Transitioning from breast to bottle and behind the “bonjours”

Things went a little differently this morning, so I started today slightly off kilter. I did the school and creche run, chatted with the mums and dads I knew in the process, like normal, and no one would have guessed.

Every day you see the same mums, dads and childminders dropping their kids off, and they look pretty much the same every day, as we all do, and the routine is pretty much the same, too. But you never know what is resting underneath.

Maybe something happened to make them feel lighter or heavier of heart; and perhaps emotions are being pushed aside, so the perky “bonjour” (hello), “bonne journée” (have a good day), “à vous aussi” (you too) and “au revoir” (goodbye) can be heard, and the battle for finding a parking space and getting the kids into school on time can be won. These things top trump everything else in the morning, but, then again, so does working during the day, and the dinner, bath and bedtime (or the “witching hour” as it’s called by some, lol) routine in the evening.

You see glimpses and hear snippets. A French mummy the other day, with a child in “maternelle” and a teething baby at the creche, fleetingly explained to me how her “nuits blanches” (sleepless nights) were so bad that she didn’t know how she could keep going to work. She does keep going, though, and doing the school run just before, she has to, even though her baby is still teething and crying all night.

I also saw a group of mothers talking in the road outside the school planning a night out a local “resto” (restaurant) and “sans enfants” (without children). One needed consoling, the others were assuring her that she would have a fun evening.

The weekend in London that Super H booked as a birthday treat with my friends is one month away, and so is the deadline for Super PF accepting the bottle all the time. We are so connected me and her; we have an unexpectedly strong bond that is wrapped up in breastfeeding, and it is so very difficult to let go.

This is how much Super PF liked a bottle - and then she would bat it away, too [Photo: Bigstock/Goodluz]
This is how much Super PF liked a bottle – and then she would bat it away, too [Photo: Bigstock/Goodluz]
Since the moment she was born she would not sleep in her own bed. I spent those first nights at the hospital (and many after), often awake, with her cuddled into me, her hand in mine – she wanted to sleep holding hands for months. She would not sleep without me and she would not accept milk from a bottle. Little by little she has become more independent. Now she sleeps in her own bed, in her own room, from 8.30pm to 6am, usually straight through. This seems like a miracle.

For a while I felt overwhelmed breastfeeding this little girl all the time; holding her all day because she screamed when I put her down; and then cuddling her all night. I hadn’t expected to co-sleep, it wasn’t in the plan. I didn’t with Super PG, he was in his own bed from the start, but she’d had other ideas.

I searched many online forums looking for similar stories, trying to find out how other mothers coped with being needed this much. How they looked after their toddler adequately at the same time. Most couldn’t, most were overwhelmed too. The experienced mums often wrote “this too shall pass”, but at the time I couldn’t see when this could be. But pass it did.

Giving her solid food at three-and-a-half months was one of the best decisions I made and so was starting her at the creche. I was so anxious about her being away from me (but also in need of some space to breathe) and I was sure she wasn’t ready. However, this adorable little lady is full of surprises, and, as it turns out, she was ready after all. It helped us to move on.

Our nights were pretty much like this for the first few months (maybe less smiling :) )[Photo: Bigstock/Christin Lola]
Our nights were pretty much like this for the first few months (maybe less smiling 🙂 )[Photo: Bigstock/Christin Lola]
Now, at seven months of age, a pre-40th birthday weekend away (can’t remember the last time I was with my friends in London) beckoning, and with tentative plans to maybe try for another baby before I’m too old (must be completely insane), it’s time to push for the final transition from breast to bottle. The weekend puts extra pressure on this need and it is wrapped up in hundreds of different feelings. Practically it makes perfect sense, emotionally it is difficult after such an intense ride.

Having succeeded during creche hours from 9am to 3.30pm, now we have to work on the early morning, late afternoon and before-sleep feeds.

Today was the first morning that she had been given a bottle on waking. I prepared it, warmed it up and was sure she would reject it, as she has so many times before. But she took it and I was surprised and relieved. But I also felt waves of sadness, as though I was losing something precious that was slipping away that I – we – could never get back.

So, like I was saying, this morning things went a little differently.

I parked the car and we rushed into school.

Usually Super PG hangs on to his “doudou”, his little hedgehog, for security (a child’s favourite toy, like a blankie or whatever, is called a “doudou” in France). However, this morning was unusual as, after carrying it in his hand from the car, like normal, he wanted to put it back in his bag and not have it in class. As I frantically struggled to zip up the bag (thinking he’s waiting for a hug and a kiss) – Super PF is in the baby carrier between me and the zip, blocking my view, and trying as hard as she can to pull the hedgehog out again –  Super PG ran off, without a glance back, to play with his friends.

During the early weeks of morning goodbyes there were tears and leg-clinging; late September brought big hugs and kisses; and now, well, maybe this is the start of things to come. It is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that he’s happy at school and pleased that he feels secure enough to not need a “bisous” (kiss) from me that’s born out of need. But I won’t lie, it’s tough in the moment.

I took Super PF to creche next. It was the co-directrice taking all the details this morning. I ran through her wake up time and what she’d eaten, and then announced that she’d taken a bottle first thing this morning instead of breastfeeding.

She was thrilled – she knows the goal – but maybe she saw something in my eyes, because she said: “Et maman, comment va-t-elle?” (And how’s mum doing?).

Wobbling inside a little, which I hadn’t expected, I didn’t manage much more than a “ça va” (ok) and then I mustered: “C’est pas facile la vie de maman.” (A mum’s life isn’t easy.)

“Je sais bien,” she replied with a gentle smile. (I know very well.)

With that I left to find the car so I could start my day at work, saying my bonjours, bonne journées and au revoirs on the way.

Thanks for reading.



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