I haven’t written about this yet because I don’t feel like we’re officially through it yet. We’re still working through the results of it. But now it’s been almost a month, and I feel like it’s worth noting.
I stopped breastfeeding the girls at the very end of 2012. At the time, they were pretty much only nursing right before bed. Occasionally if they woke up in the early morning, I’d feed them in hopes of them going back to sleep. That wasn’t happening very often, though. I had been feeling ready to be done for a while. When it came time to put the girls to bed, I found myself not wanting to do it anymore. It was laborious to get both girls up onto the pillow. Imogen would get upset if we didn’t transition from her realizing it was time to nurse to getting her on the breast right away. Sometimes the girls would bother each other while they would nurse, which bothered me. And when it came time to pack for our trip to Montana, I felt really frustrated when I realized the nursing pillow was just one more thing that I would need to bring. I didn’t want to stop right before the trip because I figured the trip would be enough chaos in our lives, but I knew I wanted to stop soon.
After we got back from Montana, the girls stayed with Will’s parents for two nights. That’s when it occurred to me that it could be a good time to stop. They would have already stopped for two nights when we got them back, and I really didn’t want to bother with pumping while they were gone. So I talked about it with Will, and I thought about it a lot, and I decided to stop.
The first couple of nights were easy. The girls didn’t seem to really mind, or even notice. And I didn’t have any discomfort with stopping, so I think my body was ready to stop too. It also made our bedtime routine easier. Will and I had always wanted to incorporate reading stories before bed into our routine, but it was hard to find a good time to do it. Now we can read to them while they drink milk from their cups, and we’ve read to them every single night since I stopped, whereas before it was hit and miss. So it seemed like things were going great.
Then Siren started waking up during the night, and waking up ridiculously early in the mornings. She would wake up at 4 or 4:30 a.m. The problem with that is my alarm goes off at 4:45. Once she hears that, there is no going back to sleep. Ideally the girls sleep until 6 or 6:30, and they had been doing that before our trip to Montana. On the rare occasion they did wake up during the 4:00 hour, I could nurse them and put them back to bed, and they didn’t mind. Now if they wake up in the 4:00 hour, there is no getting them back to sleep. Yes, we could let them cry it out, and it might get to that point. But at 4:00, it’s hard to lie there and lose the last of your sleep while listening to their cries.
I didn’t really connect the waking up early to stopping nursing until I started having to bring Siren into the bathroom with me while I got ready in the morning. When I would get ready to get into the shower, she started making the sign for milk. A few times she’s pointed to my chest or pulled at the neck of my shirt. I’ve heard many women say that when you’re weaning your baby, it’s okay to nurse them if they ask for it. The problem was that by the time she asked, I had already stopped making milk. So there was no going back.
And of course, as things always seem to work, now Siren is sick. She developed a fever last weekend and threw up twice during the last week. Her fever seems to be gone now, but she has some sores on her lips and tongue. It looks a lot like when Imogen had what we think was hand, foot, mouth disease in the fall. We haven’t brought her to the doctor yet, but if she doesn’t come out of it this weekend, we’ll bring her next week.
Even though I was ready to stop, and the girls were definitely old enough to stop, at this moment, I regret stopping. I wasn’t prepared to have to sleep train all over again. And we can’t sleep train while Siren is sick. (I suppose we could, but I don’t think it would be right.) And if somehow nursing could have prevented this illness or helped her to get over it more quickly, or even bought us a couple of more hours of sleep at times, then I wish I would have kept it up. Obviously I’ll never know for sure, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering, nor from wishing I had some magical way to help Siren get better.
Breastfeeding is one area where I think moms of twins really miss out. The few times when I only had one baby to take care of, breastfeeding was the easiest, most relaxing thing in the world for me. We hardly ever did it, but a few times one of the girls was sick, and there was a family function planned, so I took one baby with me, and Will stayed home with the other baby. It was so easy to just take the baby, the diaper bag, and go. And while I was there, I was able to nurse her whenever she wanted, and I didn’t have to worry about what the other one was doing, or take 30 minutes to nurse one then the other. Or try to balance them both and find just the right angle for the pillow. It was just so easy. And when I imagine getting to have a year of nursing just one baby, and to have that be more of a relaxing time instead of a stressful time, then I feel a little sad.
Regardless, I nursed two babies for 20 months. I never had to use formula, and I’m very proud of that. The transition from “full-time” nursing to stopping happened so gradually from month 12 to month 20, that stopping wasn’t really that much of an adjustment for me. For whatever reason, I am a little sad that it’s something I will probably never do again. I don’t feel like I’m naturally very good at much, but breastfeeding did seem to come somewhat naturally for me. I also know that throughout my parenting experience I’m going to make mistakes. I have already made mistakes. And when I was breastfeeding, at least that was something I could get right.
For now we’re dealing with the aftermath of stopping. Hopefully Siren will get healthy again soon, and then we can readjust to a bedtime and wake-up time that works better for all of us. Currently we are darn tired.