By Meera Ramanathan @me & online at:
“I will exclusive breastfeed my baby until he starts solids” was the decision I made as an expectant mother.
Not because it was eco-friendly as the breastfeeding classes emphasized or because it was the best boost for his immunity as his pediatrician recommended but because I thought I would feel like less of a mother if I didn’t breastfeed. We could always supplement his nutrition and as a new mother I didn’t worry about being eco-friendly but the bonding that breastfeeding brought was tough to match. My husband, mother, sister, in-laws and friends encouraged me and shared their wisdom. But in thinking what was best for my baby, my spouse and I forgot one crucial factor. Was it best for the mommy?
Breastfeeding not only demanded complete physical surrender but also wrecked my emotions. My mother suggested that I supplement him in 3 months but I held back from feeding him formula. I had come this far, he latched well and I actually enjoyed nursing him. Even when I had chronic backaches and couldn’t step out without worrying about his schedule. Also I was nursing everywhere – in the car, store, parking lot, doctor’s office, mall, everywhere. The nursing cover was my only accessory. So when he was 3 months I decided that I would wean him off completely when he was a year old. Not a day more.
My husband was a solid partner. He never once put the baby before me and was ready whenever I was to bottle feed. Since I was a stay at home mom masquerading as a writer I did not find a reason to pump or formula feed. Would I have done it if I was working full time? I don’t know but I definitely don’t judge mothers who do. How can you when you have done this even for a day? This is tough stuff not just bone tiring but heart wrenching. So when my son crossed his first year mark and I hadn’t weaned, things went crazy.
The delay was not his but mine. I couldn’t find the heart to wean him and things got better with time. Nursing him in the night ensured more sleep for all of us. Would things go south if I stopped? This is the final string that ties my baby and me. After this string is cut, he is on his own in this big bad world. My husband thought I was overdramatizing. But what do men know? Only moms who have nursed their babies would understand this. Yes, it took a big toll on my health but would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
The first night that he went without nursing, I was a basket case. Every time he stirred I had a panic attack. I was anxiously waiting for the time when he would wake up waiting to be nursed to sleep. In some ways I wanted proof that my existence was absolutely mandatory for his sleep. But my baby slept like a baby. Oh yes, he wailed and cried but was quickly comforted. He had his beauty sleep. The second day was a charm and then just like that it had been a week. It is safe to say that weaning went without any major drama. At least for him.
My breasts ached with all the dried up milk and felt like two rocks but every time he snuggled closer, I worried that he would know that I had denied him his comforts. I still rocked him to sleep when he wailed from his nightmares; I still made sure that he was covered with a blanket when it was 90 degrees outside but would he understand that weaning was something that I had to do. It was better this way for both of us.
While all these battles were fought in my mind, I realize my son doesn’t care if I breastfed him or not. He just wants his mom by his side. He wraps his fingers tightly around mine when he starts taking his first steps, wakes up in my arms with a dreamy smile and showers me with wet kisses. Breast or bottle is a choice we struggle to make and no matter what we decide we need the support and strength from our families and friends. In my heart everything feels right and am thankful for this journey, even with all its bumps.
What was your weaning experience like? When did you decide to start weaning your baby?
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That’s so wonderful that you were able to feed for so long! I’m going to be a mommy soon and will have to deal with the issues you discussed.
Thanks for sharing your nursing experiences. I heard on Oprah that choosing to nurse is not too different from going to war. Only those who go know the reality of the battles and the rewards of the sacrifice, but I totally agree, having nursed 4 girls up to close to a year each-a woman must choose her path and be at peace, and love and support that surround her help. Big time!
Wonderful to read your experience! What a loving mama you are.