Helmet is on. I’m cowering at my computer, typing these words, ready to be criticised. I’ll have to whisper them, to convey my guilt.
I quit breastfeeding.
And then I let my child cry it out.
I know. I know. Not a yummy mummy thing to do. Not something I thought I’d really go through with. But we’re finished. And I don’t even feel sad.
As all parents know, the first year is a baby sleeping minefield. There are phases where baby sleeps and phases (ok months) where baby doesn’t. Over time, bedtime develops into a religious ceremony; dressing the child in robes, waving pungent scents through the air, reading from bible book of Peppa Pig, blessing oneself, praying.
We’ve had our fair share of sleepy ups and downs this first year. I’ve gotten used to broken sleep. It’s fine, honestly, I can cope with being woken every few hours.
What I couldn’t cope with though was a new routine introduced by baby around the age of 10 months. It coincided with a holiday where we took her away from the comforts of her own cot and two intense weeks of teething where she cut through three nice gnashers in a row.
At ten months baby’s normal bedtime itinerary involved getting changed for bed, fighting us, throwing the odd side kick to the jaw, battling all attempts to button up the baby grow (seriously what’s wrong with Velcro, baby clothing makers??) settling down for a breast feed, falling asleep and being put in the cot.
Before the boxing match phase, we always put her in the cot half asleep so that she would know where she was and not get frightened if she woke up. (You see we did listen to the baby experts) As she grew though, she began to cry if we put her in the cot when she was only half sleepy and would work herself into a state, so we learned to put her to bed when she was asleep, even if it was against all baby advice.
And then she decided that she wasn’t having that anymore. There was no settling her. Bedtime became PLAY TIME! After her feed, she would leap up from the bed we were lying on and make a running jump for the lampshade, windowsill or baby changer. She might head bang you in the process and always land a thwack on your face. Holding her and calming her was out the window. If she wasn’t sleepy at bedtime, the only thing you could do was to bring her downstairs, and let her play for a few more hours till eventually you repeated the process of nursing and comforting, and she passed out from exhaustion.
Bedtime went form an average 20 minutes to at least three hours. It was exhausting and her late time nod off to sleep didn’t prevent her from waking through the night either.
Something had to change. I had to consult Granny Cassidy. I knew what she was going to tell me and I didn’t really want to hear it. But she said it anyway.
“Let her cry it out.”
Having nursed my baby and not listened to any pressure such as ‘you’re spoiling her,’ our baby was not a cryer. We always attended to her whenever she needed it, so that she couldn’t work her way up to being really upset. I’d read somewhere that leaving a baby crying sees cortisol whizz round their system and the hormones stay in their system for days. Basically, letting them get really upset, affects them, long term.
So I was loathe to try the cry it out method, but also desperate to get some sort of bedroom routine going that didn’t involve a five hour marathon. (Huh, remember when a bedroom marathon meant something different entirely?)
Here’s how our entire bedtime routine changed in one week, for the better. I still can’t believe we get asleep now in less than five minutes.
Change baby. Feed baby (Boob). Settle baby. Soothe Baby. Lift Baby. Baby in cot. Baby realises she’s in cot. Baby cries. Mammy leaves room. Mammy studies monitor. Baby still crying. Baby stands in cot. Mammy counts the minutes. Baby cries for many minutes. Baby gets tired. Baby eventually passes out. Now Mammy is crying.
Change baby. Feed baby (Boob). Settle baby. Soothe Baby. Lift Baby. Baby in cot. Baby realises she’s in cot. Baby cries. Mammy leaves room. Mammy studies monitor. Baby doesn’t seem to be crying like last night. Five minutes pass. Baby asleep. Mammy is a genius. (Opens wine to celebrate)
Change baby. Feed baby (Boob). Settle baby. Soothe Baby. Lift Baby. Baby in cot. Baby realises she’s in cot. Baby cries. Mammy leaves room. Mammy studies monitor. Baby cries louder. Baby not settling. Mammy and Daddy have argument over how long is too long. Baby’s screams are getting worse. Mammy lifts baby and apologises for being a bad Mammy. Mammy cuddles baby and baby eventually goes to sleep. Baby hiccups. Mammy is tired.
