Fed Rory throughout the night
By this point I was ready to stop breast feeding and get some freedom back so I slowly started dropping the other feeds. I started with the after nursery feed and replaced this with a snack and water in the car. This snack pot is a God send! It took Rory a few days to get used to not having a breastfeed in the car after nursery but he quickly started looking forward to a snack!
Rory was still trying to feed on demand at the weekends so 1 weekend about this time, we decided to try and stop this and make the weekends the same as the week. We knew Rory didn’t need the milk as he was absolutely fine during the week. I dressed myself in a non-breast feeding friendly dress to make sure I wouldn’t give in and Tim was on hand to distract Rory and give him snacks and water. Again, it went so much easier than we thought and after 1 day Rory didn’t grab my top randomly and try to eat me.
I then dropped the night time feed as we thought this might be impacting his sleep. For several nights Tim would go in during the night instead of me if he woke up and again he adapted within a few nights.
We were then left with the morning and bedtime feeds. This was around Rory’s birthday as we had his 12 month developmental review and dietician appointment for his egg allergy. The Health Visitor was happy with Rory’s weight and that he was hitting his milestones (see here) and gave me the green light to drop the final feeds. You obviously don’t need to get permission to drop feeds, but for me it was the reassurance I needed that Rory was doing well before I dropped them.
We decided to drop the morning feed first and again it took Rory a few days to adjust. We knew Rory was only doing these feeds for comfort as he would only have 1 side and would only be for a minute or 2 tops whilst playing with me. Tim again did wake up the first day and he didn’t miss it at all. Day 2, I went in and he was not happy that I didn’t take him to the rocking chair and instead straight to the changing table to get ready for the day. By day 3 he was absolutely fine and had forgotten about it.
It was now that one of my boobs started to hurt as I was only feeding Rory on each side every other day. I could tell that my supply had dropped fairly rapidly after dropping the morning feed as Rory was getting frustrated at the bedtime feed and hitting my chest and coming off and on a lot. So a few days later we dropped that feed. I found this quite emotional as I’d fed him before bed for over a year and it was the end of our breastfeeding journey together. Tim did the first 3 nights of bedtime and gave him cuddles to sleep and it went surprisingly well. I then did nights 4 and 5 and he didn’t ask for milk at all.
Babies are so much more adaptable that we sometimes give them credit for and it can be us that finds any change harder. We decided to drop the bedtime feed last as a feed before bed was part of his bedtime routine. Books, bath, feed, bed.
I was ready for a big emotional breakdown but luckily it didn’t come. Instead my period returned bringing with it cramps galore! I had experienced an emotional rollercoaster back at the end of Jan when Rory stopped feeding as much where I was so upset about the smallest of things.
Some people decide to carry on breastfeeding for a while but for me the goal post was 1 year. I craved that freedom and wanted my body back. The decision to stop earlier had been taken out of my hands and I was now ready.
Since stopping, my skin has been so much better, I’ve lost some weight and my boobs have deflated. I feel like myself and feel freedom in being able to wear whatever I like. I’m so proud of myself for breastfeeding just over a year and giving Rory that good start but also proud of myself for stopping when it felt right for us. Rory is thriving and is drinking lots of water which is a relief. As he doesn’t have extra milk we just make sure he gets a portion of milk with his breakfast (porridge or Weetabix) and a couple more portions of dairy during the day. We also make sure that we give him his vitamins. We’ve just finished Well Baby Multi-Vitamin Drops and now have some 12 months + vitamin liquid to give. We find the syringe really easy to give each day.
Wow! That was a long post but I hope if anything it helps someone in a similar situation. I’m not a health care professional and this is just our journey. My top tip is don’t be so hard on yourself and reach out to your GP or Health Visitor if you ever have any concerns or want some reassurance. There is also your local feeding support teams and many have facebook pages or a number you can call up. You know your body and your baby best!
Until next time,