The first year of my son’s life was relatively easy. He slept through the night from 10 weeks old, loved everyone, and—save for a few sleep regressions—he was a great baby. I was lucky enough to find a great support system in my local MOMS Club and, despite being across the country from my family, didn’t experience any overwhelming feelings of anxiety or postpartum depression. Then—right around his first birthday—things changed drastically.
From the beginning, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I never really had a goal of a length of time. I figured, if I was lucky enough that he was able/wanted to nurse, I’d keep it up. Holden happily and nursed (along with eating solid food) up until he was 11 months old—then we introduced cows milk, which he also took to easily. I decided at that point that it was time to start weaning. He was getting enough nutrients and calories from the 3 meals a day; and, although he still enjoyed nursing, he wasn’t really into it as much. I was able to easily phase out his day time feeds, replacing them with bottles and sippy cups of milk with his meals. I left nap time and bedtime for last because (much to my dismay) he was still nursing to sleep with both. After about two weeks, my husband replaced his bedtime nursing with a bottle, and although the bedtime routine took a little longer, it was going well—until we travelled and moved right around his first birthday.
The week before his birthday, we took a two week vacation. When we returned home, we moved in with some family as we waited to buy our house. During those two weeks, my awesome-10-hour-a-night sleeper turned into a wake-up-every-two-hours-to-nurse anti-sleeper. Misery. We went from only nursing at nap time and sleeping all night to not nursing at all during the day and nursing all.night.long. Well, naturally, my body rebelled. My milk supply—which had been dwindling at that point—came back full force. This meant I was in a lot of pain for that first week since my son had no interest in nursing at all—during the day. Suddenly, my husband and I were getting zero sleep (and arguing through the night). That postpartum anxiety that I had never experienced? It hit me like a ton of bricks.
I dreaded going to bed at night and would feel this horrible sinking feeling as we started getting Holden ready for bed. Our bedtime routine was always my favorite time of the day, and suddenly, I hated it. I would push it back and drag my feet getting him ready in hopes that he would be so tired that he wouldn’t wake up at 2 am. (It didn’t work.) I would even hide in the bathroom when he cried in hopes that Andrew would be able to comfort him to sleep without me. No such luck. All he wanted was to nurse. He wouldn’t take a bottle, so he clearly wasn’t hungry, and I really didn’t even know how much milk I was producing. I knew it was for comfort, and of course I wanted to comfort my son, but every time he latched on, I would start crying. It was the most uncomfortable feeling in the world. Even though I had happily and easily nursed for the past 12 months, it was such a foreign feeling—I hated it so much. I wanted to rip my skin off. I remembered reading a post one of my favorite bloggers had written about postpartum depression and hormone changes during weaning, but I never thought it would hit me like it did.
As much as it was physically uncomfortable—mentally, I was just as miserable. I hated that I wanted nothing to do with feeding and comforting my child. I hated that my husband and I were whisper-fighting all night long about how he felt obsolete, and I felt like I wanted to just let him cry all night long (side note: we were living in a condo with family so letting him cry at all wasn’t even an option). Worst of all—I just felt like a terrible mother. During the day, everything was great. My son is funny, inquisitive, loving, and stubborn (like his mama). Usually, he’s an all around easy-going guy. But at night, it was like having a needy newborn all over again. I seriously didn’t know how much more I could take, and my husband and I had to make a pact that anything that we said to each other between midnight and 5 am was “off the record” and didn’t count.
We travelled again over Thanksgiving. During that week in California, something clicked for Holden. He still wasn’t sleeping through the night, but he wasn’t begging to nurse every two hours, and he would happily take a bottle or snuggle in our bed with my husband and fall back to sleep. My nighttime anxiety lessened over that week and—although I was still exhausted from his every-two-hour waking—I didn’t cry when he awoke. He nursed on our flight home (mostly to ease any ear pressure), and I didn’t have the feeling of wanting to rip my skin off. When we returned, we moved (again…but this time into our very own home!). By the second night in the new house, Holden slept through the night. I woke up that next morning in a slight panic—wondering if he was still breathing. When I went into his room, he was standing in his crib smiling at me, arms up, ready to get out. We’ve been in our home about a week now, and things are relatively back to normal. I don’t dread bedtime anymore, my husband and I aren’t whisper-fighting, and our son is (mostly) sleeping through the night. It was a rough few months, but I’m finally back on track to enjoy my kid 24/7. You know—except for when he’s dumping out the dog’s water bowl or smashing my cell phone, of course…