My boobs are lumpy and throbbing. And it’s really not comfortable, not in the slightest. It’s because I’m in the process of quitting breastfeeding. And here I go, tackling probably the most controversial subject in mummy-hood – breast or bottle.
First up, a disclaimer of sorts. I’m not a ‘breast is best’ advocator. I’m not judgey about formula use. I sit on the fence. I know women who just couldn’t breastfeed, for one reason or another. And I know women who could, but chose not to. I respect all choices. As I’ve said in previous posts, whatever works for you and your baby.
Harry has been breastfeed since birth. He’s now nearly six months old. The first few weeks of breastfeeding were pretty rocky. He had latching problems so I was in a fair bit of pain for a while. There were times when I thought I couldn’t continue breastfeeding. But we sought help, I pushed through and we went happily along breastfeeding all the way…until around four weeks ago.
A few weeks back H was a bit sick, had a blocked nose and was teething badly, and just wouldn’t feed on the boob. He took a bottle fine. I guess he preferred the bottle to the boob because he could breathe easier and the teat felt good on his gums. So, I was giving him a few minutes on the boob, him fighting me all the way, until he screamed and outright refused. Then I’d resort to the bottle. With breastmilk in it if I’d had time to pump, formula if not. It was quite stressful for both of us.
Since that time, and now that he’s well, he seems to have decided that he just can’t be bothered feeding on the boob. Yup, lazy. On the odd day that he will breastfeed, it has to be in a quiet dark room and he outright refuses to feed in public, instead getting distracted by everything around him. And he continues to fight me all the way. Some might say it’s a supply problem and the answer is no, I’ve always had a good amount of milk.
I’m a believer in the nutritious value of breast milk and always said that if I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed then why not make the most of it, for H’s benefit. I go by the theory that I try to ensure my husband and I are eating good clean nutritious food in its natural state (well, as much as possible, we’re not saints) – like fresh vegetables, good fats and good quality meat – so why not put the best into our baby too, what nature intended. If that sounds preachy, I’m sorry, it’s not meant that way. And I’d like to think that in all the years they’ve been making formula they’ve come up with something that as closely resembles natural breast milk as possible.
But my little H has decided that, if it’s from the boob, he JUST. WON’T. FEED. And let’s face it, feeding from a bottle is better than nothing! So I guess the logical question is why not just pump and give him breastmilk in a bottle? Well, for some reason I just can’t keep up with demand. Our hungry monster takes a LOT of milk. He was happily getting enough from breastfeeding alone for nearly 6 months however, for me, the pump works very slowly. It takes me an hour or more to produce enough milk for one feed. Times that by four or five for his full daily milk quota and I just don’t have that sort of spare time.
Why not mix feed, a bit of both? Yup, I’ve tried that for the last week or so, pumping when I can and topping up with formula. But, for me at least, it’s not sustainable. I’d much rather spend time with Harry playing and discovering new things than pumping.
The other advantage is that, if I’m not breastfeeding, I can go back to my early morning gym sessions, which I’ve so missed. I’ve been training at other times during the day, with Harry right by my side, but I’m much more motivated and consistent if I do it first up in the morning. It’s about time mum had some of her own time, completely baby free. Plus my boobs, which were a DD cup before getting pregnant, now put the G in GI-normous, giving me back problems.
So here I go, packing it in. Call it selfish if you want, but I call it sanity.
I’ve been beating myself up abut this decision for weeks. I decide against it, try feeding him again, it ends in tears (for both him and I), I decide to stop again, I change my mind and keep trying, we fail again…it’s endless.
I pulled out a bottle and formula the other day in a café and had some disapproving stares from a mother nearby. Why do mums judge other mums? I’m doing what works for Harry and I, and shouldn’t have to justify this decision to anyone. But I feel I have to, and to myself also (hence this rather long post…)
Giving up has been hard. As my hubby put it, it’s like I am a junkie trying to ditch crack (well, how I imagine that is!). Yes, I had to do it slowly over the course of a week and keep pumping or feeding for a minute or two here or there, so I didn’t get mastitis or too engorged. But there was the odd time that I would put him on the boob when I really didn’t need to, just because I missed it. I kept saying ‘just one more time’. In reality those feeds were doing nothing for him (they were so short and he continued his constant fussing and non-feeding) but for me it was like I was saying goodbye to my newborn baby for one last time. I massively underestimated the emotional response I got from breastfeeding. Such a sense of connection and wonderment that your body can provide that sort of complete nutrition for your little one. You are literally giving them life.
I ran into a neighbor today and, when I told her the problems I’d been having breastfeeding and that I thought I would have to stop, she said ‘oh what a relief for you, you’ll be freer’. It really brought it into perspective for me. Honestly, the last few weeks have been such a battle that it WILL be a relief. It’s sad because it’s the end of a time that, looking back on it, I’ve quite enjoyed. And, at some level, with him not wanting to breastfeed I guess I feel rejected and not needed.
I’ll miss it. Him reaching for my boob, falling asleep while feeding, giving me a cheeky satisfied smile and looking up at me. But bottle feeding can be just as good. And I won’t miss him fussing, grisling, crying, pinching me and getting distressed.
I know I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I just have to accept that I will and that I’ll miss it, but move on and look forward to the next phase. My little boy is growing up, way too fast for my liking, but I know that the next amazing phase is just around the corner and I can’t wait to see what that brings.