I used to be that mom who judged other moms for extended breastfeeding. Now I am a snack bar for a toddler. Predominately his choice; not mine. As moms, we always put our babies first but often neglect our own mental health. I have been blessed to have been able to breastfeed all 4 of my kids. All for different durations. I have even been able to donate milk to an adopted baby.
When I had my first, 19 years ago I suffered deeply with postpartum depression. PPD was not openly spoken about like it is today. Even the doctors didn’t have much information on it. Breastfeeding itself carried such a stigma and feeding in public was a no-no. I wasn’t planning to breastfeed; I was 17, and honestly, I thought it was gross. Clearly, I was a bit immature but I promised my obstetrician I would give it a try. KK latched on in the hospital and it felt so natural and cost me nothing so I followed her lead. My daughter breastfed exclusively for 10 months on demand until I quit cold turkey because I couldn’t cope anymore. I was suffering from PPD; probably for many reasons, but breastfeeding was a huge factor that threw me over the edge. Having her latched on to me made everything worse. I had irrational thoughts, I felt trapped and suffocated by an innocent baby. I, thankfully, have not suffered with postpartum with my last 3 births but that hasn’t stopped me from often feeling trapped.
I myself believe in all the benefits of nursing. I love how our society is now normalizing breastfeeding. There is growing support in many communities. However, with normalization, unfortunately, comes a new pressure on moms to have to breastfeed. There is a lot of focus on moms being hard on themselves, who are disappointed when for reasons of no fault of their own when they can’t feed. What about moms who can successfully feed but inside they are fighting the battle to have to keep going?
These boobs are mine, I don’t want to share anymore! I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding or both for 6 years straight. I have dealt with low supply, cracked nipples, bleeding nipples, tendinitis, and thrush; Multiple times!!! Pictures often show the beauty in breastfeeding but it doesn’t always that way. I was also so nervous while pregnant to the possibility that the PPD could come back, as I associated it with breastfeeding. We were proactive by making sure my two middle kids were given a bottle and breast from birth so I could have a break if the demand got overwhelming. When it came to my last baby I had no plans to solely breastfeed. With 2 young kids, myself and my not yet husband exhausted and with no family support, there was no one to bottle feed the baby daily to keep him accustomed to the nipple. I tried but he refused to take a bottle from me. I tried so many bottles. I tried formula and pumped breast-milk. He would just put up a stink and SCREAM!!! He wanted it straight from the source.
I know babies won’t starve themselves but with other factors like his crying waking the others and us being so tired I have to admit, I took the easy route and gave in. A few times I was ready to hear him wail and then Boom! He would get sick (more on nursing a sick baby) and wouldn’t eat or drink so I would give him his boob. The timing has not been right for me to stop.
Over the past year and a half, I have wanted to throw in the towel and quit more times than I can write about. I admit I used to judge moms for breastfeeding their toddler. I never understood why; because they look so big, but I get it now. When you’re looking down and listening to your own kid and hear their soft suckling noises, at that moment, they are still just your baby. Plus the gymnastics they do while feeding can be quite comical.
Now that I am feeding a toddler, I feel accomplished that I made it this long. However, not a day goes by where I don’t think of stopping. It may sound selfish, but I want my boobs back! I want to pick up my son and not have him reach in to tap my chest for a drink before he even gives me a hug. I want to go swimming; without him ripping my boob out in the pool. I want to watch tv or type on my computer; without him stopping in for a sip. I will certainly miss the closeness and bonding time we have shared together when he stops but as much as breastfeeding is amazing and I love it I hate it too.
I admire mommas who make breastfeeding look so easy and that soak up and embracing all aspects. However, with the abundance of social media posts about normalizing breastfeeding, also comes internal pressures for moms to breastfeed even when their minds may be telling them to stop. Myself I continue due to how hard it is to stop, avoiding the meltdowns and I feel bad for him. He just wants the main comfort he knows. It’s also easier in the interim to just stick a boob in his mouth. There is nothing a boobie doesn’t sooth or fix. I have definitely created a monster.
Most days it’s not easy for me to want to give him a boob. Sometimes I say no, but am so conflicted because it’s not his fault he’s a boob addict. To other moms out there struggling to keep feeding whether a newborn or a toddler or wondering how you are possibly going to stop: I’m in the same boat!! In the moment it feels like this phase will last forever but in years looking back this will only be a tiny piece of our story. I would never let myself get to the point of where I was 19 years ago. Please don’t let the social pressure make you keep feeding. Feed because you want to or that you are at least, mentally able to, not because others or even your own high expectations make you feel like less than the best mom. Fed is best.