I have a dilemma. Some of you know that I have been rolling this dilemma around in my head (and out loud sometimes, too) for about three months now. Warning: the following contains references to boobs and the feeding of my baby. scroll down past the baby pictures if you dare…
Still here? Ok here goes. When Nathan was born, my goal was to breastfeed him for six months. We made it to that goal, and as soon as we reached it, I started wondering about when I would know that it was time to wean him. That was three months ago. I still haven’t figured it out. I keep changing my mind, but thanks to inertia, nothing much has changed other than Nathan is now nine months old and we’re still going along as we have been for a while now. The issues here are complicated (at least to me; we’ll see what you think once you’ve read them) —
1. I hate pumping. More than I can even explain. Since I am the worst dairy cow EVER, I have been pumping since Nathan arrived (increasing supply, maintaining supply, at work, before bed every night…). Nothing sucks more (ha!) than having to put down your day old baby to attach yourself to a machine. (yes, I know that there are LOTS of things that suck more, but we’re talking about me here, ok? It’s my blog and I’ll whine and be dramatic if I want to.)
2. Nathan is tiny. Less-than-third-percentile tiny. Therefore everyone is always worried that he is starving. We’ve been “supplementing” his diet with formula from bottles on a fairly regular basis since he made his appearance. It’s hard not to think of both his ittybittiness and the doctor’s continued demands that we add formula to his diet as a failure on my part. (yes, I am aware that I am not a failure, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling like one every once in a while)
3. I know that there is a ton of research about breastfed babies vs. the rest of us. I also know enough about research to know that none of the studies published tell the whole story. There is a lot of interesting discussion in this article. This is the part that I nodded at and thought about for a long time after I finished reading it (emphasis mine).
“I continue to breast-feed my new son some of the time—but I don’t do it slavishly. When I am out for the day working, or out with friends at night, he can have all the formula he wants, and I won’t give it a second thought. I’m not really sure why I don’t stop entirely. I know it has nothing to do with the science; I have no grandiose illusions that I’m making him lean and healthy and smart with my milk. Nursing is certainly not pure pleasure, either; often I’m tapping my foot impatiently, waiting for him to finish. I do it partly because I can get away with breast-feeding part-time. I work at home and don’t punch a clock, which is not the situation of most women. Had I been more closely tied to a workplace, I would have breast-fed during my maternity leave and then given him formula exclusively, with no guilt.
My best guess is something I can’t quite articulate. Breast-feeding does not belong in the realm of facts and hard numbers; it is much too intimate and elemental. It contains all of my awe about motherhood, and also my ambivalence. Right now, even part-time, it’s a strain. But I also know that this is probably my last chance to feel warm baby skin up against mine, and one day I will miss it.”
I think that is the part that I find most difficult to factor into making the decision — the awe and ambivalence. I am pretty proud of myself for lasting this long, because I was really mostly ambivalent about the whole process. I did it because I thought I had to. Then I met a wonderful mom of two. She kindly and gently reminded me that there are lots of moms like herself who would love nothing more than to breastfeed their children but are unable to do so. I felt like a giant heel, but after our conversation I started to feel the awe in an experience that I had been taking for granted. It is an amazing thing and I have spent many hours with Nathan that I may not have if I could have passed off those early morning feedings to Mike. A few weekends ago when Nathan wasn’t feeling great, I was really glad that I had the ultimate pacifier. Nursing him calmed him down faster and better than anything else. But…
4. Now that he is feeling better he has been somewhat uninterested in nursing. Does that mean he is ready to switch over to all formula and all bottles all the time? Or is he just too busy with his new freedom (he crawls now. everywhere) to think about eating? Or maybe it’s because he wants more solid foods? Or is this just a phase and as soon as I wean him he’ll decide he wants to nurse again? Besides…
5. I’m kind of stubborn and a part of me wants to make it until 12 months (twice my goal! sounds nice, doesn’t it?).
I think I’m done, but ask me again tomorrow and I’ll bet I’ve changed my mind again. It’s a dilemma. One that I am so fortunate to be facing.