Recently, I celebrated my 6 month milestone!
6 months, 62 weeks, 182 days…That’s how long I have breastfed.
This is a celebration for a number of reasons (which you are about to find out).
I wasn’t a breastfed baby. In fact, most of my millennial friends were not breastfed babies either. However, breastfeeding is rising in popularity and it’s becoming more acceptable in todays culture.
“In the United States, more than 8 in 10 mothers (81.1 percent) begin breastfeeding their babies at birth”, according to the 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When I decided to breastfeed, my family all gave me flack and told me it wouldn’t last long. My mom warned me of all the challenges and the commitment, but when someone tells me I can’t do something it just makes me even more motivated to prove them wrong.
I set a goal. Breastfeed my baby till he’s one. That’s it. Easy peasy, right?
But little did I know, most mothers stop breastfeeding before the one year mark.
According to the CDC, “Good nutrition and optimal health starts with breastfeeding exclusively for about the first six months of life, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But only about half of babies (51.8 percent) are still breastfeeding at 6 months of age.”
Well folks, it’s been 6 months and I have decided to quit exclusive breastfeeding.
So why am I calling it quits (kind of)?
Well, there are a few reasons why…
Failure to Thrive
Yep, we (I say we because my poor husband and son included) suffered through all the above.
Looking back at my 6 month journey, I realize now that I have endured a lot (there were a lot of tears). My poor husband….
Exclusive breastfeeding isn’t easy…
Okay, before you call me a quitter, realize that I am one tough cookie and I had my reasons.
From day one, we had complications.
Breastfeeding didn’t come natural to me, like it does for so many mothers. My son had difficulty latching and I couldn’t seem to figure out what I was doing (even with the help of nurses and lactation consultants). I remember picking up the phone with tears rolling down my face and calling my nurse in the middle of the night asking for formula because I couldn’t get my son to eat and I was tired. I didn’t give up right away.
On our fifth day in the hospital, I called my lactation consultant and begged for her help. We concluded that a nipple shield would ease the pain and help us with our latch. If you’ve ever used a nipple shield, you know they aren’t the most user friendly. Consequently, feeding in public was a no-go for me. A month in, I tossed the shield and eventually figured it out on my own. Breastfeeding got easier.
At Rhett’s three month check-up we were informed that he was in the very low percentile for weight (5%). My heart sank. I felt liked I had failed my child. We sought a lactation consultant to help us determine how much he was eating and what could be causing this. We found out that he had a lip and tongue tie and that could be causing a lot of our complications (including the milk blebs and engorgement). After much discussion, we decided to not forego the lip/tongue revision. We believed the procedures main purpose would be to help him become more efficient at breastfeeding, and we didn’t want to put him through surgery just so he could breastfeed. We regrouped and decided to make it our goal to breastfeed for 6 months.
At four months our pediatrician became even more concerned with Rhett’s weight gain and he was failing to thrive. I did everything in my power to help him get the nutrition he needed. We added a bottle of formula at night, I pumped (and pumped and pumped), drank milk boosting smoothies, ate healthy, exercised and… it helped! However, I decided to start weaning once I got….
That morning my darling baby decided to sleep in until 8:00 a.m. and I soaked up the extra sleep. However, my boobs weren’t too happy about that. I sat on the couch writhing in pain from the aches and hot flashes I was having. After much research (on WebMD), I discovered I had Mastitis. The only way to cure it was to do what I least wanted to do at the moment – breastfeed.
This was the end friends. After I survived Mastitis, I decided we would start partial weaning.
Exclusive breastfeeding didn’t make me happy…
Most moms will rant on and on about how much they enjoy breastfeeding and the connection they establish with their baby, but I didn’t feel that. Instead, I felt like the only person in the world who didn’t LOVE breastfeeding. So, why didn’t I enjoy it?
Well, for starters, my whole day revolved around feeding.
I was a milk machine. Literally, my husband called me booby lady and my parents joked that I run a dairy farm. Well, this dairy farm needed to be open and available 24/7, because my calf would eat whenever and wherever he wanted. There was no freedom.
The most important aspect about exclusive breastfeeding that made me unhappy was that it didn’t make my anxiety and depression any easier.
What made me have these feelings? For one, having to tuck away to feed during social gatherings or not being able to go out because it was a feeding time made me feel isolated from the world. On rare occasion when I did go out and breastfeed in public, I felt like I had a million eyes staring at me (even if I was covered). If you know anyone with anxiety, you will know that being in social settings or in public is hard enough and trying to feed a baby in front of people is a recipe for an anxiety attack. Even posting a picture of me breastfeeding took a HUGE amount of courage. Breastfeeding caused me to be self conscious constantly and I never stopped thinking about what others thought.
What if someone sees my boob (on accident)?
Are people offended that I’m breastfeeding near them?
Why are they staring at me?
Is this the time or the place to breastfeed?
So, I decided for my mental health to do partial weaning.
What is Partial Weaning?
Like I said, I haven’t called it quits completely. I just have given up breastfeeding full-time. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing!
Simply stated; partial weaning is when you don’t wean your baby from breastfeeding completely.
I decided to do partial breastfeeding so I could still have my freedom and be able to provide the nutrition of breast milk to my baby. It has it’s perks and I still get to breastfeed my baby in the morning and before bed.
I have to say, I am so glad I made this decision!
Exclusive Breastfeeding… I will miss you (kind of)
So many people told me how sad they were when they stopped breastfeeding. Sadness wasn’t really a feeling I felt when we started weaning, instead I felt happiness for our new journey.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t completely hate breastfeeding! In fact, I really did enjoy it at times and I will encourage others to try breastfeeding as long as possible.
The end to this exclusive breastfeeding journey is partially bittersweet. I will miss having all that special alone time with my baby. I will miss holding him all day in my arms and having him stare into my eyes. I will miss knowing that I was the only thing he needed for nutrition. While I will miss these things, I’m more excited then sad.
Let the combination feeding journey begin!
* I recognize that everyone has the the right to feed their baby however they so choose and however long they choose. This post is not meant to discourage or influence others.*