Ava has been breastfed all of her little life. We’ve gone through a few difficult bits along the way but for the past year or so it’s been really easy and a lovely experience. For a long time she was fed to sleep at night and for naps and it worked for us. She’s never been a good sleeper, waking many times a night and always ending up in bed with us. I don’t have a problem with co-sleeping and actually really enjoy parts of it, but Ava doesn’t really settle very well when she’s in with us and so we all suffer from a very disturbed sleep.
We’ve planned for a little while to try and stop breastfeeding during the night, as it has seemed for a little while now that she is feeding for comfort and to get back to sleep rather than because she is hungry. She doesn’t need food at night anymore. Also her sleep has been particularly bad recently, except for the very occasional (twice!) sleeping through to tease us with the possibilities.
A couple of weeks ago we went to our friends house for the evening and I may have had a little bit of Prosecco. I realised when we got back to Ava’s Grandma’s house (where Grandma had managed to get Ava to sleep for the first time – woohoooo!) that I had drank too much to feed her during the night, so decided then and there that I would refuse her demands for milk all that night and carry on the next nights after that. That meant for a VERY limited amount of sleep that night (and probably for Grandma too – sorry Grandma!), on top of an already significant amount of sleep deprivation for us both, as well as A LOT of crying.
The nights that followed were nothing short of horrendous. There was lots of crying (not just from A), we were headbutted, kicked, screamed at, I had my hair pulled all night long. We were there with her to comfort her, reassure her and explain why we were doing this HORRIBLE THING to her, whilst trying to get her to fall back to sleep. As soon as she was in our bed she expected milk and for a few nights it was a huge battle and took hours to get her to fall asleep. And then sometimes she would wake straight back up, and the battle would begin again. But we knew we just had to keep going otherwise we would just have to go through it again at a later time and if it worked then we could all get much more sleep and our lives would be better.
Each night over the next week got better and better. The first few nights were hell, but after they had passed she was sleeping for longer in her cot, still asking for milk once she came into our bed (because she wouldn’t settle again in her cot), but not screaming for it anymore, still getting cuddles and love from us and help to get back to sleep for a bit longer. I stopped feeding her at night only 16 nights ago. For most of those nights she has usually only woken up properly once; her Daddy has resettled her in her cot and then she has stayed in her cot until 6 or 7am (unheard of before!!!); then come into our bed and gone back to sleep. I have mostly been not letting her feed as soon as she comes in our bed until she has had some more sleep so that it is officially ‘morning’ and we are awake when she does eventually have some milk, to distinguish between us eating during the day and not at night. Obviously as she is getting more sleep at night now, then this might change and we wake up earlier (I hope not though!). A couple of mornings she hasn’t even asked me for milk once she is in our bed; and instead just put her arms around me, given me a kiss, and gone back to sleep *heart melts*.
We are just starting to feel a bit less tired after getting a decent amount of sleep for a few nights and we are so hopeful for the future! I know that sounds quite dramatic, but sleep deprivation is a killer, it’s been affecting me so so so much recently, I haven’t been the mother I want to be and know I can be and I have massively struggled. The last few weeks before I stopped feeding her have been horrendous. I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired or felt like I couldn’t cope more.
We are both aware that we could have done this a while ago and potentially all been getting a good nights sleep for months; but it was the right time for us to do this. When you are that tired, it is extremely difficult to choose to try something else knowing that you will have a very difficult challenge ahead for an indefinite amount of time.
We have always chosen to do what is right for our family at the time, and breastfeeding during the night until now and co-sleeping when necessary have been right for us, even though they haven’t always been easy or given us loads of sleep. And we have a happy, healthy and content child to show for it.