I swear I started writing this during World Breastfeeding Week, but for a variety of reasons didn’t finish. I debated whether to even post this, being that we’ve likely reached our limit on boobie stories. But then I thought, everyone has a different experience with feeding their newborn, and as much as you may have read or heard, you don’t know my story. Maybe you can relate, maybe not. Regardless, I am one of the millions (billions?) of women that have an experience with, and an opinion on breast feeding. So alas, my (late) post on World Breastfeeding Week.
First of all, when I found out it was World Breast Feeding Week, I cringed. And that reaction surprised me. Wasn’t I confident in my decision to stop breast feeding after 8 weeks? Apparently I wasn’t. Of all the articles, blog posts, TV bits on the subject, the overall message I received was “Breast is best; however breast feeding is not always feasible, and in that case, whatever works best for mother and baby is best.” This is a wonderful, supportive message. And yet. And yet I still feel guilty.
I breast fed both of my sons until they were about 8 weeks old and then stopped. I didn’t have any valid medical reason that would fall into the “not feasible” (and therefore forgivable) category. My reasons were basically selfish. I stopped because:
- I had issues with the method. When I was nursing I was never sure they were getting enough. So I pumped. And hated it. With my first son I had one of those horrible, loud, electric torture devices resembling some awful farm equipment milking machine. With my second son I used a manual pump that took FOR…EV…ER.
- It wasn’t convenient. I went back to work and didn’t want the hassle of pumping at work.
- I wanted my body back. I just spent 9 months scrutinizing every thing I did and every little thing I ate and drank. I didn’t want to do that anymore.
- I started to resent the fact that my heavy, leaking breasts woke me up in the middle of the night, and I had to drag myself out of an oh-so-rare and oh-so-precious slumber to pump.
- I didn’t like it.
When I tell people I stopped breast feeding and they flatly reply “Oh.”, I feel the unspoken label being assigned to me in blatant flashing lights: “S E L F I S H”. And I respond naturally by silently chastising myself for the ten thousandth time. Is the judgment all in my head? A self-imposed punishment if you will? Maybe to some degree. Maybe not.
My boys are both healthy and happy, and we have plenty of loving, cuddling, bonding moments, albeit not associated with my breasts. Rationally I know they aren’t “missing” anything by not getting breast milk past their 2nd month of life. But when I hear stories of mothers who calm their inconsolable infants with that special thing only she can provide, and mothers who breast feed their toddlers to lull them to sleep, I can’t help but wish I did things differently. After all, breast is best. Right?
While writing this has been somewhat cathartic, and I am part of a community of wonderful women who I doubt are labeling me as harshly as they do in my head, I will always carry some amount of guilt for not persevering.
That is my story and that is why I am relieved World Breast Feeding Week is over and we have moved on to Shark Week.