Shortly after my last post, two breastfeeding-related things happened which form a kind of extended ‘p.s.’ …
Firstly, I managed to get a bout of mastitis. I suspect this was a result of Daniel dropping the frequency of his feeds quite so suddenly during our holiday. This was evidently a bit too much too soon for my body to adjust to and a few days after we got home, I developed a painful, red area in my left boob and aches and pains all through my body. I got a prescription for antibiotics from the GP but she suggested I first try for a couple of days to get rid of it without medication, by feeding or expressing regularly from the inflamed boob and taking paracetamol for the aches and pains. Luckily, that worked well and I didn’t need the tablets.
The other thing that happened that same week was that Daniel had his 12-month development review with the Health Visitor. What we were advised at this meeting regarding breastfeeding took me very much by surprise. Essentially, everything that the Health Visitor wanted to tell us about breastfeeding (we covered a lot of other stuff too) was focused on the process of weaning Daniel completely off breastmilk. I was surprised, because up until now, all I’d heard/read/been told about breastfeeding was about how important it was to get it going and to carry on going. But there seems to be a big shift of emphasis once your child is approaching 1 year old, with the focus on getting them off milk and fully onto solids.
The HV said that it was fine for us to carry on breastfeeding as long as we wanted to, but that really, living in a country where there is an abundance of healthy foods, the nutritional benefits to Daniel of carrying on now were marginal. Breastmilk was just one food among a range of others now, not his main food. I think an additional factor behind her advice that we work towards finishing the weaning process was that Daniel is now topping the curve on the weight chart for his age. Although the HV didn’t say this was a particular problem at the moment, she advised us to keep an eye on his weight over the next three months, and that he was probably carrying ‘milk fat’ because he was still enjoying breastfeeds that he didn’t really need any more.
I suppose you could say that, in a way, the Health Visitor gave me ‘permission’ at that meeting to start the final stages of weaning off breastmilk. I don’t really think that I was waiting for someone to give me permission to stop, but I do think I was kind of at a loss to know when would be right, so having someone tell me that it would be okay to stop soon and that Daniel would not lose out nutritionally was really useful. The HV seemed to have assessed Daniel as a baby who was unlikely to come to a stop voluntarily, since he evidently enjoys his milk so much!
The HV gave us really useful responses to all the questions that then poured forth about when and how to start ‘the beginning of the end’. I had got the notion from somewhere that babies should still have milk first thing in the morning, but the HV said that this didn’t necessarily need to be the case, and that if it seemed to work okay for us, Daniel could go straight into his ‘solid’ breakfast on a morning and then (if we wanted to) he could have a breastfeed afterwards. I also mentioned the ‘one pint of milk per day’ guideline that I’d read about somewhere, asking where during the day we should introduce beakers of cow’s milk, and the HV said we could also take that fairly flexibly, because there are plenty of other sources of calcium in a balanced diet, for example broccoli and Petit Filous. She also raised no qualms or questions when I mentioned that we’d been doing BLW, which was nice! In fact, when I asked about the one-pint-a-day thing, she said, with a jesting twinkle in her eye “We’ll you’re breaking the rules already by doing BLW, so there’s no point worrying about that!”
So over the past few days, the three breastfeeds per day has become established as the norm to be aimed for, rather than a happenstance of an exciting holiday. And alongside this, there seems to have been another notable upturn in Daniel’s appetite for ‘proper’ food. Suddenly the ratio of food on the floor to food in the mouth has dramatically reduced. It’s almost as if he’s realised he’d better jolly well eat up because there isn’t going to be milk every four hours any more!
I’m now faced with the new issue of wondering if he’s eating too much – he’s seemed insatiable for the last few mealtimes! Jon, my mum, and both my sisters have been telling me since our HV appointment that I should pay no attention to any questions over his weight – and I agree, he’s just a healthy, chunky baby. And I’ve been saying for ages that, until now, I suspected he was consuming far less solid food than his traditionally-weaned contemporaries. So I think that this sudden appetite increase is probably just compensating for what he was getting before through my slight over-feeding on the breastmilk front. Watch this space though – once he’s fully on solids, I’m sure there’s a whole new chapter of nutritional dilemmas to come! “Food is for fun until they’re one”, but he will be one in three weeks – we’ll have to get a bit more serious!
So as I said, I was really taken aback by the HV’s focus on weaning off the breast completely, but once it had sunk in, I felt surprisingly okay about it and came away feeling it had been a really useful conversation. I am still really enjoying breastfeeding, but once the whole thing was put in a new light by the HV, I will admit that the plus points of finishing this phase of motherhood started popping into my head fairly quickly! Now that Daniel is a strapping boy weighing nearly-two-stone, it is a bit more cumbersome to feed him on my lap, and he’s a real squirmer at times, so it’s not always quite the cosy cuddle time that it used to be. And once he doesn’t need me for his breakfast and bedtime drinks, all of a sudden the possibility of me having a lie in, a night out on my own, or even an overnight break away from home, re-appears on the horizon!
But I still think that last breastfeed, whenever it turns out to be, will be an emotional one…