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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Long Time Coming...

Well, here it is. The post I had to write eventually. It has been a long time coming. It's the breastfeeding post. More specifically, it's the "Why I Quit Breastfeeding" post...if you are into specifics and all. I was prompted into writing this post after watching a recent Momversation about knowing when to wean. Here is my answer. I guess it was pretty easy for me to know.

To make it easier for everyone else to follow, I will start at the beginning of my breastfeeding career...November, 2008. I loved breastfeeding. I told everyone that would listen how great it is, how they just have to try it! I think, actually, that I probably crossed some lines. I didn't care.

I set up mini-goals for myself, "so I wouldn't get disappointed if I didn't meet my ultimate goals." In the beginning, these were small. "One week down! Yeah!" Then it was, "Three weeks down! Go me!!" I got to 6 weeks, and things started getting easier. I started getting confident. "I can do this!" 3 months came and went. I got cocky. "If I can make it to 3 months, I can make it as long as I want." This is when my goal changed from breastfeeding until 12 months, to baby-led-weaning.

At 4 months old, Addie became a different baby. She stopped sleeping through the night, stopped napping, had the shortest fuse I had ever seen in my life. I cried. A lot. So did she. A lot. I had no idea what was wrong. I had read about sleep regressions and how they are temporary. I had read about growth spurts, and teething symptoms. It seemed, to me, that my baby must be experiencing symptoms of all of these at once. Because, of course, nothing can seriously be wrong with her. I constantly had an answer as to why were were going through a rough time. All the while, people kept telling me I probably had supply issues. I refused to believe them. No way. Breastfeeding was just too easy for me. I loved it too much to have problems.

Me and my big-headedness...I am working on my ego...

As we approached the 6 month breastfeeding milestone, I started getting worried. For the most part, it was just a feeling I had. Everyone commented on how little she was, and it would twist my stomach into knots. I confided in a few people about my worries. I got a lot of confidence-building feedback from them about how all breastfeeding mothers worry about their child's growth at some point, since we can't monitor how much they are eating. I just couldn't shake the feeling. We went in for a weigh-in for WIC the week of her 6 month "birthday" and when I sat her on the scale, the nurse told me she weighed 13 lbs 12 oz, which couldn't be right, because that's what she weighed 2 months ago.

This couldn't be happening. I could not have supply issues. No way was I going to quit breastfeeding. I had four days to increase my supply and see if we saw a change in her weight by then. I talked to the nutritionist I had seen that day, and she gave me instructions for my best odds at "fixing" this. I nursed her every hour for four days. I pumped twice at night. I took the supplements, drank a ton of water, and kept a food journal to make sure I was eating enough of the right stuff.

I drank 3 cups of coffee the morning of her doctor's appointment. I couldn't even unbutton her shirt my hands were shaking so bad. I put her on the scale, hoping against hope that it was a problem that had resolved itself. No such luck. Not even an ounce!

I had a long talk with her pediatrician, who believed that the best course of action was to introduce formula supplements. Her iron count was low, which is what made him want immediate action. I was with him at this point.

I went home, nursed Addie, then fixed her first bottle. I was nervous and sad at the same time. She had never had a bottle. Always refused to take them. When she grabbed it out of my hands and guzzled the entire 2 oz like she had been starving, I cried (notice a pattern here? Yeah...I did that a lot for awhile). I realized I had been starving my child, slowly but surely. I was about to put her down for a nap when I fed her, but within minutes of finishing her bottle, she was a new baby. She was happy, energetic, and wide awake. In fact, she stayed up for at least another hour. I cried some more. This was clearly the right decision, even with as much as it hurt me, I knew I had done the right thing. It helped that the constipation issues we had had for over a month corrected themselves that day as well.

As time went on, I realized that by adding supplements, my supply was decreasing even more. I started pumping again, even more vigilantly. I watched my supply ebb up just a little. Some days were great. I couldn't believe what an easy baby Addie was now. But then other days, I worried constantly. "Why is she fussing? Is she hungry?? I gave her her bottles, and she's nursed a lot. But how do I know my supply isn't decreasing again??" It was the question that plagued me daily. How do I know she is getting enough.

As the weeks went by, I started resenting my nursing relationship with Addie. The only time I enjoyed it anymore was first thing in the morning...our special time in bed before either of us were fully awake. I hated nursing in public-which is something I never thought twice about before. I hated the struggle we went through before I finally just gave her a bottle. We both knew at this point that it was easier! At this point, despite my strong feelings on breastfeeding just weeks earlier, I just wanted my body back.

Finally, after weeks and weeks of debating with myself, and hating myself for wanting to quit, I came to terms with the fact that I was doing the best I could, and that's all that mattered. Ending my breastfeeding career before 12 months did not make me less of a mother. It was time to come to terms with the fact that I was done. It was a hard decision, but I decided that we would be done breastfeeding by 8 months. We only lasted until 7 1/2.

Addie and I have been much happier, and much more relaxed since making the full time switch to bottles. I still feel a twinge of guilt every now and then, but I know this was in both of our best interests. I am able to keep an eye on how much Addie eats in a day. I am able to stay confident in the fact that if we are having a bad day, it is not because she is still hungry. It has definitely taken some of the guesswork out of my days. It has now been two and a half months since we stopped breastfeeding. While I miss it terribly, I am happy in my decision, and Addie is now thriving more than ever before.

I feel I should clarify, however, that I am in no way saying that breastfeeding isn't worth it. I was asked recently if I would still want to breastfeed my next child. My response? "I can't wait." I will have the upper hand, next time. I will know what to look for before it gets this far. I can only hope I can live up to my expectations.



  1. I heart this post too and I didn't even nurse (well does pumping for a month count, he didn't take it though). I love your posts, they're real and true to heart!

  2. I applad on how much time and effort you put into breastfeeding, most mothers would just give up at some point and some wouldn't even take a chance. Sometimes I feel that we are done and than Lili says "Mommy, Boob"

  3. Hi there. Thanks for the link to this very personal post. The only universal truth I've learned so far on this motherhood journey is that everyone's experience (with pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, etc.) is unique. Your story is quite different than mine, but the I think we share the same sentiment about wanting to do what's best for our children. And that's exactly what you did. And continue to do. I applaud you, too.