Saturday, January 6, 2018

Being a Mom & Feeding Your Kid ~ What Breastfeeding Taught Me

Breastfeeding is hard.  Let's just put that out there.  Sure, there is a lot of convenience in it, but there are also a lot of inconveniences.  There are a lot of benefits to it, but there are also good alternative options too.  But why, whether we choose to breastfeed, pump, give formula, or some combination, as moms we feel judged, guilty, and worry about the decision.

I breastfed both my kids.  With my oldest, we made it until 11 months.  His choice to stop.  I was told by many other moms that kids don't self wean.  He would most likely go back to it.  Not my kid.  He went on a strike for a week when he was 10 months old where he would latch just long of enough to make things flow and stop.  My only choice was to pump and give it to him in a sippy cup.  I wanted so much to keep nursing, because well you know, everyone pushes to breastfeed until at least a year old.

But at 11 months he downright just stopped.  He wouldn't even let me pump.  I still did, just to adjust myself to being done.  When he turned 1, that was my last week leading up to his birthday.  I was done.  He had been so scheduled with his feedings it was actually easy to be physically done.  It was the emotional side that was hard.  But once we moved forward a couple of months the new freedom was refreshing.

In one hand, I was relieved.  Because I was just pumping to wean myself and freezing the milk.  I had nowhere to go with it during the time.  Later, I did find someone I could donate it to.  In some ways it helped with the transition and knowing I could help someone out who needed it was a blessing.

But on the other hand, I felt defeated.  I felt that my body had once again failed me.  I couldn't even make it he turned one.  And then after I watched friends make it to one and even continue.  I only wondered what was wrong with me, why did it end, and why had I failed.  I thought by having to stop early, he would be missing something.

After the fact, I realized he was just fine and would continue to be.  I greatly appreciate our pediatrician because at the time she listed off my options going forward: keep pumping and give it to him in a cup, switch to formula, or switch to whole milk.  I asked her what she would honestly do (being a mother of many kiddos, I wanted her mom option, not her doctor one).  She said that she would just make the switch to whole milk.  Pump until I was weaned.  That way he only had to make the transition to something different once. 

Now, my youngest on the other hand was a different story.  He went until he basically 14 months.  I was pleased with myself and ability, I had actually made it to one year, which made me feel that my body indeed didn't fail me again.  It was just that my kiddo was done when he wanted to be before.

By the time he was three months old I was ready to be done.  I hated nursing.  I disliked it for having to use a shield again, but I hated it for the fact that my oldest hated every time I nursed.  It made it that much more stressful.  I used everything to distract him while I had to nurse that I could.  Even more so, as time went by, I was basically an open buffet 24 hours a day.  I went from having one kid with scheduled feedings because that is how he rolled, to having one who would just graze and eat whenever. 

Still, I wanted to try my hardest to make it to age one.  I wanted to know it could be done.  It did finally get better because I could nurse at times when my oldest was distracted (like while out and about) or while he was sleeping.  And I managed to get off the shield early on, which as nice as it was to have, it was such a blessing to be done with it too. 

Once he got to age one though, I thought how can I be done with this all.  Well, he had a plan for it.  He dropped multiple feedings quickly.  So quick I never had a chance to adjust to it all enough before he dropped the next one.  In just a few short weeks we went from over feedings a day to none.

While the sense of freedom was much appreciated, I was a mess.  As much as I wanted to be, it didn't seem to go the way I had thought.  And even , now my oldest still tells me how much he hated when I nursed his brother.

Having kids changes you more than we ever know sometimes.  And it really is different with each kid.  But I have to admit that even though we made it past age one the second time around I still felt like I had failed and did something wrong.

I am not sure why exactly, but maybe it is because of the perceived judgment that many moms face.  We all too often compare our lives, our insides, our happenings to the others around us and their outsides.  And even when do open up in honesty, sometimes we get shut down quickly because we are told that can't happen. 

My oldest, I was told they can't self wean and they don't just give it up, they will come back.  Well he did and he never came back.  My youngest, yup, he self weaned too.  Just in a different way than his brother, but he did it his way. 

No matter how you choose to feed your kids, you do the best you can with what your resources are.  And sometimes, the bond and connection with your kiddo can be better if you make changes in how you feed them.  I was given the suggestion, well the okay, that if for the sake of my bond and connecting growing I needed to give up nursing before age one that is okay.  I had at least made it as far as I did.

The words of encouragement far reached deeper than I could have imagined.  My doula was the one who said, if you need to sacrifice nursing in order to have a better connection with your child, then it is okay.  If you needed to end it because you needed to tend to the connection and relationship of your other child as well because it was all to stressful for everyone, than that was okay.

We learn to adapt as our situations change.  What helps the most through it all are the words of encouragement someone else can give to you.  Or the words of me too.  At the time of nursing my youngest, my sister in law was nursing her youngest.  She felt the same way and wanted to be done early on too.

But as moms we push through, help each other, and continue to do the best we can for as long as we can.

Just know, that wherever you are in your parenting journey, wherever you are in your feeding journey do what is best for all that is involved.  That is what makes the difference in the long run.

It is easy, it is hard.  It takes a lot of patience and time.  There is bond and growing time that comes from it.  Having your kiddo fall asleep while in your arms nursing is an amazing site. It's okay to want to be done and it doesn't matter how far you got you tried.  However your kiddo is getting milk will make them stronger and healthier is the best way.  You are stronger than you realize.  You can do this.