The Beginning of the End

It has been a few days since I’ve posted. I’d say there have been a number of reasons why – busy with a new job, busy with a 7 month old, busy with a SICK 7 month old, busy with life in general. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I have been glued to the 50 Shade of Grey trilogy. Nope, nothing I say.

Anyway, it has been an eventful month for me and the C-Man. A few weeks ago, I decided to starting making “the switch.” That’s right , I’m talking about the switch from breastmilk to formula. *GASP*

The topic of breastfeeding has come up a few times on MomsinMaine, and it seems like there is a common theme – more often than not, breastfeeding is a struggle. A struggle because of the pain. A struggle because of the process. A struggle because of time, or lack thereof. Breastfeeding is an active choice, and just like with most choices in life, it’s not cut and dry. I think almost any mother that has ever breastfed at least once time will probably tell you that it was a valuable experience for many reasons – whether they loved it or hated it. But you’ll probably be hard-pressed to find a mother that would tell you it was easy.

I recently gave you some background on my personal breastfeeding experience. While Charlie and I made it through huge hurdles in those first few months, recent life changes have finally driven me to wave the white flag and begin the weaning process. And, I have very mixed emotions about it.

Charlie was taking about 16 ounces of breastmilk a day at daycare. We did just fine at that pace for the first couple of months. Unfortunately, after returning to work so quickly, my stress levels increased and my free time diminished and by the time Charlie hit about 4 and a half months, I was only able to pump about 12 ounces a day. I did have some frozen milk that I had socked away while on maternity leave, but that stash has earlier been depleted thanks to my former employer’s awesome consideration in requiring asking me to make a 3 day, 3 night trip away from my 3 month old baby. (Remind me to add that to the list of things I need to thank them for.)

Anyway, you can see that the milk math wasn’t adding up and, quickly, we had to come up with a plan B.

First, I tried to change it. So, plan B was to begin herbal supplements, drink gallons of water, and drink mother’s milk tea. But thanks to the herbs and my sensitive intestinal tract, I ended up spending more time in the bathroom than at my pump – if you catch my drift. While I was taking time off between my jobs, I spent a week strictly nursing and not pumping. This seemed to help, but only temporarily.

Finally, at 6 months and 1 day, I gave in. We sent a can of formula to daycare the next day.

Why do I feel guilty? After all, I hit my goal of “6 months or first tooth.” I actually made it past the first tooth (even though C is a biter!), and I hit 6 months and 1 day. Yet still, the guilt lingers. I think, for me, there are a number of reasons I’m having a tough time with my decision.

First, competition. I grew up in a competitive, athletic family. You play to win. Failure is no fun. And, I’ve integrated that mantra into the way I live life. It’s why I was devastated when boyfriends would break up with me (Failure). It’s why I cried in 7th grade when I got a D in Geography (Might as well have failed). It’s why I’m a good employee (I hate failing). It’s also why I gave birth epidural-free (If other moms could do it, I could freaking do it!). And, it’s why I tried so hard to beat my own breastfeeding goals. My “ultimate” goal would have been to make it to 1 year, even though the AAP recommendation would allow me an “easy out” at 6 months. Again, if other moms can do it, I can freaking do it. You give me a goal, I’ll try to meet and exceed it. WINNING!

Second, pressure. Not that I want to delve into the topic of “Mommy Wars” again, but there is seriously a ridiculous amount of pressure placed on new mothers to breastfeed these days. And, it is very counter-intuitive to the way society treats new mothers in other ways. Breast is best! So says the OB/Gyn, the lactation consultant, the RN, the midwife, the doula, the pediatrician, the can of formula, the cover of TIME Magazine, etc. etc. etc. But, about that whole “getting-enough-time-to-ensure-that-you-can-establish-proper-breastfeeding” thing (maternity leave)…good luck with that!

Third, judgement. Other moms put on the pressure big time. In online communities, in real life… I never expected so many women to have such an interest in my boobies. But, when it comes to breastfeeding it seems a lot of people want to be in the know. I can’t even count how many times I was asked if I was going to breastfeed or if I was breastfeeding. And sometimes, it felt like the question was only asked so they could see if I’d say the “f” word (Fuc…formula). Rarely did it feel like the inquisition arose out of genuine concern for myself or my baby. No, it was as if they were looking for some juicy gossip to confirm that they have beat me in the Battle of the Boobs. (Oh, did you hear? Michelle gave Charlie formula last night. I KNOW, can you even believe it! I mean, I was able to breastfeed until my son was 2 so I can’t believe she’s being so selfish.) Whatever.

So, I’ve got classic mom guilt. If you’re a mom, you know what I’m talking about – that raging guilt that begins before your little one has even descended the birth canal. I think mom guilt comes from a good place – we want the best for our children and we feel like we’ve let them down when we don’t provide that to them. We feel like we should have done more. We feel like we could have done better. No matter how much or how well we do. Even though I made it over 6 months without formula, I still feel like I could have done better. I have a feeling that not matter how long I nursed, I would have felt guilty when I quit. And I’m starting to learn, that feeling is simply just inherent with being a mother.

So what now? Charlie still has a nursing session in the morning and at night, occasionally. I’m lucky the taps are continuing to work even though I haven’t pumped since I don’t know when and I don’t nurse frequently. But, pretty soon I have a feeling we will be cutting those nursing sessions out completely (specifically, when those top teeth finally join those two lonely bottom ones!). But until then, I will count myself incredibly lucky for the great achievement of making it 6 months doing one of the hardest things I’ve had to do since childbirth. And I will continue to remind myself, my child is well fed and very much loved – and that’s what counts.

2 thoughts on “The Beginning of the End

  1. First of all, SIX MONTHS?! YOU ROCK, MOMMA!
    Secondly, guilt sucks. Mom guilt is the WORST.
    Guilt about breastfeeding is terrible. Seriously terrible. Every mom feels it though, honestly. Even if you’d made it to the one year mark I bet you’d have felt some guilt that you could have gone longer. I hate this guilt. I’ts kind of my soap box, how ridiculous this guilt is for moms and breastfeeding and what we feed babies and formula. I just told someone today – I swear to you on your child’s first birthday you are NOT going to be even thinking about what you fed him all year. You’ll just be excited to have a healthy, happy baby who is now a year old and totally OK and normal and great – regardless of bottles or breast and formula or breastmilk. It’s really OK, whatever we do.

    I hope you find some way to be OK and accepting of where you’re at now. Six months is a REALLY long time. Honestly. That’s incredible. You should be celebrating – with alcohol, come on now! – your accomplishment instead of putting it down and worrying about what others might think of it.

    Hang in there through the guilt…. this too shall pass. YOU ROCK.

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