Closed to be open

It’s a strange little struggle when the way you want to parent, or the way you thought you would parent, interferes with what you just have to do to get by. I say little because – look, sometimes you just have to get on with it don’t you? But it’s still a struggle…

I am currently writing this sitting hunched over my laptop at my mother-in-law’s house (I don’t publish my posts straight away – I spend a bit of time making sure they’re not going to upset anyone so this isn’t right now….but that’s not the point). After a year of not sleeping longer than three hours, drastic measures have been taken. My husband has the baby at home, and I’m with my big boy at Nanna’s. We are weaning.

It’s earlier than I wanted. Breastfeeding was hard fought for and I imagined I’d do it until baby decided he didn’t want anymore. But reality has set in, and as I’m on the verge of a breakdown from literally never sleeping, we have realised we have to do something.

So here we are. My baby’s desire to feed all through the night every night has been something we have accepted for a long time, but now it’s starting to impact my health so for the last few months we’ve been trying to change things. And nothing has worked. Feeding only during the day hasn’t worked. Feeding only at night hasn’t worked. Having daddy bring baby into our room hasn’t worked. Having baby sleep in bed all night with me feeding whenever he wants to be fed works for him – but it doesn’t work for anybody else in the house.

And forced weaning isn’t what I wanted to do. My parenting style – if I have one – is exceedingly gentle, child-led, and often the path of least resistance…What we are doing feels like it goes against the way we want to do things, even if we are doing it in the most gentle way we can.

But this is the reality of parenting isn’t it? Sometimes what one wants doesn’t work for the other three (or four or six or however many are in your whānau). And balancing our family of four is something we strive for – everyone’s vote counts equally. It’s a struggle sometimes to make sure everyone is being heard and quite frankly, I often find myself at the bottom of the pile.

It was my husband who finally put his foot down and said we need to focus on me for a bit. I need sleep. Even if it means that short term he won’t get sleep and baby won’t get sleep (to be fair baby rarely sleeps so whatever kid).

Prioritising is hard for a lot of families. I’ve spoken to so many mums who are so close to burnout because the order of the house is everyone else’s needs then maybe, if there’s anything left over, them.

I always advocate for mums, so it’s a strange thing to not really be able to advocate for myself. I slept amazingly last night from 10pm till 4am. The most sleep I’ve had in well over a year. I feel like a million dollars (a million dollars with very engorged and painful boobs just FYI TMI).

So I’m saying now, from the other side of sleep: I know how hard it is to go against how you want to do things as a parent, and I know how hard it is to let anyone else put you first, and I know how hard it is to say you’re struggling and things have to change.

But if you can – do it. And if you can’t – get someone to do it for you.

I had to wait until my husband and mother-in-law said “enough” and I was too tired to argue. But I’m glad they did step in. I’m glad they noticed and recognised I wouldn’t be able to say it myself. I’m grateful they could see the internal struggle I was having – and I’m so thankful they decided to do something about it.

And even though my heart feels heavy, just one night of sleep has helped me clear the fog in my head.


I needed and deserved sleep. And my little milk-obsessed baby is actually a resilient, one-year-old fatty who will also get through this just fine even if he doesn’t like it. I just need to keep remembering that. And, like a mantra, keep telling myself that I matter too. That I need to be healthy to take care of my beautiful babies. That I can’t be the mum I want to be if I hit a wall. That all the parenting philosophies and good intentions and plans on how I want to handle things aren’t worth a dollar if I can’t function properly.

I am imagining my cheeky monkey right now snuggled up with his daddy – sleeping peacefully despite the milk bar being closed.

It is going to be OK even if it’s not what I planned or what I wanted. It’s going to be OK.


21 Comments on “Closed to be open

  1. My 15 month old milk-obsessed child will go to sleep when my husband holds her and walks up and down with her in complete darkness for 5-10 mins. In the daytime when I’m not there and milk isn’t an option, she doesn’t fuss for lack of it… When I am there, the expectation is that my boobs, my lap and my arms are ever-ready.

    Your baby has his loving daddy to cuddle and reassure him. It might not be the parenting path you’d have chosen, were his wants more reasonable, but he’s still surrounded by love, familiarity and comfort. It’s still gentle, responsive parenting 🙂

    • Thank you Miri, that’s really reassuring. Thank you for taking the time to make me feel better ❤️

  2. What a wise and wonderful mama you are. Your boys are very lucky to have you, and also very lucky to have a dad and Nanna who can support their mama to be well and thriving.

    Kia kaha, mama. Arohanui. x

  3. Oh hugs to you, I too needed to shut up shop and have my body and boobies back. Fortunately I got a great tip from a friend whose family is from Pakistan and told me how women in his family wean – neem tea! I just rubbed some powder on my nipples and bubba was put off them for life! It was kind of sad how she would point at them and shout ‘yuk’ but there were no tears and it worked well for us! : ) After three attempts she never went back! Gotta do what ya gotta do sometimes…

    • Fascinating! We are doing a slow wean, none overnight but one in the morning and at lunch. It’s going ok so far. Thank you for the tip and for sharing your experience!

