07 Mar Getting back my boobs: The end of my breastfeeding journey
I have been wanting to write the inevitable ‘my breastfeeding journey’ post for as long as… well since Axl was born, but I never really got around to it, because unlike other posts of its kind, I didn’t see any grand significance in it. Axl has been easy from the word go, he latched without any problems, he burped, he pooped, he did what babies do. My breastfeeding journey has been relatively easy with very few hiccups along the way. However, after 2 years, it has come to an end and I am finally ready to share with you, my “journey”.
The first few days, when my milk came in, wasn’t as painful as some described. Yes, I had a blister on the 2nd day of being home from the hospital, but with a little perseverance, some nourishing balm and “just getting on with it,” it all passed and within a month, I had breastfeeding sorted. I had figured out how to tell which boob he last fed off, I had even mastered sleeping through the entire night WHILE switching sides half way through (feeling smug about doing so, I might add). I am going to be obnoxious and say that Axl has probably had 10 bad nights (IN TWO YEARS!) where he’d wake up and cry, all of which were either teething, flu or most recently, fear of the dark related.
In the beginning, I would excuse myself from the room, the dinner table and family activities to go and feed my baby boy in a spare room, bathroom or wherever else, so that I wouldn’t make anyone else feel uncomfortable. One day, while out at lunch, I was sitting in a baby room which smelt so bad. I wanted to vomit from the odour that was coming from the bathroom facilities and was fed up with having my kid exposed to germs (hepatitis A is horrible) all to accommodate someone who in fact, wasn’t being very accommodating. I eventually decided to use a cover-up but very soon learnt that Axl would break out in sweats from the heat and him being so uncomfortable would end up drawing more attention with his hysterical tantrum and kicking the blanket off.
By 6 months, I figured, what the hell. My boobs are my boobs, it’s not like I am rubbing them in anyone’s face. I would constantly ask Darren if anyone could see anything, but began to realise that my kid pretty much did all the covering up of my “intimates” and slowly, I gained confidence in feeding my child wherever he felt comfortable feeding (yes, even the swimming pool of his granny’s house). I didn’t see the need in trying to cover him and learnt that if my child’s eating habits made you feel uncomfortable in the slightest, you are always welcome to leave. If we were in the company of friends, I would turn my back a little or, pull my shirt to cover anything that may seem obscene. I rarely ever fed in public, but on the few occasions that he was overtired or hysterical, I had perfected my resting bitch face to the point that no one even thought twice of trying to mention what a disgusting and inconsiderate human I am, giving up my boobs to give my child the best sustenance for the first 2 years of his life. I know, I am totally the selfish one, here.
Since learning to let Axl just be, breastfeeding would fit in with whatever we were doing. I didn’t have to try schedule around him or his feeding times. When he needed to feed, sleep, or just a gentle reminder that I am still here, he would get just that, without any fuss.
By the time he turned one, he had already been introduced to a large variety of different food groups, always eager to pick from off our plates and try new flavours but despite my best efforts, he just wouldn’t take to a bottle, cup, or sippy cup of the sorts. It was also at this time that he one day woke up and decided that he didn’t need a dummy anymore. It was bittersweet really. Yes, it meant not having to try to wean him off the dummy when he was older (and more adamant) but it also meant that for the next 12 or so months, I became the human pacifier.
There are things that I am about to share that I don’t believe are necessarily shared in these sort of posts, but for the sake of keeping it real, here we go.
Breastfeeding is beautiful, it’s a great opportunity to bond with your kid, it’s all those wonderful things that you will read all over social media, magazines and more. But it’s also tiring. In fact, it’s exhausting having your body shared for much longer than those initial 40 weeks of pregnancy. I know that this sounds horrible and believe me, I am ever grateful for having stuck out breastfeeding for 24-months, I wouldn’t change a thing about our experience and am grateful for it being so easy. But in the same breath, there were times – many of them – where I begged for a minute to myself, where I would cry and ask for him to just stop sucking for a little while. The constant friction, the almost swallowing me up whenever I tried to move, the crying whenever I tried to put him down for a nap, it became overwhelming.
Again, I know I sound selfish. But I am sharing my feelings and hoping that there are others who at some point could relate too.
So last Sunday, my little boy turned two. I had tried to gradually wean him for the last 2 months, following the very thoughtful steps on numerous sites, but started feeling like they clearly weren’t faced with a toddler who had prematurely reached “terrible-twos.” I made special tea, milk, milkshakes and smoothies, bragging that only big boys were allowed these drinks. I bought about fifty “big boy” cups, trying to make the entire thing very special. I even did the “not now dear, we will have boob later.” And you know what the response was? Scratching, screaming and complete toddler meltdown.
On Monday, I decided to pull out the big guns and tell him that my boobies were sick. I bought brightly coloured plasters and “stop n grow” which is a nail biting deterrent (and harmless.) The pharmacist said that kids tend to bite right through their nails even when the stuff is on, but I didn’t want to get the stronger variant as I distinctively remember the taste of stop n grow, when my mom used it on my own nails (and to wean my sister at 30 months of breastfeeding). I dabbed just a little on my boobs and waited for nap time. He tried to feed, tasted it and that was the end of boob. I was surprised (and a little heartbroken… but more relieved) when there weren’t any tears. Strangely, he hasn’t cried about it at all, which makes me realize that he was ready.
I won’t lie, there have been some expected tough times, especially through the night when he is so used to having his human pacifier right by his side. He whines a little and then with some shushing and a reassuring rub of his tummy, he falls back to sleep. The bitter tasting stuff has since washed off and there have been a few times where I’ve woken up to him sneaking a feed but I know that it is just a habit and with a little time, it will come to an end too. Nap time is possibly my favourite, he so easily comes to be held and closes his eyes to fall asleep like a big boy. He has asked once or twice to be fed since stopping, but when I offer, he says no. So I realise that when he is consciously awake, he remembers that the boobies are sick but obviously in his half-asleep daze, he forgets.
I know, my method wasn’t very conventional and perhaps I am a horrible mom. But I didn’t want to lose what I loved so much about the 2 years of breastfeeding him. It had really gotten to the stage where I knew he no longer needed to feed but was just doing so out of boredom and doing it so often, made me dislike it altogether.
Since stopping, he has almost tripled his food and drink intake. He loves water more than any kid should, he helps me make him tea in his Cars cup and takes me to the fridge whenever he wants something to eat. He loves yoghurt, cheese, cold meats, fish fingers, veggies with cream cheese – anything really!
So that’s where we are today, I am grateful for the time that I had and even happier that weaning went a little better than I had expected. If I have any advice for you, before you approach the weaning stage, it is to make sure that you’re fully committed. There is nothing more confusing to a kid than to not be allowed boob one minute and allowed the next. Axl was under the weather on day 4 of weaning and I really just wanted to comfort him with boob and let him know that it’s going to be okay, it took everything in me to stop myself from just feeding him and giving up on the last 4 days of progress. Instead, I forced myself to get creative and distract him in other ways, we played cars, rode bikes, played cops and robbers and watched movies together while playing with kinetic sand.
I’m a beauty-obsessed, caffeine-fueled, soccer-loving, chocolate-eating, picture-taking, occasional-blogging, faith-inspired, mom of two.