I had always known that I wanted to breastfeed. My mum breastfed all 7 of us and always talked about what a positive experience it was. I was quite naïve and didn’t really think that it would be anything but positive. Now that I’ve started to wean Jacob off the boob I’ve been reflecting back on my experience and wanted to share how I feel about it all from beginning to end.
Jacob was placed on my chest after a long 48 hour labour and within minutes, he had found my breast with the help of the midwife and was feeding great. Neither of us knew what we were doing, but in that moment it all felt so magical, and totally natural. I just felt this overwhelming sense of peace as a watched him feed. I presumed that it would always be that easy, but I was wrong.
Jacob fed relentlessly like any normal newborn and woke every 2 hours in the day for a feed and fed pretty much all night in my bed. The pain and exhaustion began to sink in after about a week. I remember feeling like I was doing well, even though my nipples were cracked and bleeding. I presumed that this part would pass. I remember speaking to my midwife after a home visit and she was trying to explain how to make Jacob latch on better to help with the painful nipples. I tried every single way that she showed me but nothing eased the pain and I felt like I had gone from being a natural, to being totally clueless.
Eventually though, we found our own way of doing things, Jacob was gaining weight and I learnt to love those special quiet moments in the night just the two of us. As Jacob got older he slept for longer stretches (apart from a few sleep regression periods) and fed less in the day. However, there were days during leaps, teething and fussy spells where I felt suffocated. Jacob only wanted me, all day. Nothing else would comfort him and he wanted to be attached to me permanently. During these periods I felt like I didn’t have any freedom, zero time to myself and I began to resent breastfeeding. I’d hear stories of mums with bottle-fed babies who happily slept through the night and could be left with their partner if they needed some time out. I was jealous. And there was more than one occasion when I would turn up at my mums and just hand Jacob over and ask her to keep him distracted so that he wouldn’t want me.
I also felt guilty. So many women wanted to breastfeed and never could, and here I am complaining about it because my baby WANTS me. Isn’t that what I should want? And there were still magic moments between us when he would want extra cuddles and I would feel so loved. But it was exhausting nonetheless. He also went through a period of refusing a bottle of expressed milk, which meant even less freedom for me and a whole load of anxiety if I left him to go anywhere.
Now at 8 months, Jacob’s feeding has settled down after he started on solids. On a good day he feeds every 4 hours in the day and twice in the night. I always thought that I would feed him myself until he was 12 months, but I just have a really strong feeling that the time is right for both of us to stop. I feel guilty, and sad, and sometimes selfish. But I have to be totally honest and admit that I don’t enjoy it like I used to. I find more joy in the cuddles, watching him play and rocking him to sleep. Jacob is going to nursery in May when I start work again and if I wean him gradually by replacing each feed with a bottle of formula then he’ll hopefully be fully weaned by May. I also think that weaning him will make the transition easier for both of us. In the past couple of days after gradually introducing bottles, he has stopped breastfeeding completely and has 3 bottles a day. He rarely shows signs of wanting to feed anymore which makes me feel better about stopping and he really loves his food and his bottles.
It makes me sad just writing this and I hope you appreciate my honesty and can relate to some of my experiences. But I’m trying not to make this into a big thing. I’m not thinking about the last time I fed him. I’m thinking about how I’ll start to feel more like myself again. I’ll always be Jacob’s mum, and his needs come first. But I know that our bond will never be broken and nothing can take away our feeding experience together.
Just like the millions of mums that haven’t breastfed, it doesn’t make me less of a mum. Our closeness will remain through our sleepy cuddles, our slobbery kisses and our little handholds. And he’ll always be my baby.