In my last post about Rory and breastfeeding, I was keen to continue as we are throughout my pregnancy with baby number three, to take advantage of the benefits of tandem feeding in the early days with a newborn.
It’s true that last time I tandem fed, we all benefited. Me, because I suffered no engorgement (having an established feeding toddler around to sort that out). Arlo, because there was no jealousy over something he ‘used’ to have, tandem feeding allowed Arlo a knowing insight into just why his little brother loved milk so much, a shared bond for them both, right from the start. Rory, because my already rock-solid milk supply was not affected by the fact he had tongue-tie. He didn’t have to work hard to get an established flow. Bigger babies (he was 9lbs 4oz) are expected to lose some birth weight due to their size, Rory lost none.
I hadn’t perceived any of these benefits in advance, I just thought it would be a nice thing for Arlo, knowing his personality. But in hindsight, I was really glad we had taken that path. It made everything a lot smoother. I rarely fed them both at the same time, but, for a good year and a bit, Arlo and Rory were both breastfeeding, up until Arlo weaned just before he turned four.
I had no plans to wean Rory during this pregnancy. In fact, it was the opposite – I had plans to continue so that we could feel the benefits of tandem feeding once again when baby three arrives.
But then I realised a shift in Rory – he still loved his milk and would ask for it a couple of times a day (we were down to just one day time feed, after a good half year of slowly cutting down from approximately four feeds per night and about the same in the day time), but he was also happily distracted with something else, and there would be days where he didn’t feed at all, and didn’t have a meltdown when he realised he’d missed out. It was as if he could chop and change his feeding routine quite happily, something that was NEVER the case with Arlo.
And then I started to think how nice it would be, after five years of continuous breastfeeding, and knowingly about to embark on another however many years with a new baby on the way, to have a break for once, however short it may be. A small period of time where I wasn’t breastfeeding. Something entirely unimaginable, but very appealing at the same time.
Would I feel different? Would it change anything, or would the change be entirely unnoticeable? I couldn’t remember what it was like to NOT be breastfeeding.
Answer: I’ve gratefully dropped about half a cup size, and I’ve found I’m less hungry than when I’m breastfeeding – both of which are welcomed changes. It’s also nice not to be pawed every time I sit down, and I still get lots of cuddle time in with both my boys. I don’t miss feeling touched out, or having to say “not now”.
So, I went with it. Rory went a couple of days without remembering to ask. When he did remember, I was prepared with my nonchalant response “the milk has run out now”, and a quick diversion tactic. I’ll be honest, he didn’t accept this reasoning freely, and it did take about a month before he stopped asking completely (during which time I kept wondering if he was EVER going to forget about it). But I could see he clearly wasn’t distressed, there was no huge sense of loss, he was just slightly disgruntled, in the same way that he is when I refuse him a snack two minutes after he’s finished eating his breakfast.
And then the new routine became normal, and I realised it had been days since he’d asked. We weaned just before we moved house, so around three months ago. It must be over six weeks now since he last asked. We’ve cleared the hurdle. We’re out the other side.
Two children now weaned with no emotional distress. It’s a big milestone. Because after breastfeeding way into the toddler years, you really have no idea how it’s going to go when you do wean. They remember for a long time. It’s one of the longest standing attachments between mother and child, so changing that is always going to be approached with an element of caution and the sense that it’s a huge deal.
With all this importance attached to it, I was worried about how I would feel once it had happened. Would I feel bereft that after five years I was suddenly no longer breastfeeding at all? Would I suffer from a dip in hormones? Would I be emotional and have moments of regret? Would it feel like we’d waved goodbye to the baby years? Would I ever wish I WAS still breastfeeding?
The answer to all of those questions is a simple “no”. It’s been the most natural change. I haven’t found myself wistfully thinking about it at all. I am glad for the many years of breastfeeding I have had with my children, but they don’t suddenly feel not like my babies any more just because of this one change.
That being said, with another baby on the way, I am aware that my breastfeeding time isn’t completely over. Perhaps when I wean our final child, I will feel a little more emotional about the end of an era, and the end of such an established part of my parenting.
Throughout my time being a parent, breastfeeding has always been there. When in doubt put them on the boob has been my modus operandi for almost six years. When I look back, I know that I will always view breastfeeding as so very closely interlinked with the early years of my children’s lives.
For Rory and I, that huge milestone has been reached. Although I hesitate to 100% confirm this, as I know I will strongly consider letting him re-feed should I spot any signs of deep-rooted jealousy (I’ve been prepping him by explaining that babies can’t eat food and that’s why they REALLY like milk, and his response is always “And Rory LOVES milk too!”
But for now, it feels like we’re there. At just shy of three years old, Rory has weaned.
And he’s still the same happy, confident, cuddly little boy who stubbornly prefers my bed to his and loves to grab my hand as a form of comfort.
Life is still the same.