After weeks (months) of agonising, this weekend I took the decision to stop breastfeeding Sophia during the night. I will continue to feed her at bedtime and first thing in the morning for the time being, but I have come to the point where I need my nights back. Or at least the option of having them back. When I am crying with tiredness by 10pm I need to be able to say to my husband that he is on baby duty tonight, rather than him watching helplessly as I reach the end of my tether, unable to do anything because he is totally lacking in the boob department.
As a nervous first-time mum I stopped feeding Anna during the night at about 7 months, when a dietician told me she would become obese if I didn’t. Total nonsense, as I now know, and when I had Sophia I was determined that she would self-wean according to her own body clock, not a text book. Which is a great theory, but seventeen months later I have had enough. I’m not worried that she’s going to become obese, but I am worried that by continually substituting sugar for sleep to get me through the day, I am.
Last night could have been a lot worse. Sophia woke three times, as usual, but instead of a cuddle and a feed she got a stroke on the head, a murmured “I love you, but it’s sleep time now”, and her Baby Einstein lullaby CD switched back on, and each time she settled herself to sleep again within twenty minutes. My mum bought us this lullaby CD when Anna was a tiny sleep refusenik, so it has been the soundtrack to our nights for seven years now. Anna still likes it played at bedtime to help her settle, and we started Sophia on it at birth. We have two hard copies, and it is on the iPad, iPod, and both our iPhones. I’ve no idea if it aids sleep at all, I’m certainly not sure that my children are poster girls for it, but it has become an essential comfort blanket for all of us, perhaps husband and I even more than the children.
Would it be better for Sophia if I continued to feed her at night until she is ready to stop? Very possibly. Advocates of attachment parenting would argue that she will feel more secure if her needs are unquestioningly met, and that human babies evolved to sleep close to their mum, feeding as and when they needed, rather than fitting into the artificial constraints of a modern routine. On the other hand, I also think that Sophia (and Anna) will probably benefit from a mother who isn’t chronically sleep-deprived, and who gets a break occasionally.
And then there is also the selfish little voice whispering to me that, perhaps, I don’t have to make every single decision based on what would be best for Anna and/or Sophia. That, just occasionally, it might be ok to think about what’s best for me.
I read somewhere that when you have a baby you lose your body and your mind, and that definitely resonates for me, but I’m now feeling ready to start the step-by-step process to regaining them.