Isolde's 8th month: Weaning from breastfeeding, and loving soothing methods

by Veerle

The schoolyear is up and running. As a teacher, I have to admit that for a split second – but not much longer that that ;-) – I did miss the buzz of starting fresh, with a new “batch” of pupils and a head filled with new ideas to try out and projects to launch. But honestly, that moment has passed: I‘m so glad to still be home with Isolde.

Now is the time to kiss and cuddle or just sit on the sofa together, play little games, go for walks, do some shopping and, on the way home, have a coffee and read the paper in a coffeehouse. Then, pick the two big ones up from school and enjoy the late afternoon the four of us.

Not that it’s like that every day - on the contrary even. But it’s nice to know the option is there for the taking. Most days, I am amazed at the amount af work there is to be done. I make a list at the beginning of each day, and try to check off as many things as possible. That way, by the time Tom comes home, I never feel like the day has just wasted away: staying home has become my temporary “career”.

Isolde still hasn’t changed her latest sleep pattern. Since a week or two, she wakes up every night somewhere between 10 p.m. and midnight. At first, we manage to calm her down without feeding her, and she goes back to sleep lying on my or Tom’s chest. Also, she does have a bit of a runny nose and the nights are getting colder. These two issues are dealt with easily: I tilt her matress a bit upwards so she doesn’t have to lie completely flat on her back, and I change her light blanket to slightly thicker one. Check!

Hmmf, I wish that could have solved the problem entirely, but it doesn’t… The no-feed method doesn’t seem to be doing the trick anymore either, and we turn to feeding her anyway. Now that her last feed has been switched from breast to bottle, I’m never really sure what to do: give her the breast anyway or stick to the “plan” and prepare some formula? I know nursing her is the surest way to get her to sleep again, and admittedly, it’s the easiest option for the both of us. On the other hand, I’m getting a bit fed up with nursing. I’ve made the decision of cutting down on it, and I just don’t feel like taking any steps back.

I remember going through the same period of indecision and even irritation with Daphne and Alexander. I didn’t like it then either, but then, it never lasted long. Because I also remember how my milk production decreased very quickly as soon as I started to replace more than one breastfeed with formula or solids.

The midwife agrees with me that Isolde should be able to sleep through the night – after all, she has done so relatively easily for the past five and a half months – and that her waking up is probably due to the fact she isn’t used to the bottle yet. It would be a completely different story if she had never before slept through. So, the proposal is to split the evening feeds up in two parts: give Isolde a small bottle at around 5 p.m. and a larger one at 8 p.m. This way her intake during the day is increased, and if she keeps waking up, it won’t be because she’s hungry.

Night one in this new routine try-out goes rather well, and Isolde doesn’t wake until 3 a.m. After unsuccessfully trying to put her down without feeding, I give in and nurse her. The next day I decide to also move her second solid meal of fruit forward a bit, so she’ll be more hungr y for the two bottles: she wakes that night at 4 a.m. and I nurse her. If we can keep this up, that would be great. After 5 nights, Isolde sleeps through until 6 and the entire week that follows, she even wakes at 7! What a relief…

Isolde now only drinks at the breast in the mornings, which makes me a happier mom, too. As I mentioned in an earlier report, I like having my body back to myself a bit more. Sadly, as I had feared, the side-effect of just one breastfeed a day is that I simply don’t produce enough milk anymore. About an hour after feeding, Isolde often gets hungry again, and drinks a bottle as if she was almost starving… That does it: where’s the fun in breastfeeding, if you can’t satisfy your baby? So there it is: at Isolde’s 7 and a half months, my breastfeeding days are officially over. I’ve done the math, and in the past 7 years, I spent 20 months nursing my three babies. That’s something to be proud of, isn’t it?

Anyway, sleepwise, we’re now back to where we were. Isolde has started to wake up again, even has difficulties falling asleep, she’s very fussy in the evenings, and when she finally dozes off, she’s so easily woken up. What is bothering her this time??

By accident really, I have found a way to soothe Isolde that always seems to work, for naps, when she has trouble falling asleep or when she wakes during the night. I put her down awake and stay in the room with her. I place my hand over her cheek, kind of covering half her face except her eye. She immediately grabs hold of it and even rolls on to her side putting her weight on my hand. And she takes her thumb. Then she lies there watching me, but I close my eyes, and when she sees that she closes hers as well. I take a peek from time to time,but as soon as she begins to open her eyes, I quickly close mine again. In a minute’s time, her eyes remain closed and I slowly pull back my hand as she loosens her grip on it. I always feel the thrill of a small triumph when my trick works: let’s enjoy it while it lasts, shall we?

At eight months Isolde can’t yet sit independently, although lying down, she’s continually training her ab muscles by curling herself up like a prawn: head up and feet up. You can see in her face she’s really working hard, but sitting? Noooo! Also she still hates lying on her belly and supporting herself on her elbows (let alone on her hands). She just refuses and rolls on her back immediately… Again an example of how she’s always been: Isolde’ll do everything in her own time and won’t be stressed by anyone about it. Good for her!

Finally, she’s practising her speaking skills: we enjoy long talks of “a, da, wè, mè, fff” and lots lip smacking sounds and – my favourite – sticking out her tongue.

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