Let me start by saying that even though I breastfed for 2 years, 1 month, 3 weeks, 5 days, plus one more feed, I am not proud of the fact that I chose to wean so early. If the situation were different, I would have loved to go on for as long as Laddoo needed. Unfortunately, it seems like it wasn’t meant to be.
For the sake of my sanity and the impact that the state of my mind would have on my long-term relationship with Laddoo, I had to do it.
I don’t expect anyone to understand, I definitely don’t expect anyone to agree. But at the onset, let me tell you that as much as I’d love to read what you think and that your comments will be valuable “engagement”, if you don’t have something nice to say, please don’t comment. That’s totally okay. I don’t need any more grief than I am already going through.
When did it get too much?
Things got a little rough in November-December 2017 (14 months of age) when she started what would be the worst bout of sleep regression that would last till mid-March 2018. I was more sleep-deprived in that phase as compared to the newborn phase. Laddoo wanting to nurse frequently just made it worse.
We knew it could be teething, but then when we saw no sign of new teeth or swollen gums even two months after her first two teeth cut through in October 2017, I didn’t know what to make of it.
During this time she also dropped her second nap, and my gross miscalculation about the maximum number of hours that she could stay awake for, made this transition worse than it had to be. So much that right from December I started looking forward to February for our first real (and only) vacation since Laddoo was born.
Little did I know that we would pay for that vacation in more ways than we could imagine.
In February 2018 – 4 months since her first two teeth arrived – her upper front teeth finally started to cut through. I could also see the area around her teeth on her lower gums swollen which meant two more were going to cut through soon. So she had two teeth out, plus two cutting through, and two more about to cut through. That had to be rough. And in a bizarre incident that involved a baby carrier and loud crying, I discovered that we had completely missed something.
You see, after her two lower and upper front teeth, we were looking for the other teeth on the front of her mouth to cut through because those were supposed to be the next in line. But time-lines aren’t something Laddoo has ever adhered to. She arrived 12 days before her due date, she rolled over, crawled, and walked earlier than we expected. Talking and teeth were the two areas where she was behind schedule.
On Valentine’s Day, when we were out for lunch in Pondicherry, I wore Laddoo in my Anmol Dilwale SSC and took her out of the restaurant while Sandeep finished his meal in peace. She wanted to to run around but the restaurant led right to the main road so in the interest of not running after my toddler after I’d just eaten, I decided to wear her. In protest, she squirmed and wriggled in the carrier, and when she realised she wouldn’t be able to get out she started to cry; loudly.
During this entire time she tried to bend backwards and in that one moment when her mouth was wide open to let a cry out, I suddenly caught a glimpse of something white on the upper insides of her mouth. For a minute there, I thought I was imagining things. But when she cried again and I cradled her head in my palm, I got a good look at what it was.
Her first set of MOLARS had already started peeking from her upper gums whereas when she smiled and babbled, we could only see the two teeth on the front of her lower gums, not even the ones on top that had started to cut through. Suddenly Laddoo’s teeth were sticking to the time-line because molars do cut through around 18 months of age, and as far as Laddoo was concerned, the order of the teeth could take a hike.
At that moment though, all I felt was relief. The poor thing was in pain. And molars hurt more than the others, didn’t they? No wonder she was waking up at odd hours in the night. There suddenly seemed to be an explanation. That evening I tried to open her mouth and see if her lower molars were out too, but she didn’t open her mouth wide enough or long enough to let me see. A few days later, I would see that those were out too, albeit barely, but that meant that over the last five months (October ‘17 to February ‘18) Laddoo had 8 new teeth.
I couldn’t imagine not nursing at this stage. She had ten more teeth to go. If they all came back-to-back like these 8 did, that’ll be awesome because then the pain would be over quickly. But if they didn’t, at least there would be temporary relief. Either way, that was enough for me to go on.
Two more teeth on her upper gums cut through in the next few months, but by then we had both gone through one round each of Chicken pox and severe conjunctivitis. I nursed her through her illnesses and mine. If you ask me today how I found the strength or the energy to do it, I have no answer for you. But somehow I did.
By end of April 2018, it seemed like the hardest parts were over. And she wasn’t nursing as frequently then. But then we had a major life event happening soon. We had purchased our own house and we were about to move. And to get through this transition and to get used to the new place, Laddoo would need something that was familiar, something that gave her comfort.
In the last week of May 2018, we moved. Laddoo took this very well and her nursing and sleep improved almost instantaneously. She was up at the crack of dawn, napped for at least 90 minutes during the day and was asleep BEFORE 8 PM. By mid-June 2018 (21 months of age)I felt like I could go on for another year, even.
Yes, she was nursing multiple times a day and wouldn’t sleep unless she was nursed to sleep. And even though it meant that I had to be around when it was nap time and bed time, it wasn’t such a bad deal because it was the quickest and easiest way to put her to bed. And because she nursed for at least 15 minutes after she had fallen asleep, I got to watch something on Amazon Prime while I nursed; something I definitely wasn’t complaining about.
