So I have been struggling with the age old dilemma of whether or not to continue nursing Little M. If I am being honest with myself, the decision has really already been made. My milk supply is dwindling as I offer Little M a bottle multiple times a day. Lately, I have been alternating between the breast and the bottle, offering mostly the bottle during the day and the breast at night. Nights around here have been pretty exhausting lately though with Little M waking up every two hours to feed. Now I cannot be sure, but perhaps my dwindling milk supply is the culprit here.
Now I know that breast milk is best for babies. That’s why I am struggling so much with discontinuing nursing. I want Little M to have the best. And because breast milk is best, there is sooooo much guilt associated with not nursing her … husbands, doctors, other mothers, grandmothers, and even regular joes off the street have a way of making me feel guilty about not nursing Little M. A doctor I saw recently questioned my decision to offer both breast milk and formula. I felt like a little kid being reprimanded by her mother. I even had one man say to Little M recently, “Mom’s cheating today, isn’t she?” as I was feeding her a bottle. Cheating? Really? I hear them taunting me. How could I be so selfish as to not nurse my baby? And when I hear them taunting me, I feel like I have to justify my decision; then I start comparing myself to other mothers and how I’ve done “better” than some and “worse” than others; then I hate myself for ranking mothers (and myself) according to our breastfeeding decisions. Ranking is stupid! Frankly, when we are in public, I have two children to care for, and being tied down nursing an infant just isn’t practical when I have to ensure the safety of my two and a half year old at the same time.
I will admit, I want to quit for a few selfish reasons. First off, I want my body back. I have “shared” it for well over a year now, and I am done. I want to start exercising and getting back into shape, and let’s face it, running and breasts full of milk are simply not compatible. Secondly, I am damn tired, exhausted really, and I know that formula fed babies tend to last longer between their feedings (which should hopefully equal more restful nights). And finally, I am longing for some sort of normalcy and predictability in our lives. I want to get Little M on a bit of a schedule (feeding and napping), so that we can plan our days somewhat.
Now, I am not delusional. I think it would be crazy to think that switching to formula is going to be the magic fix for some of the things that we are experiencing now (e.g. frequent night wakings), but there is some peace of mind knowing how much food is going into Little M (something that is very difficult to determine with breastfeeding). Also, switching to the bottle allows my husband (and others) to become more involved with Little M’s care, strengthening their bond with Little M and freeing me up to do other, equally important things (like spending time with Big M).
Of course, it saddens me a little (more than I want to admit to myself) that Little M and I won’t have that special connection that nursing a baby provides anymore. But this is just like any other milestone our children reach as they grow and develop. Packing up my nursing bras is a sign of one of Little M’s first chapters coming to a close, and chapters closing in our children’s lives always tugs at our heart just a little.
Ultimately, I think my decision to cease nursing (which has had a rather complicated history this time around, which I won’t divulge here) will help me get back to being my best, which is what I want to give both my girls … my very best. So, yeah, I know breast is best, but I also know that I want to give my best and right now that does not involve the breast.