I have no real stake in the bottle vs. breastfeeding game that the internet tries to stir up every 12.2 seconds. I unapologetically formula fed my first daughter, and then attempted, but ultimately stopped, breastfeeding my second child after a painful colic and reflux filled three months. Four years passed between that time and when I would find myself pregnant again. In that time, I moved out of the intense “Oh my God, everything I do is so important and so life altering and so full of pressure” baby years, and into the wild world of elementary school kids. I learned that formula fed kids can still end up smarter than their parents, and that breastfed kids can still bring home various strains of every illness known to man after playing in the “Bounce and Play” gym. Teachers group kids by every skill and interest available, but as far as I know “Boobs vs. Bottles” has never made the cut. And while I have noticed an undercurrent of “So what preschool did you send her to?” when discussing kindergarten progress with other moms, I have not noticed my “liquid gold” come up in casual conversation since my middle child was two.
So when my son was born, I did my best to give myself some slack. I wanted to try breastfeeding once more, but without a timeline or goal past “How’s it going today?” I knew the challenges to expect, and I knew that life would go on should I default to formula. So it came as somewhat of a surprise that my son was a bit of a natural. Like clockwork he would latch every three hours, and he jumped from seven pounds to 15 pounds in record time. Six weeks turned to six months and now, a year. While I enjoyed a lot of the experience, I assumed twelve months would be it. In my research, Dr. Google and the subsequent articles on weaning at a year indicated that my goal here was to come to a “mutual decision” that our breastfeeding relationship was coming to a close.
That “mutual decision” has not gone well. While I am on board with beginning to have some physical separation, my son disagrees. When he turned one about a week ago, he did not pick up a sippy cup and bid me adieu. He is still nursing every three -four hours, and shows no sign that he is ready to give this up. In fact, I have come to realize that if I wait for it to be truly mutual, then he and I will be having some awkward moments come second grade or so. So, straddling the line between weaning and extended breastfeeding, I’ve resolved to give him a spring “cut-off” so to speak, for the following reasons:
I am not a “breastfeeding martyr.”
Like the Aurora Borealis or the Red Tides, breastfeeding brought with it a natural phenomenon that I had heard of but never observed- my son will not take a bottle. Previous to this experience, I may of thought “Oh, she just needs to try X, Y or Z” but believe me, I tried A-Z, Column B and every bottle known to man and he would not take it. He would scream and gag and eventually even my pediatrician told me to give up. So I have not been separated from my son for than four hours in a year. A year. My friends are most likely sick of hearing me methodically calculate how long I can be gone for every occasion, and I am tired of missing out on evening adult interaction, marathon shopping or particularly difficult and lengthy dental work. Actually, put “avoiding dental work” on the pro extended breastfeeding side for my son.
I am tired.
My son is a year old, and he still gets up once a night to nurse. Bless all of the women who wax poetically about how it is no big deal for them to be up for night feedings past the six month mark and how it’s just a matter of feeding and drifting back to sleep. When I wake up to feed him, I really wake up. And then my husband is snoring, my dog is licking himself super loudly (it’s insane), I need a drink of water and suddenly I have been up for an hour. The next day, I can’t remember dates, names, or what street the library is on. I am sure I owe them some fines.
I have places to go, celebrities to stalk and junk food to eat.
Last year for my birthday, my husband planned a fantastic trip to New York City to see The Daily Show and stay in a hotel, kid free. Seeing Jon Stewart in person is huge for me, as I have adored him forever. So it was no small thing that we postponed and postponed and eventually cancelled entirely, as my little buddy and I were still attached at my boob. My birthday is coming up again, and I would love to not be limited by my lactating.
In a similar vein, I am running a ten mile race in Washington DC in April. 10 miles of running aside (I should really start training for that…) the race also involves a weekend in a hotel alone. By myself! All the pillows! All of the TV shows I want! Unlimited time in the shower! Bringing him is out, and the logistics of bringing all of the equipment to pump makes my eye twitch. It would be easier on the both of us if our first weekend apart wasn’t also the first weekend he was not nursing.
Frankly, I could come up with quite a few more reasons why it’s the right time for me to start to wean, and none of which are that I think extended breastfeeding is “weird” or “gross.” I am trying my hardest not to let the internet dictate to me that I should feel selfish or guilty because I am ready before he is. Whether he is a year old or a month old, and whether my reasons are medical or that I want to tailgate unencumbered at football games, this is not meant to be a mutual decision. This decision is just one of many I will make as his mom. Sure, it would be easier if he was reducing his feedings on his own, but he’s not, so I am going to step in and make the hard decisions. There’s probably going to be some tears (on both sides) but it’s what’s right for me and my sanity, which is ultimately what’s right for him too.
(Image: getty images)