At some point in June, I stopped feeding Otto in the daytime.
No more morning feed, sleepy afternoon feed, or quick snack whenever he felt like it. I just stopped outright, and replaced those feeds with a mid-afternoon beaker of cow’s milk instead.
I know this isn’t particularly revolutionary for most 13 month olds, but it is for mine. You see, I’ve never done this before. Arlo was almost four when he stopped breastfeeding. Rory was two and a half. And the daytime feeds were the last to go. With Arlo and Rory I tackled the nights first, and pretty much let them feed on demand during the day if we were at home. (You can watch Rory’s night weaning vlog here).
With Otto, I’m not quite ready to tackle the nights. I have a plan for this in place for later in the summer holidays – when I don’t have the added stress of being completely knackered for the morning school run. But for a while now, I’ve been feeling more than ready to cut down on breastfeeding, so it just made sense to stop daytime feeding.
Otto doesn’t appear to miss breastfeeding in the same way that I noticed his brothers did. Growing up in a busy household, I think he simply has enough distractions in place to keep him happily occupied.
Although there are the odd few moments where I get a pang of something (guilt, mainly) that it doesn’t look like I’ll be feeding Otto for over two years, like I did with his older siblings, I am actually just really loving the new freedom that it gives me.
I’ve suffered with very unpredictable leaks this time round (a first for me, that all settled down around the four month stage with my other babies). And it’s a relief to not have to think about that any more, now that my supply has become used to no daytime feeding.
A few weekends ago, I had a wedding dress appointment with some of my bridesmaids. After which I spontaneously decided to follow them into London and join some more friends at Pride. It was a split-second decision, the likes of which I have rarely been able to make since having children. I didn’t even have to think about how easily do-able that would be, and whether Otto would be OK. Before, that would have taken some forward planning with breastpads, and a baby / toddler who would be waiting for me hungrily when I got home.
Another thing I’ve noticed that has come out of stopping breastfeeding in the day, is that Otto is no longer clingy for me in the same way. I can sit down without it seeming like an automatic invitation to tug at my top. We can have a cuddle without the inevitable transition to beating at my chest and demanding the goods.
The flipside to this, is that I am conscious that I need to actively think a little bit more about my parenting of Otto. Before, breastfeeding would be our special time, time for him to feel connected to me. Now, I need to make sure I’m filling that gap with other attention, making time for him and bonding in a way that I’ve not had to think about before.
If you add all of my breastfeeding time (per child) together, it’s 7.5 years. There are two main reasons that I breastfed Arlo and Rory for the length of time that I did. 1. It is such a nice thing to be able to give them, that relationship, and the memory of breastfeeding (Arlo still remembers, Rory not so much). As boys, I hope it will help them grow up with a supportive view on breastfeeding, and to just generally not be a dick about women’s breasts. 2. I honestly had no idea how to get them to stop happily before they were at an age where I could bribe them with chocolate buttons.
So far, it’s proving easier with Otto. Since he started weaning with food, he doesn’t seem to have a preference over boob or bottle. He’s busy, he’s distracted, and, as far as I can tell, he’s not missing daytime boobs one bit.
Otto recently started self settling at naps and bedtime. My other two children did not do this until they were over two years old. It’s such a novelty to be able to put Otto down happily in his cot, and know that he will fall sleep without the need for an hour (or longer!) walking him round his room, or feeding to sleep. I have gained back an hour at least in the evenings.
This new development with his self settling meant that I could clearly see a very simple way to cut down on breastfeeding, and in the end, it was the deciding factor that led me to be able to stop breastfeeding in the daytime without it making much noticeable difference to Otto at all. If he had been unhappy about it, I would have thought again.
Nights are a completely different story. Whereas with Arlo and Rory, finally learning to self settle was the key to them sleeping through the whole night, Otto is still pretty fond of a night time snack. Perhaps it is an age thing, as he is significantly younger than Arlo and Rory were when they started sleeping through the night.
Generally, he wakes up anywhere between 11pm – 2am, and then he comes in with me and has milk on demand until the morning. Sometimes he wants to be attached to me all night. Sometimes he has just one quick feed and that’s enough for the night. Sometimes, I manage to wake up enough to put him back in his own bed after a feed, where he will happily settle himself again, and then he’ll usually sleep until the morning.
Selfishly, I have a wedding and a couple of child-free trips away coming up in the next year, and I don’t want the added hassle of breastfeeding to conflict with those things. I’m done thinking about it. Previously, my goal was always to breastfeed until at least two years of age. But, it seems the more children I have, the more pragmatic I allow myself to be about it.
It would be easy to keep going, to give Otto the same experience of breastfeeding into his preschool years that I did for Arlo and Rory. But, I can see an opportunity to slowly wind down breastfeeding, and I think I want to take it.
I asked Sam to take a few quick photos of us the day I started drafting this post. I realised that, if night weaning goes well, we could be looking at just weeks left of my breastfeeding time with Otto. Suddenly, I realised that I didn’t have any photos, and the thought made me a bit panicky. It was a rainy Sunday, I was in my pyjamas all day, and Otto lucked out with a spontaneous day time feed despite not having fed in the daytime for over a month : )
I’m so glad I have these photos.