I nursed my first baby for 12 whole months. It was quite possibly one of the hardest and most fought for accomplishments of my life thus far. Supply issues, extreme initial pain, little sleep, and pumping at work all added to the struggle. But with a little supplementing help we made it to a year and I was overjoyed with this feat. I loved giving Ella such a great part of myself and I will forever cherish the bond it gave us.
This time around has been drastically different. I know they say every baby is different but it’s such a foreign concept when you are in the thick of it. With Ella, I could offer to nurse her anytime, anywhere and she would eat immediately. With Cole, it always had to be his decision. I often offered to nurse him for comfort or when I was unsure what he needed and was almost always refused. He was a great nursling with a great latch directly from birth, but did not have the same appetite as my first babe. This left me constantly worrying and wondering if he was getting enough. Ella was always at the top of her growth chart and Cole has always been on the average to smaller size. As hard as I tried not to compare them, it felt almost impossible not to worry.
I did a great job adding in extra pumping sessions during my maternity leave and had a great milk stash saved up when I returned to work. However, his preference for the bottle (once we finally got him to take one, which is an entirely different post 🤦🏻♀️) left him drinking much more milk while I was gone than what I could pump while away. So once we ran through my stash we started supplementing with formula. I found accepting the supplementation much easier this time around. It takes so much pressure off me to pump more and let’s me focus on work while I’m there. My body doesn’t respond well to a pump and it certainly makes things worse when I’m stressed. He did a great job with the formula after one switch to help his stomach digest it easier.
As the months went on, he started to get more distracted with nursing. Once 7 months hit, it was sometimes impossible to get him to nurse unless we were in a dark room. His bottle preference seemed to grow and around 8 months he started to refuse nursing all together. I couldn’t believe what was happening and I took it extremely hard on myself. I would offer to nurse every single feeding before giving in to make him a bottle. I met with a lactation consultant who basically gave me a few tricks to try but ultimately told me it had to be my baby’s decision to nurse or not. This was crazy to me! How could an 8 month old baby make his own decisions about his nutrition!? I was sure he would end up sick more often or we wouldn’t have the same bond that I shared with my daughter.
Finally, around 8 1/2 months, he started biting my when I offered to nurse him. I’ve been bitten before, but these bites meant business. I finally could tell he was truly done and had weaned himself. I’m sure I’ll look back on this and be thankful I didn’t have to go through a hard weaning phase, but at the moment I felt like such a failure and just overall sad our nursing journey had ended so early and so abruptly. It’s especially hard not knowing if this was my last baby to nurse or not. I’m still pumping once or twice a day as I wean myself down and he is still getting one full breastmilk bottle a day. I dislike pumping with all of my soul, so I’m thinking when Cole turns 9 months in a few days I will allow myself to stop all together.
I know this seems like such a trivial issue in the grand scheme of things and 9 months with at least some breastmilk is still such a huge accomplishment. But holy moly I am so so hard on myself!! I can realize that all the time, but can never realize it in the moment. Why is that? And how as a mom can I learn to give myself the grace I receive daily and the grace I deserve? That’s my goal for the week… to let myself off the hook and let go of my feelings of failure and sadness. My baby is fed. My baby is happy. And I’m a great momma. 💙