My third baby turned five months old today. As cliched as it sounds, there's nothing short of blunt truth to the fact that time seems to go so fast when you watch your baby grow and develop. The way we choose to feed our babies is always miraculous but not always easy or straightforward. Like my first baby, my third has not wanted, in fact flat out resisted, taking a bottle. In all honesty, I didn't try all that hard at first. I was very lucky that she took to breastfeeding quickly and I experienced very little pain. We seemed to "get" each other quickly - and I didn't take that for granted. Instead, I embraced it and went with it, it was much easier for me to just breastfeed her since we are always on the go. Sitting on the sidelines of sports class or swim class, I didn't have to mess with bottles and formula or keeping breastmilk at the right temperature. Which, by the way for Moms that accomplish this - my hats off to you!
It seems that so very often whether you are breastfeeding, bottle feeding, pumping, there is a longing for a different way to feed your baby.
If your baby wont take a bottle, there are moments you probably crave a break, at least just for one feeding. If your baby wont breastfeed, I can imagine it's agonizing at times and a frustrating and difficult time to work through. If you have to pump frequently or exclusively I'm sure there's a huge set of challenges that come with the dedication, time and energy it takes to do all the pumping and then still have to feed your baby. Point being, it's ALL hard. No matter how we choose to feed our babies, we are sustaining and helping a human being grow and that is not a feat to be minimized.
I've lately felt that my breastfeeding journey is coming to an end. It's difficult because what I hear around me is that breastfeeding only gets "easier" the longer you stick with it. Baby starts to eat solids and the amount of feedings decrease and babies often become more efficient eaters. For me, I feel like I've reached a point where my baby is a bit fussy when trying to eat and frankly, having exclusively fed her for five months, I do crave a break. Especially with two other kids who need lots of attention and hugs and coddling still, there are days I feel quite overwhelmingly over-touched. I'll admit, there's also a tinge of guilt that I breastfed my first for 6 months and my second for 5 - I always want to keep things "equal" and not favor one over another so that is definitely weighing in to my feelings. To admit that I'm making the decision to stop breastfeeding my baby does not come without guilt and even a little bit of shame even though it shouldn't. We put so much pressure on ourselves as mothers. Especially in todays world where it is definitely wonderful to have so much positivity and encouragement around breastfeeding, I think sometimes the pendulum has swung too far where we forget to support the mother who is feeding her baby another way.
We've been trying more aggressively the past few weeks to offer a bottle at least once a day to our baby. I decided to offer formula bottles to her because it was too exhausting for me to pump, and feed and then watch the pumped milk get thrown down the drain when she refused the bottle. The past day or so there's been a dramatic change... today my baby flat out refused the breastmilk bottle I offered but when I offered her formula she happily guzzled it down.
Here's the thing, I should have been elated - Yay! She took a bottle! Instead, I looked at my husband and with a hurt tone in my voice said - "She doesn't like my milk anymore!" I was half joking, half actually offended. I know this is the beginning of the end of my breastfeeding journey. Part of me feels like a failure I didn't want to go longer, that I didn't choose to go longer. The other part of me knows this is the best course for me and my child. I think she will be happier and I will be happier.
There's no right or wrong answer in all of this. No guide to tell you the right thing to do. Feeding your baby is actually really hard to navigate sometimes. Sometimes the decisions are made for us based on a variety of circumstances and sometimes we chart our own course because at the end of the day, we as mothers should be confident and find comfort that we are doing the absolute BEST we can every day for our babies.