Fumbling for my glasses in the dark, I could see it had only been three hours since my baby’s last feed. The thought of shoving my boob in her mouth again made my skin crawl. That’s when I knew I needed to quit breastfeeding.
Unlike with my first baby, I didn’t hate every breastfeed with my second. Feeds were not painful. I had a well-established milk supply. The baby was a great feeder. Still I wanted to quit … for other reasons.
I could not stand the intangibles. The lack of freedom, the exhaustion, the constant hunger and thirst, nursing bras and tops, getting my boobs out … The way my body no longer felt like my own.
Breastfeeding, it’s not you, it’s me
With my first child, breastfeeding was an absolute nightmare. We never quite got our latch correct and I still have a wonky nipple to prove it.
Aside from nipple damage, cracks, and grazes, my baby and I volleyed thrush back and forth like pro tennis players. I’ll take childbirth any day over the pain of a thrushy milk duct and an eager mouth!
Then there were the lumps and mastitis. Just feed through it they say! Nothing like shivering on a hot Thursday afternoon waiting for bub to have her fill.
At first, I had an oversupply, forcing me to lie down and feed to save my daughter from drowning (we didn’t get out much). Then the milk dried up so I permanently attached myself to a pump and/or mouth.
Luckily, she always took a bottle so we started mixed feeding. One glorious evening my daughter rejected the boob and I nearly cried with relief. The next day I bought new bras to celebrate. We lasted seven whole months.
They say the first child is an experiment
When I got pregnant again, my breastfeeding expectations were at zero. I knew I wanted to give it a try, but the thought of it made me anxious. If I made it six weeks, I would happily start scrubbing bottles. At least, that’s what I told myself.
But then life got in the way. I didn’t plan on having an emergency caesarian. I didn’t plan on the trauma, the feelings of failure, the delayed milk supply, or the big and hungry baby.
As soon as we got home from the hospital, I sent my husband for a tin of formula.
Baby number two was instantly satiated. You would have thought I would give myself permission to stop breastfeeding at that moment. Nope. My anxiety, hormones, and postnatal depression pushed me to continue. They wouldn’t let me put up with another “failure”. We stashed the tin. Instead I fed and pumped, fed and pumped.
The feeding challenges were much different, but no less stressful, with this second child. Long story short, she was diagnosed with silent reflux. We got her on meds, taught her to take a bottle, and slowly started introducing formula. Each one, a hard-fought win. Quitting breastfeeding was on the horizon but I felt the mum-guilt. Hard.
I spoke of giving up many times. My husband knew no matter what he said, I would have to make up my own mind. He would say things like, “I can see that it really makes you miserable,” and “I’ll support whatever decision you make.”
One day I woke up feeling particularly hopeless and bleak. I left the house in tears and took five hours off. That break helped me feel more human (less cow!) and I made up my mind.
Stopping breastfeeding would make me happier.
Transitioning to formula
Over the next week or so I dropped feeds and finally quit cold turkey (professionals do not recommend this). We lasted five-and-a-half months this time.
To be honest, I felt bad about it at first so I compensated by carrying bubby around more. We connected during bottle feeds. She still loved me.
Now my body is mine again (however changed it may be from the original version). I feel better mentally and physically. High fives for NO MORE NURSING BRAS (I shouted that)!
Best of all, hubby has taken on a few evenings and I’ve been able to get a full night’s sleep.
Did I feel guilty that time I forgot to bring a bottle to swimming lessons? Of course.
Do I think formula smells like fish food? Yup.
Do I feel like a bad mother for choosing to give up breastfeeding? Absolutely not.
I quit breastfeeding for “selfish” reasons but it’s making me a better, more rested, more patient mum. And if that’s the case, maybe we all need to be a little more selfish.
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