We did it! Louie is now weaned after 15 months of breastfeeding and I (in fact everyone) has this new found sense of liberation. I absolutely adore breastfeeding and like with Isabella, loved feeding Louie. However, unlike Isabella we had a more challenging time. Not with the feeding itself or milk production, those were no problem at all, but with Louie’s wind and reflux and absolute want to feed constantly, which I have written about here.
Looking back now I can see very clearly that he was overfed and this was the cause of much digestive discomfort for our little fella but he grew very fond of the comfort that came with sucking and as time went on, he used it as a way to get back to sleep. Then as he got older, this want for sucking to get back to sleep grew stronger but his need for milk less as he enjoyed more solids and so the issue only became worse before it got better. Around the time Louie turned one, he basically threw out his pacifier which had been quite the saving grace so it has been a really lengthy process to gently and surely get him to sleep without being fed first. He never really took a bottle, in fact, he was weaned straight onto whole cow’s milk in a sippy cup! And of course, he now adores it and loves enjoying his bottle alongside his sister. Isabella absolutely adores milk before books and bed at night time!
Over a period of a few months, I gradually reduced feeds. After the afternoon feed, the next feed to go was the morning feed when Louie dropped that nap and was just sleeping once around midday. Then once Louie started at day care three days a week, I cut out the midday feed as he was going to sleep without me two days a week and so we just carried on. While it felt extremely hard at the time, I gave plenty of cuddles and within a week Louie started to go down easily for that midday sleep. He also slept better at this sleep and often for longer than he did when breastfed. At this point I was feeding Louie before bedtime at night and he was still waking at least twice a night and for one of those feeds he would often be up for 2-3 hours at a time uncomfortable and so I knew he was still being overfed. Those nights when we were up for hours at a time were the hardest. I was so tired that I often ended up re-feeding him just to sit down and have a rest. Even though I knew he didn’t need the milk, he went to sleep because he associated the sucking with sleep (and probably because he was so utterly exhausted by then). At this point, we cut out the bedtime feed and just offered him Cow’s milk in a sippy cup. Boy was that hard! All he knew was going to sleep after a breastfeed and so this took a little while but as soon as he got it, his first stretch of sleep was much longer. The nights were still a bit tricky but we had a breakthrough when I had my first trip away for a few days just before Louie was 15 months old. I ventured to Queenstown to do a half-marathon and was away two nights. It was from here that the night weaning started. When I returned home, the first few nights were sooooo hard and all I wanted was to breastfeed him in the night but I’ve learnt that with children consistency is paramount, so I just had to keep going and my husband helped me to stay accountable. He’d after all done quite a bit of the hard work those two nights I was away and so it wasn’t fair to then feed again. But merely a week on, Louie was going down easily and has since slept through the night a number of times! To say that is a revelation would be an understatement!
We have survived miraculously on barely a few hours of broken sleep every night for the better part of 15 months and so this feels beyond lovely. Louie also now wakes up ravenously hungry and will devour a huge bowl of warm porridge with gusto which is just delightful to watch.
It has been really heartfelt reflecting on the last 16 months because it finally feels like we may have come through the other side of those long sleepless nights with a young one. We still do have nights that are hard but they are less frequent and my husband is able to take turns with me to settle him because he now doesn't rely on being breastfed! While I will miss breastfeeding Louie, it feels liberating to be able to leave the house in the evening and overnight knowing Louie is happy without me. I now even have the pleasure of hoping into bed with Isabella and reading her books while Jonny puts Louie to sleep without hearing him scream out for me through the walls. We may have finally reached some kind of balance! As an added bonus, choosing clothes that are anything but feeding friendly is lovely.
Of course, I could have done this entire process much earlier, but in all honesty the timing didn’t feel right and I was so tired, I didn’t even know where to begin with making any changes and so I was content letting everything run its course. With baby number two you have an innate understanding that time goes by so very fast and while all-consuming at the time, it’s a fleeting moment in motherhood and something to be cherished. In this season of raising young children, it’s important to see the joy and pleasure in each stage because before you know it, they will have moved on to the next!
Before my very eyes this little boy is growing into such a young lad. He is content, happy and such a wee dude.
Much love to all the mum's and dad's and families out there working through feeding/sleeping issues. You will come up for air soon enough, if not completely, enough to make you see the light!