Why I Stopped Breastfeeding
Last night I walked into Ford’s room like I do almost every night he wakes up unconsolable. But this time I was scared. Scared because I knew I no longer could nurse him back to sleep.
After 10-months of breastfeeding, it was hard to end that chapter of our journey together. But I knew it was time for so many reasons.
I was so used to half-asleep walking into his room, cradling him in my arms and rocking him back to sleep as he nursed that I didn’t know any other way. I loved those little moments, but after 10-months, it was wearing on me. What happened that night surprised me. Instead of rooting around for my breast, he curled up into my arms and snuggled in. He just wanted to be held. He just wanted me. I was enough for him without breastfeeding.
When I was pregnant, I took a two-part class on breastfeeding, which to be honest, was kind of a joke because it’s really hard to teach someone to breastfeed until the baby is here. You don’t know how your supply will be or if baby will have a tongue tie or if it just doesn’t work for either of you. For us, it did and I am so thankful for that. But the point is that I was told several times during those classes that breastfeeding was best and to keep trying because it would be hard at first. And it was hard. And I kept trying. It was not an immediate thing for us (you can read more about my journey here).
I know (and was taught) that there are so many benefits to breastfeeding, but I can’t help but wonder if there is too much societal pressure to breastfeed your baby?
I decided I would do it for all the reasons I was taught, but I didn’t want to give myself a deadline. I wanted to keep going as long as it worked for both of us. But each month that went on - especially after 7-months, I wondered when I would be able to end.
When you become a mom, the feeling of being physically attached to your newborn 90% of the day and then having to spend the other 10% of your “free time” pumping feels really suffocating. At least it was for me.
Nurse. Pump. Nurse. Pump.
I went back to work pretty quickly, but was also home with Ford most of the time until he was 8-months old. So, I felt like I was trapped in a cycle of always nursing or pumping to keep my supply up and my son satisfied. It was physically exhausting at times. But I knew it was best for him, so I kept going.
For us, breastfeeding also affected nighttime and naps severely. If I was in the room, Ford would only go to sleep for me. He also would do the “nap and nurse” as I called it, where he only would take naps if he could nurse and fall asleep on my chest. While the snuggles were the best feeling, I also felt like I never could catch a break. No time for me when we were home together. But I continued on because I knew it was the right thing to do.
Once Ford started eating solids (around 6-months), I finally started to get into my groove with work and not being a full-time mom. He didn’t demand as much from me, and I actually started to enjoy the nursing sessions because they were growing less each week. It didn’t feel as forced.
At 7-months, I took my first girls weekend getaway trip to NYC and he survived without me or breastfeeding. I could tell that our time breastfeeding would soon be diminishing. But I pumped the entire trip, just so I could continue on when I returned home.
At 8-months, I started to introduce formula.
My freezer supply had ran out and I wasn’t able to pump like I used to. Plus, pumping was my least favorite thing and I decided I would rather send him to daycare or give the nanny the formula then stress over it. He was starting 3-4 days of being away from me each week and needed to be okay without breast-feeding. For us, it was the only way I could really focus on working. He took to the formula just fine and I continued to nurse 2-3x a day.
By 9-months, I was starting to dread our breastfeeding sessions. He had gotten so big and would easily get distracted. I also could tell my milk wasn’t enough to fill him up and that he was using it more for comfort than anything else. I pared down even more to just nursing in the early morning and letting my husband give him a formula bottle before bed. In fact, that worked like a charm and he started sleeping better than ever!
At 10-months, Ford started walking and I knew it was time for our journey to end. I could tell he was growing less interested and using it more when he was sad or just wanted comforting. It was affecting his sleep more than it was helping. And I didn’t want him to rely on me when we were in public. Not that I think there is anything wrong with mamas that breastfeed in public! In fact, I did it a lot when he was younger. I just feared he was using it as a crutch and wanted him to learn self-soothing behaviors that didn’t involve the breast.
So, I decided it was time to stop.
And truthfully, all I did was cut the nursing sessions down in amount and time each week. Finally, this week we were done. While I think I still have some milk - not completely dry - I am no longer offering it. And he doesn’t seem too sad about it.
I am so thankful that I was able to have this experience with Ford. I am so thankful that I was able to nourish him and help him grow to be strong and healthy. But I am also thankful for choices. Choices to offer formula or to allow other people to care for my son. People that will shape him and mold him. I know that while this experience can be hard for some, that it’s not the only way and that either way you feed your baby is best.
Fed is best.
I am mostly ready to see how Ford develops now that he isn’t relying on me. For him to now be able to put himself to sleep and feed himself new foods, to explore and learn and grow. I am also SO ready to get back to ME. To feeling like my body is my own and that I can make room to take care of myself after 10-months of putting my little boy first. It was worth it, but it was work. And to all the mamas, you are AMAZING!