Breastfeeding – the Good, the Bad and the Guilt

My son immediately latched on to me 30 minutes after being born via emergency c-section. It doesn’t get much better than that in the world of breastfeeding. Despite not getting the immediate skin to skin time I was so looking forward to, he nursed easily and never had any trouble. From the beginning, I was one of the lucky ones.

I never had any expectations about nursing my baby. I heard how hard it was so figured I would take it one step at a time, give it my best shot, but know that formula was always an option. But Colin was a natural, he was a hungry boy from day 1 and if there was food in my boob (or anything else he tried to latch on to!), he was going to get it! Determined seems to be a recurring characteristic in my sweet baby boy and not only when it comes to eating!

Despite the first 48 hours of constant sucking (something I attribute to how well I was able to produce milk in the coming days/weeks/months), I never had a problem with chaffed nipples or any of the other horror problems that can arise nursing. I’ll admit, the first few days were a little sore, but nothing that I couldn’t handle. Nothing that would make me reconsider breastfeeding. I never even had to use nipple cream. Not even once.

With everything going so well, I knew I wanted to breastfeed for at least 6 months. Even going back to work (part-time), my goal was to make it to 6 months. I read about a study saying babies who were breastfed for 6 months scored higher in IQ tests, but there wasn’t much of a difference between the 6-12 month breastfed babies. Something that just stuck in my mind. His determination gave me determination and I have been able to hold onto that for the past 6 months, even while pumping at a thruway rest stop when traveling to a bridal shower without him for the night.

Well my baby is going to be 6 months this week and I am flooded with a myriad of emotions. On one hand, I know that I will never ever be ready to stop breastfeeding. The closeness it has brought to my baby, the nourishment I have been able to give him. I will forever be grateful for this experience. But on the other hand, and I don’t know how to even think this without an enormous feeling of guilt, I am kind of ready to have my body back. Cue huge cloud of guilt hanging over my head.

Never even mind what a drag pumping is (in the bathroom at work, traveling, etc.) I had my first feelings of frustration the other night while I was trying to nurse him to bed. Back story: We had just had a long weekend traveling. We were in NH for a wedding that my husband attended while I stayed back in the hotel to be with the baby. On top of that, he started showing signs of attachment anxiety. So every time my husband would take him while he was getting hungry or tired, he would cry and reach for me. It put a lot of pressure on me. Don’t get me wrong, I love every single precious second with him, but traveling and not being able to have much help was just a lot. So the night we got home, all I wanted was to enjoy dinner with a nice glass of wine. Meaning I would have to wait until after he ate and went down for the night. Which was fine. I wasn’t starving so wasn’t in any rush. The baby was playing with his dad, but soon became upset. Hungry, we thought. But as soon as I picked him up and began to feed him, he became disinterested in my boob and wanted to play again. Turns out, he just wanted to play with me! Alright fine, let’s just eat I said. We started our meal and not halfway through he got really fussy again. Alright, now he’s hungry! I decided to leave the rest of my meal (I could still enjoy the second half with wine when he was done eating!) Back on the couch we went through the same game again. He would suck for a minute then want to sit up and play. I was exhausted from the trip and just wanted to finish my meal. And have a glass of wine. And the baby was just teasing me at this point. My husband had finished his dinner by this point and was just sitting at the other end of the couch watching tv, oblivious to our baby’s game. I stood up exasperated. I needed help. Maybe if he just played with his dad for a minute I would have time to pump a bottle. My thought being maybe he wasn’t getting milk fast enough from me. Maybe he was just outgrowing nursing. But as soon as I walked out of the room to get my pump ready, he started crying. I felt awful. He needed me and was just trying to play with me and I had walked away from him. I rushed back to him, comforted him and successfully nursed him to sleep.

Wow, it’s amazing what writing can do for you. Writing everything above really made me realize that I am definitely not ready to stop breastfeeding. I’m going to take a cue from my determined son and keep at it for now. I have a feeling we will both know when it is time. But those moments when I am able to comfort him are moments that I cherish and that I will never have again once it’s gone.

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