Sunday, May 24, 2015

Weaning Off My Baby

Three Saturday nights ago, I made a very difficult decision to completely wean off Zoe.

Even after preparing myself emotionally 4 months back, it was still as emotional as I had expected. I remembered when Zoe was 9 months old, my husband and I were chatting casually via texts about the topic on weaning off, and I got so sad that I had to leave my office desk to the toilet cubicle so that I could clean off my tears and blow my nose.

Before I delivered Zoe, my intended goal for breastfeeding was only up till she turned 6 months old. Then when I had Zoe, and realized how tough this whole thing is, I thought to myself that if I could make it to the 3 month mark, it would be rather miraculous and the 6 month goal seemed a bit too far fetched. I never knew breastfeeding would be so tough, its a combination of discipline (to set alarm clock every 3hours to pump regardless if it is 3am or 5am) and determination (when the supply is not meeting the demand). It was stressful from the beginning, with much tears, guilt trap, helplessness, and confusion.

But just like any relationship in the beginning, its about getting to know each other quirks and preferences, and then adjusting to each other day by day to make it work. By about the 2.5 months, I realized that being a total express pump mum is not going to work out for Zoe and I. I was caring for Zoe on my own after the first 1 month of confinement, hence having that 20-30 minutes every 3 hours to pump in peace wasn't coming easy. Most of the time, I had to wait till she is sleeping but it hardly happens because she loves to fight sleep, and I ended up having interrupted pumping session as I have to carry her around. As it was hard to pump in peace, I started to drag from 3 hours to 4 hours to 4.5 hours which caused my already very little supply to start dropping because my body thought it doesn't need to produce that much anymore. And then lastly, the inconvenience of having to wash the bottles, the pump parts and then sterilize them for about 6-7 times a day was so dreadful.

So, I ditched the pump (for the day) and nursed Zoe directly from the breasts. Best decision ever. No more having to look at the clock so much, no more washing, and best of all no stress if I was producing enough bottles everyday for her. Yay! Though I was nursing directly, I still set my alarm to wake up in the night to pump if Zoe does not wake up for her feed, or if my husband was feeding her bottle. So that was how I started to store up my stash in the freezer in preparation for going back to work after my maternity leave.

So, the above was a little background of my journey.

To have come so far in this was already a big surprise to me, and there always have to be an end to everything. For me, I decided that I would stop when Zoe turns 1 year old because she was taking her solids well, and its been a year and I would really love to have my boobs back and start wearing one piece dresses out again!

After Zoe turned one, I started to drop two feeds/ pumps. I would only nursed her directly in the morning before I go to work, and then she would take formula in the afternoon, and then in the night before she slept, I would nursed her and then not pump before I slept. Initially I started to feel engorged especially when I wake up in the morning, because it would be about 8-9 hours of gap, but after 2-3 weeks my body started adjusting and it was all good. Then at about the 3rd week, I decided to alternate her last feed between a bottle and nursing her to sleep so that she could get used to this arrangement. Thankfully, Zoe took it so well, she could take the bottle and still slept without having to be nursed.

The final decision to make was the hardest of all, which was to decide the last time I would nursed her. I decided to wait till we were back from Hong Kong so that I could still nurse her if she goes cranky in the airplane. And when we were back, it was almost quite timely because my period came! And that caused a major major major drop in my supply. It was very evident because I started to bottle feed her the whole day and I still do not feel full in my breasts. In my heart, I was also trying to prepare myself that the end was indeed coming.

"We have bonded a lot during feeding. It's very, very special" - Hillary Duff

So on the eve of Mothers Day, I decided that it was going to be tonight. And boy, did I bawl my eyes out so badly.

Like every other night, we did our bedtime routine and then I sat on the little stool in her room, carrying her close to me in the dark and nursed her. For that 35 minutes, I sobbed silently, as I recalled everything about this journey. The times I scrambled to find a nursing room while we were out, the first time I decided to nurse her in public, the times i would nurse her on the cab when we were on the way home from late night dinner, and the times I spent with her in our church nursery room 1 for the breastfeeding mums etc... As she slowly dozed off, I said a prayer in my heart to thank God for the past 13 months where I had the privilege to nurse her. For His strength that sustained me where I had so little sleep, for the times He heard my cries when I struggled with my supply and for the determination He gave me to press on when I felt like throwing in the towel.

As Zoe unlatched and lie on my arms soundly asleep, I ran my hand through her hair and gave her a kiss on the cheek like I always do, but this time a little longer. And then I put her down in her cot and watched her awhile more before I went out of her room to cry some more. It felt like I had just bade goodbye to my baby and had to come to terms that this baby is growing up.

My husband was of course shocked to see my badly tear stained face when I was out of the room as I didn't let him know of my decision that night. I couldn't be more thankful for this man who supported me through this 1 year - that every time we had to use the nursing room, he gladly find one for me and went to window shop on his own without grumbling, and of course for respecting my decision to breastfeed Zoe for so long when I know he badly wanted to be part of feeding Zoe with a bottle in the beginning.

So, even though its been 3 weeks, I still sometimes feel tempted to put her at my breasts, but I know I have to come to terms that this is it and lets move on to the next chapter of our lives. Goodbye little baby girl, mummy pray that God will keep the bond we have built and never let me forget this beautiful journey I had with you.

"It is only in the act of nursing that a woman realizes her motherhood in visible and tangible fashion; it is a joy of every moment." - Honore de Balzac


  1. So so beautifully written Shing.. Tears in my eyes even though I'm not a mom.. You're truly an inspiration!!

    1. Aww, thanks Rachel.. I still have so much to learn from all the wonderful mums out there :)