  4. Thanks so much for this post. As a single Mumma I don’t have that person who is going to say “enough”, so it’s nice to hear someone else who was on the verge and has pulled back for her own sake (and therefore that of her babes). I have tried the hard line before, but when the pup was unwell and cries of “muuummmaaa” ripped at my heart, I caved and we are back to square one. This post may just be the nudge I need- so thanks x

    • Oh Rebecca! That’s so hard. This is probably my fifth attempt at weaning. And the longest I’ve lasted. I too have caved and ended up back at square one. It’s so, so hard. It’s hard when it’s not what you want to do but you feel like you have to. I hope you have other support, I recognise how lucky I am that I had someone to step right in. I hope you can do what works best for you and your whānau and I’m hear as a shoulder to lean on or cry on if you need anything (even if it’s just virtual) ❤️ You can do this, it’ll be ok x

    • Girl, you got this. One of the strongest and most beautiful mums I’m lucky enough to know.xx

  5. Good luck and I’m so glad you’re putting yourself first, because when you’re happy and rested, your babies will have a Mum who isn’t struggling and everyone will benefit. You matter! <3

  6. My heart goes out to you. I’ve got no advice, just support. I’m sending you whatever strength and self-love I can spare. You’re a great Mum all the time, and wise to put just this little bit into your self so you can keep that up for both of them. And of course, your hubby as well.

  7. Well done you guys!
    I have this feeling that weaning is hard for lots of us no matter how it happens, I tried to push on through biting and nursing strikes but around his second birthday our bubs decided enough, no more feeding, like he had read the WHO guidelines feed till at least two and had taken them very literally. He night weaned when I went away for work and he co slept just with daddy when he was 18 months old and oh how I missed him waking me up for milkies in the night. The solid sleep was good though.
    I have this sense that the mainstream expectation is that we will be glad when our little ones wean, that breastfeeding is a short term inconvenience that we wll be glad to give up. Its so much more than that and there is so much emotion with it. And then on top of that there’s hormone changes and how they hit our emotions too. I wonder if there are traditions about nurturing mamas who are stopping breastfeeding.

    • Oh Ella! Your comment made me tear up. I really feel like it’s a huge thing stopping – but there’s no real thing that marks the fact that you’ve stopped. And I miss sleeping in bed with him (even though it’s only short term). Last night when my big kid woke up from a bad dream I told him he could sleep with me, I think I just wanted one of my kids with me! And yes, hormones. Hormones – lots of it. Sigh. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Until I became a mother I honestly had no idea how powerful guilt was as a driving emotion. As mamas we have such high expectations of ourselves. But sometimes we simply cant meet these (many times) unrealistic goals. Yet we still feel so guilty. Like you Emily I have tried so hard to adopt a very gentle approach to parenting. Today was my first day back to work after 11 months of maternity leave. Despite trying to implement changes early, my little control freak resisted all until the very last minute. As a result, I’m sure there will be more tears until we both adjust. I would LOVE to stay at home with my boy but needs must. I know he is physically fine but I worry. I keep telling myself that I am doing this for my family in its entirety.

  9. I am currently considering what I am going to do to wean my 20 month old girlie. We only “midnight” (aka 2,3,4am) feed if she is sick now – we spent a hard few weeks offering her only dad and a little drink of water to get rid of the constant night feeds from our lives! And it worked. she will now go 7pm-5.30am milk free quite happily. If she wakes I pop in and tell her “its still night time darling” and some times she will want a wee sip of water and will go straight back to sleep! Yay! however… She still has a morning feed – a lunch time feed (I go to her daycare). a give-it-to-me-yesterday-if-not-sooner feed at daycare before we go home when I go to pick her up, and a post bath feed before stories and bed. This is on weekdays. At the weekend when she has me “on tap” I can’t even tell you the structure! Its the above times and about 5 more little snacks just because she can. Apart from the sanity driven sleep training described above we have gone totally baby led weaning doing finger food right from 6 months and it has been a great success. I just don’t know how to lead her down a path of reducing these feeds gently and this “little struggle” you describe Emily is EXACTLY what I am feeling – how do i reconcile my “decided” parenting style on baby lead weaning, with the desire for her be more weaned! I would like to keep at least one BF a day for her until she is 2… but that is only 4 months a way, at this rate we will still be going full force.
    OK ramble over. I fully sympathise with hard yards of dad time at night but it did work for us 🙂

  10. Hey Emily thanks for this post in particular. I love your work and your gentle parenting style has been apparent in previous posts. I admire this style and have felt guilty how I fail regularly to be the gentle mother I want to be and almost stopped reading your posts and anything like pinky McKay who makes me eye roll. I generally have learnt not to read much to do with parenting and all the advice crap out there but your posts are usually pretty realistic. And this post was equally refreshing that we can’t always parent how we want as our children are their own people too. I had struggled to nightwean my toddler, my husband hated hearing crying so I kept feeding but after 15 mths I told him we both had to grit our teeth, short term pain and all that. I did some variation of crying it out, going in every 5 mins to reassure bubs, he cried two hours straight first night, less the second and third and then amazingly 10 hours soon after, which has generally carried on. Not gentle but none of us is scarred for life four years later. Please keep up the realistic posts of daily life, love it xx

    • I meant in my previous comment that my son soon slept for 10 hours not cried, ha!

  11. Lovely post. Straight from the heart. Going through similar emotions atm. Don’t all mums at some point? Sharing this post on my blog…