After Ferris bit me so hard he drew blood, I stopped nursing for a day and a half, just to heal. I pumped to provide during that time. When I felt comfortable nursing again, he was fully refusing the breast. I took to pumping right away. Pumping has never come easily to me, and I had considered giving up right off the bat. But in the interest of letting myself know I really had tried my hardest and did all that I could, I pumped. And pumped. And pumped.
Every day, there was a little bit less there. Until eventually, I pumped several times in one day, but still barely made it to 1 1/2 ounces total. I was exhausted mentally, from the stress of it, and having to drag my pump all over the place with me, just to try to keep up. But also I was exhausted physically.
So, not only was I not getting that amazing bonding experience from nursing, but I was pumping myself to death to try to keep up with my voracious little eater, and guilting myself for using formula.
In the end I knew I just needed to get over it and move on. Although he had a distaste for formula at first, he was eating it again. And he was thriving. I had provided breast milk for nearly 9 months of his life, and despite my heartfelt wishes and best efforts, I would not be nursing him any longer than that.
Then, it dawned on me, I was going to have to make the decision to suddenly quit pumping, cold turkey. He wasn’t nursing anymore, he quit that part for me. But if I kept pumping, even if I only got an ounce a day, my body would continue to produce the milk. And was it worth the exhaustion and stress to give him one ounce of breastmilk a day? I was going to have to decide at which moment that no, that wasn’t worth it for us anymore.
The pump sat on the kitchen counter for DAYS, I couldn’t seem to get myself to put it away. Eventually one day, when I had to clear the counter off and noticed it was taking up some valuable real estate, I packed it all up and put it away. And one of these days very soon, I’m going to drop it off at the offices of a prenatal program for moms in need.
My first child nursed like a champ. We were a great team. And I just figured that was it: either you could do it or you couldn’t. What I didn’t realize was that just like children grow and develop at an infinite number of different ways, so do they nurse in different ways. Some do great, some do awfully, and so many in between have their own plan for how things will go. Ferris’ plan was to be done at 8 months, and all I can do is accept that, and thank my lucky stars I live in a day and age when there’s something I can buy to provide for my baby in the absence of breast milk.
I don’t have any qualms about using formula, but I do miss being that proud, happy nursing mama. I wonder what people think when they see me shaking up that bottle. I used to think that society just had this misunderstanding about breastfeeding, and if everyone could just get past their hang ups then we’d all be fine. But, I’ve gotten more flak for formula feeding than I ever did for breastfeeding. Not all-out flak, as in someone yelling at me, “you are poisoning that child!” But inhibited, passive-aggressive flak: “Oh, so you’ve chosen to stop nursing?”
No, I HAVEN’T chosen to stop nursing. My SON has chosen, and I’m not any happier about it than you are, but it’s OUR business.
Or my favorite conversation, “Well, you’re still pumping, aren’t you?” “No, I did for a while but it was too difficult, so now I have stopped.” “Well my sister-in-law’s brother-in-law’s sister’s cousin saw a lactation consultant three times a week and took fenugreek and drank Mother’s Milk tea and pumped twice at night and every hour all day and she was able to provide for her baby for 2 years just by pumping.” Excellent.
I guess in the end, you just have to do what works for you, because no matter what that is, there’s going to be a person there, ready to tell you you’re doing the wrong thing and failing at parenthood and at life. I never judged you myself, formula moms, but now I get why there’s such an uproar from the formula crowd. In this day and age when moms are re-embracing breastfeeding, those who use formula, by force or by choice, are being judged into the ground. It shouldn’t be like that.
So anyway, that’s where we are now. Ferris is a full formula baby now. And I think I’m ok with it. I have to be.
P.S. I do want to be very clear that any and all advice offered to me regarding breastfeeding on previous posts was greatly and genuinely appreciated. Thank you.