My almost 10-month-old baby boy has decided to wean himself from breastfeeding. I find myself unprepared and a little sad, if I’m honest. This is the same child who refused a bottle the first eight and a half months of his life, and the same mom who has always said she didn’t care all that much for breastfeeding.
I hate bottles
From the time he was born, I gave Adriano a bottle of expressed milk about once a day. I wanted him to be able to nurse and take the bottle too, but all of a sudden he refused the bottle somewhere between two and three months. Somehow I found myself nursing exclusively, and no bottles — even of expressed milk. I tried different bottles, different formulas, different people feeding him (you know, the whole rigamarole), but he only wanted Mom.
It didn’t bother me too much. I was with him all the time anyway, and this way there were no dirty bottles or formula bills. (Oh, and of course it was the best thing for him and the bonding and all that.) But there were some times when it would have been nice if my husband could get up once in the night or if I could leave him for more than three hours. And then there were times when I just felt like he wasn’t getting enough milk.
When he was about six months old I caught a nasty 24-hour stomach virus from his older brother. Thank God, Adriano didn’t get it, but I was A MESS. It completely wiped out my milk supply. Adri still refused expressed milk and formula for two days! I couldn’t imagine he was getting more than an ounce or two at a time from me. I even called the nurse. I thought maybe she’d have a magic potion she could give me, but she didn’t. “If he’s hungry enough, he’ll take the bottle,” she said. But he refused. He was on a nothing-but-the-breast protest and he didn’t care if he starved. His persistence turned out to be the best thing for my milk supply, though. He kept nursing even if there was nothing, and it returned completely by the third day.
(So don’t worry, if you’re sick and your milk is gone, it WILL come back. Just keep baby nursing or keep pumping!)
I love bottles
But finally, finally he did get hungry enough and took a bottle with formula. I was relieved because I knew my body could not supply enough milk for his growing body without supplement anymore.
Within a few weeks of that bottle, he has decided that he doesn’t need to nurse anymore — and in a very dramatic, push-me-away and button-his-mouth-shut kind of way. And my body responded immediately: “OK, great. Done with that. Whew.” My milk supply has dropped drastically, right away.
But wait a minute, guys! That came out of nowhere. I haven’t even had time to process.
My feelings have taken me by surprise. I thought that I couldn’t wait for this moment. I got pregnant with Adriano when I was still nursing Luca, so someone had been relying on my body for nutrition since June of 2010. That’s three years. So I thought I wanted to be free — eat what I want to eat, drink what I want to drink, not be tied to a timetable, baby or pump. And see ya later, giant prenatal vitamins always getting caught in my throat.
But instead I feel blue. I have milk right now that he doesn’t want anymore. I can pump, but he won’t want it from a bottle either. My question is why am I taking it personally? I think it hurts that this bond we shared is over. I nursed him every three to four hours for the better part of a year, without exception, and now we’re done without warning.
I’m somber partly because this was not my plan (that’s what I get for making a plan, right?), and partly because he’s not a little baby anymore. Who knows, maybe it’s partly chemical too — all those hormones pumping through your system while you’re breastfeeding suddenly dropping after you quit? It could have something to do with it.
Whatever the reasons, from what I hear from other mothers, it’s common to feel a little sad. We love them so much we’re willing to literally give them a piece of ourselves. It’s a beautiful experience and I’m happy that we shared it.
So I’ll move on, just like Adriano has — it just might take a minute.