or how I stopped the breastfeeding
Today marks the third day she stopped breastfeeding. I never planned on feeding her this far along, but sometimes you don’t get to choose. Also, as a first time mom, you read and you are told about the difficulties of establishing the breastfeeding but not at all about the incredible challenge that stopping the nursing is. And Chloé was not one of those babies who just decide that they are over the boob waking up one day (does this even happen?).
She exclusively slept on the boob, unless every single droplet of her energy was exhausted. And that rarely ever happened. Which meant that her routine was almost completely dependent on me. I could not go out at night, not even during the day, if it was time for her siesta. Especially when she became a toddler, I felt like I had lost entirely the control of my own body, which was subject to her needs.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed breastfeeding and every benefit that came with it. A calm, easy girl with confidence and good health, plus no need to go into the whole sterilising bottles routine, practicality in travelling, especially at first etc. But after a certain point I started feeling trapped. I wanted to claim my body back. And I knew I had to help myself feel free and at the same time help my baby move to the next level of her life by emancipating her too from this feeling of dependence. I just didn’t know how. When I asked for our Pediatrician’s advice, at around 8-9 months, her response was a bit discouraging. She didn’t tell me not to stop; but when I asked what formula to replace my milk with, she was like ‘aren’t they all the same?’ making me doubt the rightness of my decision. As if that wasn’t enough, all I was told and read was to ‘disappear and let someone else put her to sleep’ until she got over it. But I couldn’t stand the idea of letting my baby cry. It just didn’t feel right. I had done my best to nourish her into becoming this calm and trusting girl, why change it now? It was an impasse.
Until I decided to follow my instinct and wait for the right timing. I always admired how she responds when I explain things, so I hoped that the time would come that I would be able to talk her into quitting. I just hoped it wouldn’t be years from now! The prospect of her going to kindergarten in two weeks suddenly seemed like a very good opportunity. But the question remained. How would I actually implement this?
As a communications specialist, I learnt that the key to passing on a message is simplicity and consistency. And toddlers are no less of a target audience. So what I did, was to come up with a short story. A story about a girl just like her, named Loulou, who drank milk from her mum aaaall the time. And one day, her mum tells the girl that she is now a big girl, ready to go to school. And big girls who go to school don’t drink milk from their mums. They drink cow’s milk in the bottle! I repeated the story many times within the day and then, one night, when I fet I was ready, I announced to her that starting from tomorrow, mummy wouldn’t have milk because she was now a big girl, and it would be time to drink cow’s milk from the bottle, just like Loulou!
And so the next day the biggest challenge of my life as mother begun. Buying her a new bottle and a school bag, and showing her photos of her school also helped her get more excited about the prospect of becoming ‘like Loulou’. And the truth is, it was a lot easier than I thought. At least during the day, when I could easily distract her and she was not tired, so every propaganda I used was easily received. At night, I was prepared that I would have to do some consoling. But I was clear that it was me who would be doing it and nobody else. I was taking away the most important constant in all her life. I wasn’t going to let her think that I was abandoning her, too.
And so, three days in, the crying might be tough at nights, but I can already see that this new way of me being there for her, with hugs and kisses and cuddling, is making our bond grow even deeper, and that her independence from my body and my body’s independence from her needs is becoming a gamechanger for both.
Here’s to passing on to the next chapters of our lives!