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.