A while ago, I wrote about starting formula with my until-then exclusively breastfed babies. Three months later, things are evolving again.
Here’s our schedule at nearly 9 months:
7:30-8am – Wake and breastfeed
9am – Breakfast (solids)
10ish-11:30ish – Bottle and Nap
1pm – Sometimes breastfeed, Lunch (solids)
3ish-4ish – Bottle and Nap
5:30pm – Breastfeed
6pm – Dinner (solids)
7:30-8pm – Bottle and Bed
11:30pm, 1:30am, 4:30am, sometimes 6:30am – Breastfeed
It’s pretty great. Except that last bit, where I’m STILL up 3-4x per night. I can’t quite figure it out. M used to sleep 8-12 hours without feeding. R could go at least 6. What happened? Is this a sleep issue (they’ve gotten into the habit of waking and needing a snuggle) or an eating issue (they’re not getting enough during the day and are making it up at night) or a combination of both? It’s not a growth spurt; it’s been going on for weeks. Our pediatrician assures us that they are growing well, staying right on their own curve, and that they certainly could sleep 11-12 hours.
As we approach one year, I know that the boys will gradually drop milk feeds and rely more on solids for nutrition. But which feeds will be dropped? They are already less interested in the mid-day breastfeeding.
I’m faced with what feels like a major decision: Do I prioritize sleep, and make a plan to drop the night feedings? Or do I prioritize breastfeeding?
On the rare night that the boys wake only twice in the night, I feel like a different person. I’m happy, calm, have perspective. On nights I’m up 3, 4, 7 times, I’m thrust back to newborn days all over again – I’m achy and depressed and my mind is in a fog. I’d love to regularly get more sleep, but it means that half the breastfeeds would be cut out. Meanwhile, would my boobs explode in the night? How would it affect my supply? Then there is the whole crying aspect of any kind of sleep modification. Isn’t it easier to just get up and take twenty minutes to soothe rather than to endure seemingly endless minutes of tears?
Then again, it’s not as if breastfeeding isn’t work too. I’m taking domperidone, and despite being assured by a lactation consultant that I would be “overflowing with milk,” I’m not sure it’s making much difference at all. I’m also taking an herbal milk supplement 4x/day. M gets frustrated waiting for let-down, and R has started biting. All the necks of my shirts are stretched out. Sometimes they are too distracted to take a full feeding, which drives me crazy. Other times they are ravenous and I just don’t feel I have enough to satisfy them. I get tired of stripping every time someone is hungry. There are days I want to just stop – go with the order, predictability, and data-friendly formula and close this chapter of mothering. I mean, they have to stop at some point.
Other times, I cling to the connection with my boys, and frankly, the self-righteousness of doing “the best” for them. I love that they are getting the perfect food, and feel horrible guilt that I can’t give them more. It’s such a breeze to be out and be able to feed them without any prep or clean up. I love their cuddles and sweet little milky breath. It isn’t like when they were newborns – I have many other ways to comfort them now – but there is a special peacefulness about it, especially since I’ve stopped tandem feeding and can focus on one little guy at a time.
I could attempt to return to exclusively breastfeeding by one year (over the next three months) by phasing out the formula feedings. Or I could focus on phasing out the night feedings and get some much-needed sleep. Or I could keep doing what we’re doing, take my cues from the boys, and let things evolve naturally. Why does that last one seem so right and yet so hard?!
Anyone successfully transition from formula supplements to exclusively breastfeeding, or vice versa? Do you lean toward guiding their kids through transitions, or are you able to follow their lead?