Breastfeeding: It’s Emotionally Complicated

nursing mother poster from 1930'sI did not think that I would be nursing my daughter until she was almost two. It’s not that I have anything against it. It’s just that I was not raised in a breastfeeding family. And there were a lot of babies in my family.

When I had my son I was not totally committed to breastfeeding him. I knew how important it was, and I was willing to give it a try, but I felt good knowing there was a formula backup. And then he was born, and I really wanted to nurse him. Unfortunately he was born with the most horrible case of reflux. I mean, spend several days in the neonatal ICU because he chokes on his vomit and stops breathing kind of horrible. Like, have to call 911 when he was about four weeks old because he choked and stopped breathing kind of horrible.

By the time the 911 call happened, I was already supplementing this choking kid with the ferocious appetite. The doctors were no help. Refusing to prescribe some damn reflux medicine, the (male) pediatrician simply told me to totally cut dairy and coffee out of my diet. Guess what. Dairy is in everything. Oh yeah, and have you ever been a new mom who is sleep-deprived, probably experiencing PPD, and totally overwhelmed? I was basically living off on coffee, milk, Nutragrain bars, and bananas. So yeah, no. At my six-week postpartum appointment, my doctor helped me sit up, patted me on the back and told me it was okay to stop nursing if I was overwhelmed. No one ever said, “hey, here’s help, we pretty much live in a nirvana of natural birthing/child rearing/feeding options.”

So I stopped nursing.

I substituted not nursing with insisting on making every bit of solid food that went into his mouth. But I never stopped feeling more than a little sad and guilty about it. The sadness I felt over my perceived “inability,” or “failure” was nothing I ever dreamed I would experience.

And this is why it was so important for me to nurse my daughter.

As if she were born aware of my previous nursing struggles, she not only obliged my wish to be a successful nurser – she insisted on it. All the time, in fact. I’ve documented this in another blog post, but in short, at one point she was literally on me around eighteen to twenty hours a day nursing. And it was frustrating, but I did it. Because she needed to, and I was committed to it. To her.

When she turned one, I thought I was going to wean. I was ready, and she was one. But neither of us were actually ready, so we kept on going.

When she was around 15 or 16 months, I can’t remember, I did start to wean off the nursing sessions, one at a time. Eventually, and until just this last week, she nursed always when she woke up in the morning, and depending on how she was feeling, maybe once in the afternoon, like when she got up from her nap.

This is the short of the very long story in which at times I resent her for needing me all the time, and I resent my husband for not being able to help out more, so I decide right then and there that I am done nursing forever.

And then I feel guilty for resenting everyone for something that was ultimately my choice, and I back down on my no-nursing stance, and we continue to nurse. Vicious cycle.

And so it’s all been going pretty well and good, and nothing has changed really, except that she is so much less a baby and so much more a little girl now. And I feel like the time is right to stop nursing.

Plus, she’s been a total whiny disaster lately, I think because she is hitting some developmental/physical growth milestones, so a part of me figured, if she is already whining, maybe now would be a good time to wean. I don’t know the logic here, I wasn’t really thinking about how that if she’s having a hard time with something, then maybe it wasn’t the right time. I just kind of figured, why not go for the gold! And so I did.

She, for the most part, has been fine with it. She still asks once a day or so to nurse, and the first couple of days of these times were hard for her. For us, really, I felt so bad! But we substituted nursing for a cup of juice (her new favorite drink), a lap sit, and some soft words and head rubs.

It seems to work for her, but I’m still emotional about it. In fact, I’m having a hard time even writing this.

I really never dreamed that I would be sad about weaning. She needs to move on, clearly, and I need to move on, clearly. We’ve shared triumphs and sorrows, laughs and cries – literally during the act of nursing – for almost two years. Two good years!! But that is precisely why it is hard to give up, and there is a part of me that wants her to depend on me in that way, and for us to continue to share those moments. Forever.

Have you had moments with your children that you had a hard time giving up?

Mom. Mom. Mom. MOOOOOMMMMMM!

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It's so upsetting when mommy has to work!

Working at home with my 18-month old daughter is like simultaneously strategizing World War III and being a storm chaser, chasing an F5 tornado. I can hardly keep up with her let alone anticipate her next move. She plots and plans. She has the reach of a grown man. She climbs and falls. She throws things that she has grabbed and now she is starting to have little fits. She moms me all day. “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom.” No matter where we are in the room, we are literally no more than five feet away from each other. But I still take frequent breaks to hang out with her and play. We listen to music while I work. We sing. We dance. I let her sit on my lap. And she pounds on my computer and grabs whatever is on my desk, errr, dining room table, where I work. Did I mention her impressive reach?

All of these actions are totally normal for a toddler her age. TOTALLY NORMAL!      But I feel totally ill-equipped to deal. When my son was this age I didn’t work but he was always very laid back and happy to play with whatever was around, as long as someone was in the room with him. So when I did start working from home, he still played happily. Plus he power napped for three hours every day in the afternoon. She will play quietly for only a few minutes at a time. Pretty much just as I’m able to concentrate on something, she needs me.

“Mom. Mom. Mama!”

About once a month I get a two-hour nap out of her. Most days I’m lucky if it is an hour, and that includes the time she spends yelling for me after I put her down.

“MOM MOM MOM MAMMMMAAA!!!!”

I’ve stopped going in after I put her down and I just let her deal with it.

Which leads me to the crux of what this post is about. I feel I have come to a crossroads of having to make a choice about what to do with her. Sending her to a babysitter is out because number one I can’t afford it and number two that’s just not what I want. I feel like I give her everything that she needs. The fact is, I have to work. And I know she doesn’t understand, but I also don’t understand why she can’t/won’t play happily while I am right next to her. I mean, I do, but I don’t. I want to be a good mom, but I feel stuck.

At what point do I say, “Hey there, little chicken, you need to play while mommy works. I’m right here with you!” And then let her play/cry it out while I continue to take frequent breaks and give little loving reminders that I am right here with her. I did this yesterday and she cried.all.day. I suspect it would be like crying it out during resting times, and she would get over it. But I just don’t know, and in the meantime I wonder, do I expect too much? Am I a total jerk? Am I over-thinking again?

What do you think? Have you ever, or are you in this position? What have you done to get through? I would love to hear from you!

P.S. I know that I am complaining about my girl, but what gets us through the day is she is the cutest, sweetest, funniest girl EVER. At least I think so.