Can I Give It Up?

I’m addicted.

I don’t know if I can break this habit.

What will life be like without it?

I don’t know if I’m ready to let go.

Can I just do it a little longer?

Breastfeeding has me hooked. I’ve written before about my nursing junky, but now I’m the one who can’t seem to adjust.

Jesse’s growing so fast and developing so well, I really have nothing to complain about. There is no problem with Jesse at all. His doctor was very pleased with him when we saw her for Jesse’s 6-month check-up last week. He’s doing better at sitting up, continues to be very engaging and talks (babbles) nonstop, and he’s been trying to grab the food from our plates for probably two months now. Jason and I have given him small samples of applesauce, mashed carrots, and peas, but not enough at any one time to replace a full meal. Lately we’ve been thinking about really starting him on meals of baby food. I thought, “Absolutely! Jeremy was eating full mashed meals by this age and did great!” Jeremy was also a formula fed baby, so everything was different.

By 6-months of age Jeremy was sucking down about four 8-ounce bottles of formula a day, sippy cups of water, and having full meals of oatmeal and fruit and veggies and mashed meats. Not to mention the almost constant snacks of Cheerios, flavored puffy things, teething biscuits, graham crackers, and animal cookies. He was a big eater as a baby, but was always within the 90-95th percentile on the growth charts.

Jesse just had his half birthday a week ago and has had almost none of the above. He has been almost exclusively breastfed except for a couple of formula bottles early on (which he hated) and the occasional bottle of pumped breast milk while he’s in the nursery at church.

A few days ago I was having a low-flow day and couldn’t pump more than an ounce all day. I felt bad, but we had to ask the nursery worker to try to give Jesse a bottle of formula “just to hold him over” until our Wednesday night class was over and then I’d come right in ready to feed him before we left for the night. A couple of hours later and I rushed back to get him. When I walked in I saw a happy smiling boy bouncing on Miss Michelle’s lap. I asked if he ate anything and she replied that he sucked down the entire bottle of formula without a fight. I know it seems silly, but I felt rejected. I know Jesse still loves Mama more than some silly old bottle, but the logic in my head can’t reason with my heart.

Ever since then we’ve been giving Jesse a handful of Cheerios every now and then while he’s hanging out in his high chair. More of them wind up on the floor and in his lap than in his mouth, but he does like them quite a bit when he does get one to it’s intended destination. Even that little bit of solid food in his belly over the last few days has affected my milk supply. I haven’t been engorged in the mornings as I have been every day since he was born, and Jesse’s been nursing less frequently so I know I’m not making as much.

Today I gave him a sippy cup for the first time. It had just a little bit of water in it (maybe 2 ounces at most). He played with it more than anything but once he found his mouth with the sipper, it was all over. His eyes opened wide, he smiled, and he went after that thing with intensity. It’s one of the short, round Nuby cups with two handles and a big soft mouth at the top. The sippy piece has to be squashed a bit (bitten) for any liquid to come out. This kind was Jeremy’s favorite. It was also my favorite because it only has three easy-to-wash pieces. Jesse loved it! I don’t think he got much water in his mouth, mostly all over his shirt, but he enjoyed the experience.

I was torn. I enjoyed watching him play with his new toy and I was excited for him that he was moving on to a new milestone of drinking from a sippy cup. However, part of this mama’s heart was sad because this means he’ll be nursing even less than he already does. We’re already down to only five or six times a day at most. We’ve gone as few as four times on his extra sleepy days.

I know it’s mean-spirited, but can’t I just say no to the solid foods and sippy cups and keep exclusively breastfeeding for a while longer? I know plenty of moms who have done it for a year before giving their kids any table foods for meals (just snacks). Jesse is showing all the signs that he’s ready to amp up his diet, that’s great for him but sad for me. I can’t be selfish and I really need to let him explore food, it’s just really hard this time. Jeremy and I had a different kind of bond. He never had any breast milk and though we bonded over the bottle and he counted on me for food in that way, it’s not the same as how Jesse quite literally receives his nourishment from me. It didn’t make my heart at all sad when Jeremy moved on to solid foods because I didn’t feel like I was losing out in the deal.

Summed up, this is it: Jesse is six months old, 22 pounds, showing all signs of readiness and desire for food, and wearing clothes made for a child twice his age (and growing out of them already). It is time to let him eat other foods.

I know in my head that letting him move on and take the occasional bottle of formula and chow down on snacks of table foods will be good for me too. Since we’ve been doing this I’ve been able to enjoy a few sermons from beginning to end and attend evening classes without interruption. I have to say it was nice to be able to do those things without having to worry and stress myself out over pumping enough milk like I did when I went out with my girlfriends from lunch until dinner for a bachelorette party a few weeks back. When Jesse was a tiny baby who slept all the time it was easy to just take him with me to those things, but now he’s awake and playing all the time – much too disruptive for a class setting or ladies night out.

Like I said, I know these truths in my head, but my heart refuses to believe them. My heart yearns to keep up the breastfeeding for as long as possible and hang the rest.

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2 thoughts on “Can I Give It Up?

  1. Becca

    Oh, Jen!! You’re not being selfish… you’re just trying to enjoy every bit of his baby-ness!

    Maybe I can give you a little encouragement that nursing doesn’t end when the food starts. M started getting solid food at about 5.5 months. I had every intention of holding out a little longer, but the girl literally DOVE for my pizza crust one night and I figured I couldn’t hold out any longer. That was 9.5 months ago… and she’s still nursing and shows no sign of not needing me for that anymore. (Though some days I wish she would show some signs of not needing me anymore!!!)

    And, until we moved here and got on the schedule we’re on now, and she started to eat much bigger meals (though she’s always eaten a LOT of solids), we were still nursing 6 times a day! I kept nursing her on her normal schedule and always offered the breast first and she kept at it. It wasn’t until she was a year old that I switched her meals to normal meal times – up til then, I just fed her some solids about an hour after she nursed.

    Now we nurse 4 times a day (first thing in the morning, and then before her two naps and before bed) and I’m grateful that, on days like today, when she didn’t want to eat much, I KNOW she’s getting what she needs from me anyway!

    It’s so hard to see them transition to the next phase… you look forward to those major milestones, but then you realize it means they’re growing up, too! You won’t be depriving him if you don’t introduce a bunch of solids, but you also won’t be ruining your BF relationship if you do!!

    Reply
    1. Jen Post author

      Thanks Becca! Your insight is so helpful and made me feel a lot better. I think we’ll continue introducing solids but not count on them to be Jesse’s main source of food, mostly just let him play with the textures and flavors. I think the solids will be helpful too for when he’s acting famished at exactly the wrong time for me to sit down to nurse him (like when I’m in the middle of cooking, or showering, or doing any other thing where I can’t sit for 15 minutes). I will be able to give him a few dollops of mashed bananas and a few Cheerios to hold him over til dinner is over.

      If he really decides that real food is the way to go and starts nursing less and less, I suppose I’ll have to live with just being his favorite source of comfort. If all I get are just the morning wake-up and bedtime feedings, then I’ll just savor those sweet times with my little snuggle bug and have fond memories of the times when I complained of the all-day, every day, non-stop “Mama I need to eat every 30 minutes!” clusterfeeds. 🙂

      Reply

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