It was a complete surprise that I enjoyed breastfeeding the first time around. It was just as much of a surprise when I hated it the second time.
I nursed Lana until she was thirteen months. Even when I went back to work, I made whatever sacrifice necessary to provide milk for her. I spent every single break sitting alone in my car or a bathroom stall pumping and tracking every single ounce I was able to produce. Still, it was a joy to hold her close as she peacefully are or to watch her grow and know that my body was producing everything she needed. I nursed her for the last time on a flight from Florida to North Carolina, and i cried when we landed and I knew that part of our journey together was over.
With Jude it was different from the start. He had a series of colds and ear infections early on that made nursing miserable for him. He was easily distracted and wouldn’t finish a feeding if anyone else was in the room. Terrible reflux meant that he threw up on me at least once a day, and his inclination toward grazing meant he needed to eat every two hours. After four months of giving every drop of my mental, emotional, and physical every to trying to make it work, I broke down in tears and asked Tom how he would feel about me stopping.
I struggled with the decision for another two months. I felt guilty, like I had failed at the most basic part of being a mom. I felt selfish–it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, it was the I didn’t want to. Imaging telling other moms made me feel small and afraid. I felt like I wasn’t loving my son enough, sacrificing enough for him. The only thing more painful was imaging living like that for another six months. It felt like sentencing that I would never be able to withstand. I didn’t want to resent holding my baby like I did when him laying in my arms was just the position in which we did battle. I didn’t want to feel like I was disappearing like I did when I couldn’t be apart from him for more than two hours. I didn’t want to have to constantly banish Lana to be alone in another room so Jude could focus on eating. I knew none of us could survive on the half life we were living.
The weekend we made the transition to formula was one of the most clear turning points in my life. Suddenly this baby that I’d labeled fussy and needy was happy and content. Before I’d longed to be able to put him down, to release the weigh of his all consuming need from my tired arms. Now I loved to hold him close, kissing his soft cheeks and chubby hands. The feedings that I dreaded were now sweet moments where I starred at him in complete amazement.
Sometimes, when I see the glint of judgement or disappointment in someone’s eye, I still feel guilty. Then I remember the way my relationship with my son clicked into place when I removed the stress and painful pressure of having to nurse, and I knew we made the exact right decision.