As I walked past my work colleagues this morning and forced out a semi-cheerful “good morning guys”, my mind was cluttered with the thoughts, guilt and worry of the decision I now have in front of me. You see. my beautiful baby boy is a vicious, smiling assassin. He will look up at you with his beautiful, innocent hazel eyes and then bite down on my nipples with a ferocity of a small Tasmanian devil mauling its prey trying to shred every last piece of meat off the bone.
My nipples are currently on the verge of being too tender to wear a bra over them. The blood shed has been regular of late and he is down to the minimum of feeds. I have cried in pain, to which the little devil simple giggles back at me, making me cry even more because even through the tears of pain I can totally appreciate how gorgeous and lovely he is.
But I simply cannot take this pain anymore and it has to stop! I have tried nipple shields (he pulls them straight off or bites harder). I have no inclination to spend my time pumping milk to spend even more time feeding him a bottle. After nine months, the last three of which have been peppered with bite attacks, it seems almost offensive to stop so soon from that 12 month mark when he can safely transition to cow’s milk. But I simply cannot take it anymore.
Like many others who cease their breastfeeding journey sooner than they expected, I feel the guilt. As much as I know this is the right decision for me and my baby, it doesn’t stop that nagging voice echoing in my mind of, “are you sure you’ve tried everything?” That inner voice will slowly fade as I wean my boy off onto his formula alternative and we both find a new appreciation for each other beyond suckling and life-force (or ripper and victim as I’m currently thinking of it as the pain radiates through my chest from this morning’s attack). I am completely confident in my decision and in both my ability to breastfeed (heck I breastfed twins until they were 21 months), I do not need to continue on this inexplicitly painful road when my baby boy is thriving on his solids diet and has proven himself to be able to take formula when needed.
Now when I say that I’m stopping, that may not be all feeds and as with everything in my life, it is an entirely flexible plan. I’m not sure what I’m going to do exactly – but the daytime feeds are surely the worst. So I suspect I will wean him straight off his morning/day care drop off feed and his lunch feed ASAP. I’ll see how his late afternoon feed goes, but that should give me enough time to get my nipples back into peak feeding shape. His sleep/overnight feeds are still fine so I’ll keep those as long as possible.
I’m not outlining my plan here for any comments, judgements or suggestions – this is simply my way of working through the sorrow that comes with this decision. Because I am sad, I do feel guilty and I feel like I’m letting my little boy down. These are completely natural feelings to have despite my absolute confidence that this is the right decision to make, it still comes with a level of doubt that my inner sensibilities can easily quash.
Breastfeeding has been the hardest yet most satisfying part of parenting. I was in no way prepared for what lay ahead of me or the struggles I would face and this experience with my little singleton baby boy has been a completely different experience in almost every way to my twin girls. Every baby is different, just as every pregnancy is different and for me, the breastfeeding experience was completely different too.