This breastfeeding thing is hard. Seriously. I thought all the hard stuff ended at 18 weeks. Ha! So, SO wrong.
Last week O took a 2 day breastfeeding “break.” From 10 a.m. on Thursday until 3 a.m. Saturday morning, he nursed twice. This is a kid who usually nurses every 3-4 hours. He missed about 7 feedings. I spent most of the day on Friday trying to get him to drink expressed milk from a sippy cup, because I was so worried about him becoming dehydrated in the 80+ degree weather. (For the record, he wasn’t really interested in the sippy cup, or the bottle N tried to give him. All the literature I read said to try to avoid bottles during strikes, but I finally relented because I was so worried about the TWO wet diapers he’d had in the past 24 hours.)
What was more striking than worrying about him, was how devastated I was by this sudden shift from breastfeeding. I was very surprised by my reaction. I’ve spent many, many hours over the past 11 months thinking about weaning. I thought about it a week after we came home from the hospital. I thought about it when he was 7 months old and still waking up 3 times a night to nurse. I thought about it when he would nurse for HOURS in a day. I thought about it when N started giving him a bottle at bedtime a few weeks ago. All that thinking did not prepare me for how invested I’ve become in this nursing relationship.
If you had asked me last week how important breastfeeding was to me, I would have said, “Eh…it’s just what I do. I don’t really have any feelings about it.” In fact, thinking about it right now, I don’t feel anything special about it. I do not wax poetic about the mother-baby dyad. I don’t talk about the special bond breastfeeding creates. Which is, apparently, because I’m in denial.
After he took a bottle from N Friday night, I spent a few hours sobbing in bed. I kept thinking that this.could.not.be how weaning was going to happen. The suddenness of it was awful. To offer to nurse him, only to have him turn his head was heartbreaking for me. While I understood, logically, that this wasn’t my fault, it was very hard for me to understand it emotionally. Of course this was my fault. It was me he wouldn’t nurse from. (It didn’t help that a lactation consultant I had emailed for advice suggested that the bottle he’d been occasionally getting at bedtime, or the sitter he goes to for 4 hours a week might have caused the strike. Both of these things were instituted because I was getting to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. Had I put my own needs ahead of my child’s, and was now paying the price? (Which is a whole ‘nother mind fuck – how much of my existence do I owe my child?))
O woke up to nurse around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, but that was a feeding he had taken the night before, so I didn’t get my hopes up that he would resume nursing as usual once the sun came up. Around nap time, he and I went into his room turned the lights off, got comfy in our nursing chair and I offered to nurse him. He latched on without hesitation. I felt such a sense of relief. It literally flooded through me – this relaxing wave of security.
Though the strike is over, I’m still nervous every time I offer to nurse. I’m scared he’s going to turn his head again, rejecting me.
(Plus, on Saturday night he bit me. He drew blood. It hurts every time he latches on. Worse than any pain I experienced in the early months. I’m afraid if he doesn’t turn his head, he’s going to bite me. I’m walking a delicate line right now.)