We’re nearing the end of our breastfeeding journey. It’s a very bittersweet feeling.
I have always longed for Ozzy to take a bottle so I had the option to give him one, and now he is. It’s a very emotionally confusing time, and I’d like to blame the hormones but really it’s because I feel like it signifies the end of him being a baby.
I exclusively breastfed him until about 7 months at which point Ozzy started finally eating some food (BLW was off to a slow start but we went at his pace). I’d always had the very arbitrary goal of one year in mind to breastfeed for, after reaching the first goal of 6 months and still very much wanting to continue. But we aren’t going to get there. We may not even hit 9 months. I’ve done SO well and that is such a long time to breastfeed for, particularly when doing it round the clock. And it’s not that I don’t think it’s long enough, it’s just that I’m sad to let go.
I am all for formula. We have always had some in the house since Ozzy was born, just in case. And we have tried to give it to him before at various stages, but he always refused the bottle and we just didn’t have the energy to persevere. I was incredibly lucky in that both Ozzy and I took to breastfeeding relatively easily, after a rocky few days with it in hospital that is. But when we cracked it, it was great. It just seemed easier and cheaper to keep going with EBF.
Then teething started, and he would wake in the night every few hours and feeding to sleep was the only thing he knew, which meant I had broken sleep for months. Tom wanted to help but there wasn’t a lot else he could do. Ozzy wanted milk from me and nothing else.
Then I was in hospital with tonsillitis, and we had no choice. Ozzy was at home with Tom, and if he wanted milk in the night it would have to be from a bottle. Tom tried, and had to syringe most of it in to his mouth as if it were Calpol, but a little was taken from the teat after Ozzy realised mummy was nowhere to be seen.
We figured as we had started we should carry on, so I made the decision to stop breastfeeding him between 6pm and 6am. If he wanted a feed then – he could have formula. I was done with night feeds and I was ill and tired. And guess what happened? After a few days he started sleeping for most of the night. He wasn’t hungry at 2am and he wasn’t waking for feeds when he did wake. It was clearly just for comfort that he had been waking and wanting to breastfeed, but once that was taken away he learnt to self settle most of the time, or take comfort from our arms instead, and did 9 or 10 hour sleeps.
The problem was, he still couldn’t take a bottle during the day. Which was fine, but then I realised I was feeding him constantly throughout the day. He was eating lots of food, but still wanting to feed every couple hours. I felt like I needed a break, suddenly the last 8 months caught up with me and I realised how much my body had been doing for Ozzy. I was sure he was feeding for comfort but I had NO idea how to tell the difference.
Babies supposedly have different cries but 8 months in and I had NO idea what my son’s cries meant, all I knew was that breastfeeding stopped them all. I tried to only feed him when I thought he was hungry but it was impossible to tell.
In the end we discovered a trainer cup with a soft spout style teat rather than a bottle one. We bought powder formula rather than premade and we warmed it first. And he just took it. Took it as if it was a nipple, gulped the whole bottle down and fell asleep. It was wonderful and I felt so happy and so free. We had a great few days where I would breastfeed him for his first and last feeds of the day but in between he would have one or two bottles. Drastically less than before and it really showed how much was comfort feeding prior to the introduction of the bottle.
Now I feel like I know him better. If he wants comfort he mumbles mumumumu and clambers up into my arms for a cuddle. No pawing at my top or trying to bite my bra, he is happy just to be with me and he wraps his chubby arms around me.
If he wants a bottle, he cries with more urgency and flails his arms about. When he is finally presented with the bottle he opens his mouth and grabs onto it. I was worried that when I stopped breastfeeding we would lose this wonderful bond that we spent 8 months building. Since the day he was conceived he has relied on my body for nourishment and soon that won’t be the case. He wakes at about 6am and we bring him into bed with us. I give him a sleepy feed while we cuddle and doze off, and it’s my favourite part of the day. Every night I take a bottle up ready for the morning and every morning I ignore it in favour of breastfeeding instead. But this morning my boobs weren’t quite as full. Ozzy didn’t feed quite as desperately or for as long. My body is adjusting, Ozzy is adjusting and soon that feed won’t happen anymore.
It makes me so sad and sometimes in the night I want to go and wake him up, sit on the floor in his room and hold him In my arms while he feed from me. He makes little noises that he never makes with a bottle, and it takes me back to those wonderful early months when we were getting to know eachother and sharing something so special. But it also takes me back to those awful early months where I would sit in the shower in agony with yet another blocked duct. When I would hear him stir after 42 minutes of sleep and dread getting up to feed him AGAIN. When I used to dream about Tom giving him a bottle while I slept for longer than an hour. When Ozzy would cluster feed all evening and I was stuck on the sofa with him for hours and incredibly sore nipples.
However you feed, it must be hard in those first few months. I bet sterilising bottle after bottle and having to make them up through the night also takes it’s toll. But breastfeeding is the only experience we had, so it’s the drawbacks of that which I’m taken back to and don’t remember quite so fondly.
I loved breastfeeding so much and I felt like it was such a large part of my identity for such a long time. But I have also grown to loathe it. I felt trapped and tied down. Too responsible for someone else. Like I wanted my body back after 9 months of pregnancy and nearly 9 months of breastfeeding round the clock. I wanted to wear normal clothes and bras again, and not smell of milk. I wanted to go out, without the baby. And drink. And now I could do all of that. And I do want to. I am 100% sure we are doing the right thing and I already feel far better for it. But I will always always ache to feed him, and wish we had carried on for longer. I will always miss that lovely sleepy feed in bed and the way I could comfort him so easily.
But I’m also looking forward to what is to come. It’s lovely for Tom to finally be able to feed his son after all this time. It’s lovely to finally understand the difference between comfort and hunger, and feel like I understand Ozzy a little better. It’s lovely to watch him grow up and start to communicate, and to know what he wants now. He’s so happy, and he loves having a bottle. But the end of breastfeeding feels like the end of him being a baby, he’s basically toddling and I can’t cope.
He doesn’t need his mummy in quite the same way as he did before, and that’s a good thing. But this is all I’ve known for 8 months and even though I want to move on, I’m desperately sad that this time in our lives is over and it isn’t coming back. I’m not ready to admit he’s not a newborn baby, and I hope this 6am feed continues but I’ starting to realise it won’t.
Thanks boobs for your service, you did a great job for nearly 9 months and I look forward to you hopefully doing the same again one day. But for now you’re mine again and I think I deserve a lovely new bra.