One word I’m thinking a lot about these days as we get closer to Jaden’s first birthday is weaning. Before Jaden was born I knew I wanted to breastfeed. For me, it only seemed right to give it a try; I didn’t really think twice about it. I read about all the benefits of breastfeeding and wanted to do my best to make it happen. My goal was to try to nurse my son for one year.
Back then, one year seemed like such a long time, but now as we approach that mark, I have to say it seems like time has moved quicker than I thought it would. As we get closer one year, I keep asking myself, are we ready to wean?
I know for a lot of women breastfeeding doesn’t happen without experiencing some level of difficulty. I feel very fortunate that I have not experienced many physical barriers to nursing. For me, breastfeeding has been a mental challenge more than anything. At times I often questioned if I was making the right choice to breastfeed. Several things caused me to often second guess my decision.
In the first 6 months, Jaden was always in the lower percentile on his weight curve. At each appointment the doctor would tell us he needed more milk. Those conversations would frustrate me because I wasn’t sure if my body could keep up with Jaden’s demand. I wanted to continue to nurse without supplementing, but at the same time I was concerned about Jaden growing properly and being healthy. If you read any sort of website, blog, or forum geared towards breastfeeding you know that the battle of formula vs breastfeeding continues on in the mommy community. The idea of supplementing with formula is something that a lot of moms struggle with and often feel guilt over. I was in that camp of moms. I didn’t want to supplement with formula for fear of feeling like I had failed my child. Even in the midst of the negative feelings, I consider myself blessed because the Lord continually answered my prayers regarding breastfeeding. At times when I felt like I might need to supplement, I found that milk production would adjust and my body would produce exactly what Jaden needed. Other times, we would have an extra bottle because of a shift in Jaden’s schedule at school or we could fall back on our small freezer stash. The Lord always worked things out in our favor.
The choice to breastfeed has also impacted how I viewed myself at work. On the job, I have struggled with feeling like I was falling behind my co-workers as far as my capacity for growth in my current position. At times I felt like I was limited in what I could do because of having to take three pump breaks a day or working slightly less hours to make sure I could get to my son before he needed to nurse in the afternoon. I often questioned whether or not choosing to nurse would ultimately hinder my career growth.
Beyond that, there have been days when I just wanted to stop breastfeeding so that I could feel like I had control of my own body again. It’s hard not to feel like you have been reduced to a milk producing machine when you’re dealing with cluster feeding or trying to increase milk supply by eating a ton of oatmeal, drinking extreme amounts of water, adding early morning/late night pumping sessions, or power pumping.
I think I also have added pressure to myself by establishing a goal of one year and not giving myself any grace to deviate from that goal. I have often felt guilt and shame for wanting to quit before the one year mark. Again, I didn’t want to feel like I had failed my baby (or myself) if I didn’t achieve my goal. Each time I wanted to stop I kept telling myself that I had come too far to give up now.
So as I sit here contemplating my breastfeeding journey and weaning, I realize that even though it’s been tough, I don’t regret making the decision to breastfeed my son. Yes it’s been hard, probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but when I look at Jaden and the bond we have, I know that I can attribute a lot of that to our time nursing. Breastfeeding has definitely brought us closer together and it has been amazing to see how the Lord has used my body to nourish and aid in the growth and development of my son.
The biggest lessons I have learned throughout my breastfeeding journey is that 1) I can’t be so hard on myself and 2) it’s okay if things don’t work out as planned. I sometimes look back and think maybe supplementing wouldn’t have been so bad and it might have reduced some of my stress. What can I say, hindsight is 20/20. I continue to come back to the fact that what should be most important is that I’m happy with each decision I make, regardless what others are doing. This is clearly a recurring theme for me.
Now that we’ve made it this far, 11.5 months nursing, I ask myself am I really ready to wean? At this point, I’m unsure about weaning, but I will have reached my goal of one year at the end of this month. Whatever decision I make will ultimately depend on Jaden and his readiness. At times I think he will be ready to wean at a year because he’s already so distracted while nursing and then at other times he doesn’t seem like he would readily give it up. I guess only time will tell.