After 16 months of breastfeeding Jasper I can now say I no longer breastfeed him. Most people would exclaim "you're STILL breastfeeding" in very surprised tones, when I mentioned this in passing, especially as I returned to work 7 months ago. I'd then reply with a rambling explanation of the reasons why I hadn't yet given-up, as if it were something that benefited me rather than my child.
The reason I have now stopped is partly down to stigma (he isn't a baby anymore, and REALLY doesn't look like a baby!) but partly to give me more sleep and freedom. And, after one week of weaning him off the breast, I could say it worked.
When I returned to work in February Jasper had just turned 10 months old. At this point he wouldn't take a bottle (actually from 6 months old he wouldn't). So I felt obliged to feed him in the evening and morning to ensure he was still getting necessary nutrition from milk. After I returned to work we fell into bad habits, keeping Jasper awake so I would see him when I got home late, and letting him come into our bed in the middle of the night. He would then feed and usually slept through until after I'd left for work in the morning, which was convenient for me.
PART 1 - SLEEP ROUTINE
When he was 14 months old, after a spate of weeks/weekends away from home, we had a clear run of weekends at home, so decided to tackle the sleep issue. His bedtime had crept later and later and we got to the point where he would sometimes go up to bed at the time we were going 😱. So we embarked on a strict (ha) sleep regime of dinner, bath, book (boob if I was home) and then bed for 7pm. We practiced a semi controlled crying approach of putting him down in the cot, he'd get up and cry, we'd leave it 3 mins, then go up and comfort him without picking him up, leave him 5 mins, repeat, then 10 mins, repeat. We found the first few cries horrific, but leaving the room and going away from him really helped. I'd go downstairs and read something on my phone or watch tv between visits, to stop me honing in on his crying. We did find after the 10 minute visit he was usually asleep. By day 3-4 of this routine I was less alarmed by his cries. It's amazing how quickly babies adapt to these patterns - I genuinely couldn't believe that after about a week he'd lie down when you put him in his cot, and was sometimes asleep by the 2nd room visit. Now a few of months on, he will lie down when you stroke the bedsheet next to him and fall asleep - amazing! Al and I now love our evening time together, we aren't hugely strict over what time he goes down as long as it's around 7ish. Sometimes if he hasn't napped much or is obviously tired we put him down before, and at weekends often put him down later e.g. 8-8:30. But we always aim to follow the same routine of dinner, bath, book(s), bed! We now have some downtime from being Parents, although often we both log-on to our laptops and finish off work in the evening, at least we have this option rather than having a 1 year old running around or trying to steal our dinner.
PART 2 - BREAST WEANING
Back to breast....so part 1 of our 'Jasper journey' was to sort out the sleep situation. We felt we'd nailed the going to bed bit, but he was still waking-up during the night. If he woke-up early e.g. 1-2am we would practice the same bedtime routine and put him back down, wait 3 minutes, then 5, then 10 etc. But if he woke at 4:30am 😱 then we'd chuck him in our bed, he'd feed and fall straight back asleep. I however would be wide awake and uncomfortable until the alarm went off 1-1.5 hours later. This had to change. I would never sleep properly again with a child attached to me.
The day he turned 16 months old we had a night without him as were at a wedding. The last time I breastfed him was early Saturday morning. He was used to just morning and an optional evening feed by now, so I knew we would just skip the evening feed.
The morning after the wedding we were reunited with him. He was a bit fussy and wanted feeding, but we fed him lots of brekkie as usual and carried on with our day. The next part was all on Al. I knew that if Jasper saw me at bedtime or during the night he would go crazy for booby. So Al took on all bedtime and nighttime duties for the forseeable 🙌🏼. Bad timing for us as unfortunately Jasper had an ear infection and perforated eardrum, but I kind of thought, if he's going to be upset with that anyway might as well throw the two in together (some logic there surely). For a week or so Jasper would wake or stir in the night and either settle himself back to sleep or Al would lie him back down and he would go back to sleep. He was however waking-up at 4:30am still and had no booby to content him, a few times we would get up with him or try to settle him in our bed but I had to turn my back so he wouldn't try to feed. After about a week he wasn't waking in the night at all and started waking-up a little later in the morning. By week 3 he was always sleeping through the night (from 7pm) and waking around 5:30am. We bought him a GroClock to try and help him learn when morning and night was. He now waves goodnight to the clock when he goes to bed, but hasn't yet made the sunrise hello yet as always wakes before - it's set to 7am and he was 10 minutes away from it this morning. So his sleeping-in time is increasing and he is sleeping through. We finally are getting solid nights of sleep and love it!
As for my boobies - they seem to have forgotten they were ever useful for something and are smaller than before I started feeding him! They were painful (well 1 was, I weaned off 1 already as he never fed from it) to start with, for around 2 weeks after. Just before they stopped fully producing milk they were really painful and then within a day returned to normal. The plus side of shrinking and normal feeling boobies is I can run more comfortably and my old underwear fits!! Whoop.
So the breastfeeding journey has ended. I had a very easy one as we never had problems with latching-on, milk production, mastitis, pumping etc. And I have to say I am proud that I continued to feed Jasper up to 16 months old, but am also glad to have more freedom and sleep again. ☺️