I've been having a hard time getting this post down on paper. My apologies in advance if it's poorly expressed...
I've been feeling really guilty the last month or so. There have been times when I haven't wanted L. to nurse. I've cringed when she pulls on my shirt and whines. I've been feeling resentful of never getting a break. We have our good moments and they keep me going but the need for more space has been increasing steadily.
I didn't always feel this way. I loved breastfeeding. Sometimes I still do. I love the little noises she makes when she wants to nurse, when she knows she's going to get some milk. Those noises haven't changed since she was just born. Granted, she's become a little more aggressive and demanding but she still makes those little excited noises.
I've been wrestling with my emotions and trying to figure out what is wrong with me. Am I failing at breastfeeding? Am I failing at attachment parenting? Am I failing at co-sleeping? I feel so strongly about all these things...and here I am wanting to sleep in the spare bedroom by myself.
It took me a while but I figured out what changed. When L. was little she would nurse until she was full. Then she would unlatch herself from me and I would give her a Binky. Then she would go to sleep and sleep the rest of the night. She might nurse once or twice before morning but it was usually quick, we didn't really wake up, and she'd suck on the Binky when she finished. I woke up feeling pretty rested and ready to snuggle and nurse when L. woke up.
Right before her first birthday, L. got her first cold (it might have been allergies, who knows...) and with a runny/stuffy nose, she couldn't use her Binky. So she started sucking on me. She would nurse, we would fall asleep, and she would never unlatch herself. I don't know why it took me so long to figure out what was going on. It happened so gradually it just snuck up on me.
Before I knew it L. was sucking on me the entire night through. Gradually I started feeling more and more desperate for a little space. We started putting L. down to sleep in her crib. We started a bedtime routine. All of these things helped but she still never slept more than a few hours in her crib. She would wake up every few hours to nurse and I would go back and forth between our rooms until I was tired of trying to put her back down in her crib. Around midnight or 1am when I was deliriously tired, I'd bring her back to bed with me where she'd suck away until morning. I'd try to unlatch when she wasn't really nursing again more and eventually she started anticipating this and would fight to stay latched on.
The few hours space I had in the evening kept me from losing my sanity.
I feel like I should make it clear that I'm not ready to wean entirely. I know this because I get sick to my stomach every time someone suggests it. I also get a sick feeling when people tell me to just let her cry it out. But I've realized that not being able to get comfortable at night and a toddler who has taken advantage of an available boob and who kicks and cries when I try to unlatch her is not working. She's not sleeping well and neither are J. and I. I've mentioned before how I've felt like a human pacifier. It's not my desired role in life.
But I've been getting more and more tired. Last Saturday, I reached my breaking point. I decided the sucking needed to stop. L. can eat when she's hungry but she can't suck away endlessly.
I came up with a plan. Starting Saturday night, J. would be the one to get up and soothe L. back to sleep. If he reached a breaking point, I would step in. I would nurse L. one time during the time (I know she usually nurses for real about 3am). We would try to keep her in her crib all night. I would sleep in the spare room in case J. needed to bring her back to our bed. 6:30am would be considered the end of the night. After 6:30am, L. is free to get in our bed and have her morning milk.
Again, I want to make it clear that I'm grateful that we were able to co-sleep as long as we did. It worked wonderfully for a long time. Had L. not given up her Binky we'd probably still be happily sleeping in our family bed. I'm glad I've been able to successfully breastfeed for as long as we have and I hope it continues to work for a while longer. I hate that I sound like I'm complaining about these things. I'm not...it's just being a human pacifier that is the problem.
The first three nights were rough. J. and I were exhausted. The first night I slept undisturbed until 2am. It was amazing. I felt like a new person. I was able to deal with her patiently for the rest of the night.
The first night looked something like this:
7:15pm- nurse until full, unlatch, then rock to sleep.
8:15pm- asleep (This was a lot later than when nursing to sleep).
10:45pm- wakes, J. soothes.
11:00pm- wakes, J. soothes.
11:15pm- wakes, J soothes and bring to our bed (they sleep fine since the boobs and I weren't there).
2:15am- wakes, J. unable to soothe to sleep. I nurse and put her back to sleep in her crib.
4:30am-wakes, I rock, sway her back to sleep, no boob (this took about 45min.)
5:30am-wakes, I rock her but can't get her to lay down in her crib.
6:30am- I take her to our bed to nurse.
The fourth night looked like this:
7:15pm- nurse, unlatch, then rock to sleep.
1:15am-wakes, I sway her back to sleep in 5 minutes.
3:15am-wakes, I nurse and put her back in crib (15 minutes total).
6:30am-wakes and I bring her in bed with us for morning milk.
Granted...not every night has been that easy. We had a few nights (especially those first few days) that were exhausting. But we're having more and more nights where she's only woken up twice and slept until 6:30am or later. One night she even slept for a six hour stretch!
We're still working hard but even with getting up to soothe her during the night, I'm feeling more rested than I was when she was sucking on me for the entire night.
To be continued...