Yesterday, Arddun broke up with me.
Or at least it felt like it. Mind you, I think she’s been hinting at it for a while. Each breastfeed was getting shorter, each bottle with a little more left over. I knew that babies her age start to cut down on their milk as their interest in solids starts to ramp up.
But what I didn’t expect was complete and utter rejection.
Yesterday, she woke up as per normal, had a very efficient feed before breakfast, had some milk before her afternoon nap… and then refused another drop for the rest of the day.
But the night feed. I was hanging out for the night feed. She feeds particularly well when she first wakes and when she’s about to go to sleep. She starts and almost ends her day with me. Tony follows up with a bottle after her feed with me, before tucking her into bed. But I love that we top and tail the day together. Just us girls, in the semi-darkness. Quiet. Peaceful. It’s very easy to be grateful to God and our lives in moments like these.
But then she wouldn’t have me.
We waited five minutes. Outright refusal.
We waited another five minutes and tried again. This time, there were tears and loud, tired protests. I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times… I don’t want breast milk! Get me away from the breast milk!
Except it sounded a lot more like Get me away from you.
There are two main definitions of weaning, depending where you live. One defines weaning as moving on from breast to bottle. The other defines it as moving from milk to solids. And I was not prepared for either.
Out came the mommy books.
And then I read it.
“Self-weaning can happen as early as 8 or 9 months, although it’s most common at about 1 year…”
“I was devastated when my baby self-weaned very abruptly at 11 and a half months. I wasn’t prepared for it at all.”
~ Kidwrangling by Kaz Cooke, page 96.
The calm broke. Suddenly, I felt hot, desperate, panicky. And then Tony came out and asked what I found in the books and before I could finish my sentence, I was on the dining room chair sobbing my heart out. Like, huge howls and gulping.
I had thought… I don’t know what I’d thought. That we had months. At least four more months. I was fully prepared to breastfeed her for at least a year. And yes, there’s the ol’ breast-is-best factor. And yes, she’s not a year old yet, so she needs to get most of her nutrition from milk yada yada… I know all that.
But mostly, I was howling because my baby girl didn’t need me anymore.
These books and nurses and society and other mothers… they keep harping on about getting babies started on the breast. How to get them latched, how to build a good supply, how often you should feed, demand vs scheduled feeds… whatever. All of that.
But no one ever mentioned that babies could suddenly sit up one afternoon and go cold turkey.
I expected only to have to deal with this later this year. Next year even. Mentally prepared for this separation to happen then. I was going to try and let her decide when she had enough… but like all mothers, I was only prepared to let her choose on my terms. Not hers.
Spent the rest of last evening reading up on self-weaning, and getting discouraged by mothers who either
- are smug that their perfect baby has never done this to them because they were breastfed-only
- are convinced self-weaning can never happen this early and women who claim that’s what’s happened are delusional
- think this happens as a result of poor diet control and bad parenting.
The last thought I had before I dropped off to sleep was how much I hate the internet and mommy forums. Then I dreamt that my boss at Big Fat got mad at me and wouldn’t throw me a farewell party. Because I didn’t tell him I was planning to quit my job, as I was having problems getting Arddun to drink any milk.
You know you’re worried when you start dreaming about work.
This morning, we tried again. Arddun drank for 7 minutes, during which I felt like she was draining my life source or something equally dramatic and rama-rama-ding-dong. And then she refused for the rest of the day. And yes, even the night feed. I took to hiding my milk in her semi-solid meals.
But this morning, I started out with a clearer head.
One nugget of information I clung onto last night in the mountain of garbage that the internet offers was the fact that babies sometimes do this – it’s called a Nursing Strike – but they can eventually go back to breastfeeding. One mother persevered for two straight weeks and her boy finally went back to nurse until he self-weaned for good at 17 months.
We went to the maternal and child health clinic today, and the MACH nurse basically concurred the same. She also pointed out some other reassuring facts, such as
- Arddun’s weight (still 75th percentile) and her height (still 90th percentile).
- The fact that babies her age are very efficient eaters, so 7 minutes’ worth will actually fill her.
- The fact that she’s constantly moving and would therefore be an easily distracted baby.
- The fact that she has a cold, which means her sense of taste might have altered.
- The fact that she could be teething again, which might mean some discomfort for her mouth.
- The fact that this is perfectly normal behaviour for an 8+ month old.
- The fact that they usually grow out of this and come back to breastfeeding.
And so I’m counting. Tonight marks the end of Day 1, and even though I still feel my heart sink when she refuses me point blank, I’m keeping the bigger picture in mind.
Babies, eh? Just when you think you’ve got the gig sorted out, they go and throw another 9 curve balls at you. It’s been an educational 24 hours, the biggest revelation for me being how much I’ve come to adore and cherish my time nursing my daughter. All this time when I’ve been checking emails on my phone, or gazing at her quiet perfection as we sit in nursing silence… a gloriously long, thin golden thread has been winding delicately over my heart and I’m finding it ever so hard to let go. Already.
29 February 2012 at 8:34 am
oh hun I hear you. Bronte is doing the same thing on and off at the moment. The first night it happened I was really worried that she wouldn’t have a good night sleep with no mummy milk but she woke up normal time the next morning. I was sad too that ‘our’ time might be coming to an end sooner than I am ready for it to happen. Little puppets keep us on our toes. They are all soo different.
29 February 2012 at 12:58 pm
Aw hon!!! Yes, we dont realise how special that BFing relationship is until its threatened, huh! As i was reading this i was thinking – NURSING STRIKE! Lol, so good to see you already came across that info! And how wonderful you got such a good and helpful MACH nurse too – they can be hard to find! I agree w all her points and from personal experience too – yep around this age, esp wiggly little Eli, got sooooo hard to feed – they are just total busy bodies haha! but though he had some good and some almost-nothing feeds, they usually do move through the phase and keep it up. So press on and maybe just express after a missed feed to keep supply up (as im betting you are already doing!). The cold and teething I bet plays a role too. So yeah… not alone and my bet is that you will be BFing for a good while yet – tho it can take a little more work than it used to (eg quiet rooms instead of in the cafes, doh!!)!. Anyway – at the end of the day – if she quit tomorrow (which i bet she doesnt) she will still always need and love you and connect with you in a zillion other precious ways that havent even been thought of yet! xx
1 March 2012 at 9:49 pm
Thanks, everyone, for your encouraging comments both private and published. Arddun’s back! Her hiatus dried up pretty quick. I also think she’s teething big time, because she’s been biting her finger the whole of today.
Methinks another fang is afoot. Har Har Har.