Mammy is now confused about the whole process. She is still tired. She makes up a small bottle because she feels too tired to feed tonight. Mammy decides to experiment and gives bottle to baby in the cot. Mammy studies baby on monitor. Baby drinks bottle. Baby lies down and goes to sleep. Silence.
Repeat Day 4. Works.
Repeat Day 5. Works.
Mammy decides to put the boobs away and give baby a bottle every night going to bed. Works. Still working.
So there you have it. I have quit breastfeeding because, for whatever reason, baby loves to take bottle to bed now and it helps her go asleep. Some disclaimers perhaps. Baby is nearly a year old and has been weaning steadily for weeks now. So it’s not such a wrench. And she still wakens during the night, every night, so it hasn’t solved the wakening, only the going to sleep part. But, we as family, are happier and less stressed. So I’m taking the helmet off now. Don’t judge me. Baby is still alive. And kicking.
No judging, just don’t hate me when I point out that it’s really bad for her teeth to not have them brushed before sleep. Going to bed either breastfed or with a bottle is really bad for decay as milk contains natural sugars- even cows milk. Lots of parents do it and lots of children get away with it but some don’t. One program on childrens teeth showed a middle class, no juice family watching their 5yr old have 9 teeth removed all because of going to sleep with a bottle. Hugs. As a maternity nanny I could sleep train in days but with my own…..
Hmmm if we brushed her teeth, we’d be brushing her gums! She doesn’t really have teeth yet, they’re not up far enough. Am conscious of giving her a bottle going to bed but she usually flings it away as soon as she’s done, so not falling asleep with it or anything. Thanks for the comment
First thoughts on this ………Bloody Well Done !!!! ?
You did your best, baby outdid you, you realised that this was a terrible situation for all concerned, you practised trial and error until you found the right solution, then you carried it through….result ? Everyone is happy and gets a good nights sleep..responsible, effective parenting ?
You have also done something pretty amazing by teaching your child that she can settle herself . It may not sound like much but this can be a real revelation for a baby heading towards toddlerhood. It gives them confidence and self reliance and a sense of security…. all important character traits that will help them make sense of their world.
It is also useful to see that nothing terrible happened to your darling child….she didn’t explode, no bits dropped off her, she hasn’t turned in to a dangerous psychopath (not yet, anyway), and her immune system hasn’t collapsed…..PHEW !!! Lol fancy that….a child survived a bit of crying ??? Wonders will never cease ?
Seriously, well done on what must have been pretty harrowing at times, good parenting,
Sarah thanks so much for your comment! You know I think her favourite part is having control of her feed. She can control feeding herself and loves it. I really wanted to teach her to settle herself, like u said, for the toddler years. Appreciate your kind words xxx
Whatever works for you all is the best option! Delighted to hear things have eased slightly. The middle f the night wakenings will lessen too over time. We had an awful dose at the start of the Summer, felt like newborn days again but now L sleeps through until about 5am, wakes and snuggles down with us until about 8.
I don’t mind the wakening, it’s just part of it, she usually goes back to sleep. The trying to get her asleep when ur exhausted is no joke! Ha
I have to say, one of the big plusses of formula is sleeping. I’m not one that can survive on little or no sleep. I know breastfeeding is a beautiful and wonderful experience with your child (so they say- I didn’t last more than a couple of weeks) but for me I was much happier as a rested mama. To be fair you’ve breastfed and given those vital nutrients so it’s time for you to catch up on your zzzz. x
It’s not my zzzzs its my sanity! She was driving us crazy! Delighted I got to a year, never thought we would or I’d be feeding mammy, but so glad we did and def ready for the next phase now : ) only downside: boobs tiny again haha!!
It’s tough! My son was the worst sleeper his first year. We tried most everything. The one thing that did it was I night weaned him right before he turned one. I would just go to him with some water instead. He was very upset by it, but eventually he realized that I wouldn’t be nursing him in the middle of the night. We did end up continuing to nurse until about 14.5 months (mostly so I could bring him into bed with me to relax for a few more minutes before the day started haha).
Aw that’s sounds like us a bit. She slept through the night last night. Unheard of! The best thing is the calmness before bedtime now. Bliss!
Comfort her in other ways Gradually replace breastfeeding with other ways to nurture her. Postponing feeds Putting off feeds works well if you have an older child that you can reason with.