A few weeks later, somewhere around end of June this year she began demanding duddu every hour, maybe more frequently. She nursed for just a few minutes but it meant that I would have to drop whatever it was that I was doing right then because otherwise it would result in tears. Maybe she finally realised that the new home was not temporary, maybe she missed our old house. Maybe it was teething again.
Thus began a vicious cycle of “I want duddu because the food isn’t ready yet” and “the food isn’t ready yet because I was nursing, again.”
She wanted duddu at home, she wanted it when we were in the park.
She wanted it during car rides, and in restaurants.
She wanted it when she was hungry, she wanted it during meals.
She wanted it when she was bored, she wanted it while she was entertained.
Sometimes she wanted it just because.
If I tried to lay down next to her or even away from her but in the same room as she was, she would climb on me and help herself to duddu. If I sat her on my lap to talk to her or to sing with her, it would result in the same outcome. I couldn’t even hug her without it turning into a nursing session.
And this was still when we were at home. When we were out, she didn’t hesitate before touching my breasts to let me know that she wanted milk, as if saying duddu, duddu on repeat wasn’t clear enough. Sometimes, she even lifted my top, whenever possible, and while I will champion for those who want to nurse in public, I personally would like to avoid flashing my body parts to strangers.
At first, I didn’t worry about it too much because I thought it was just a phase. The only problem was when we were outdoors. If we were at the park, it would take less than 10 minutes for me to get back home if Laddoo wanted to nurse, and we only went further away from the house when my husband was around.
At home I even looked forward to it sometimes because it meant some quiet downtime for me when I didn’t have to listen to anything or say anything.
Then I realised that her duddu demands were at an all-time high because her canines were cutting through, so even though it exhausted me to go on, I continued because she really need the comfort to get through the pain, and I would be horrible to take that away from her during such a difficult time.
This time we were right. Her canines did cut through (because those and the last four molars were the only ones left). When I think back and calculate, Out of the 16 teeth that Laddoo has as of today (only the last 4 molars haven’t cut through yet) FOURTEEN teeth cut through between February and July; that’s a little over 2 teeth per month. My poor baby. Most babies get these over a period of a whole year, maybe more. And here, her body was working overtime and giving her more pain than she could handle.
All of this explained so much and that’s the beauty of hindsight, isn’t it?
Anyway, once her canines were out the frequency of duddu did decrease. But she was still nursing too much for an almost-two-year-old. I could see that it affected her appetite, it affected everything she did because as soon as she remembered duddu, she would drop whatever it was that she was doing – even if she seemed to be engrossed in a toy or activity – and expect me to do the same.
Then came the most annoying part: switching sides.
I’m not sure what it is that triggers it, but from the responses I read on the forums on multiple parenting websites, it is apparently very common.
Suddenly one day, she wanted to let go of one side and switch to the other one. Of course, I obliged. But a few minutes later she wanted to switch again. I was fine with that too.
Then it started happening during every feed. She first picked the side she wanted to start from. There came a point where she had named each side (depending on what I wore and what it said on the T-shirt, because she doesn’t know left and right. Otherwise she would just point at the one she wanted.)
A few minutes into the feeding session, she’d ask for the other one. Not only did she want to switch sides, she wanted to switch multiple times during every feed. Once when I timed it, I realised she didn’t last longer than a minute on either side.
At first I thought it might be the taste; maybe the milk on each side tasted different, and maybe she preferred one over the other. That theory would have made sense if she only nursed from one side. But that wasn’t the case.
She went from left to right and back to left before going back to right. Maybe my milk production was down. A part of me was happy about this because that would mean soon there wouldn’t be enough milk for her. But hey, it works on demand and supply, and the rate at which Laddoo nursed, low supply was the last thing for me to worry about because the demand was at an all-time high.
My down-time became exhausting too.
Then she started doing this at night.
For almost a year, I had gotten comfortable in feeding her from one side only throughout the night without it affecting my supply on the other or causing engorgement. It also meant I slept well during the few hours that I did manage to sleep. But this change in scenario meant I had to get up and move myself to the other side of the bed because she wanted the other side. If I didn’t, she’d cry. And if I let her cry, she’d go from sleepy to awake and then I’d have to either nurse her for longer than just a few minutes, or rock her first and then nurse her for longer than just a few minutes.
I felt trapped. It had been months since I had been free of baby-duties for more than 2 hours at a time.
I did consider the possibility that her final four molars were coming in. But when after two months of the canines cutting through, there was still no sign (another 2 months later, there still isn’t) I wondered when I would feel like myself again.
My body and my time had been dedicated to serving Laddoo’s needs first for almost two years.
As much as I loved being a mom, as much as I loved my child, I loved being sane too.
I wanted my body back.
I wanted to feel like a person again.
…to be continued.