Weaning Wars: The Physical and Mental Struggle of Discontinuing Breastfeeding

Disclaimer: This post is based upon my personal experience with breastfeeding two babies. While I did struggle in ways that will be discussed below, I am not attempting to dismiss the experience of women who could not breastfeed or chose not to for whatever reason. Motherhood is hard no matter how it works out and I truly and wholeheartedly believe that fed it best. Baby is the happiest with a happy mama. Thanks for reading!

jenna-norman-292396-unsplash.jpgI did it. I felt a little wrong as I dumped that glorious milk powder into the tepid water and shook it like a Polaroid picture. I made my daughter a bottle of formula. As I sat feeding her that “freedom powder” I was not prepared for the rush of emotions with which my mind was overtaken.

This is amazing.

This was my first thought. Anyone, anyone can now feed her. I am no longer the sole source for her nutrition. We went through a serious bottle battle with this little nugget. No silicone imposter would satisfy her hunger, only the real deal. Which someone told me I should take as a compliment? I took it as YOU WILL NEVER BE ALONE AGAIN. Once a breastmilk bottle was a tolerable alternative (Praise Jesus!) I started dreaming about being done all together: back to clothing with a variety of necklines and finally destroying my pump, Office Space style. And then, as it always does, the mom guilt set in.

Mom guilt is the worst.

I have had no issues (well, No isn’t true…mastitis, as I have been quoted is the motherhood equivalent to stepping barefoot on a Lego, repeatedly.) But no tongue ties, tearful weight checks, or many of the other trials that color the breastfeeding experiences of many of my dear friends. Why can’t I have the earth mama beautiful bonding experience that all of the crunchy moms describe? Just once I’d like to be nursing my little cherub and be transported to a field of wild lavender with a flower crown, is that too much to ask? Apparently. But I digress.

It comes down to the internal battle a) you are a bad mom if you choose your needs over the needs of your baby b) feed your baby something and stop listening to the judgmental bia that lives in your head. I think I will end up beginning the active weaning process in the not too distant future as I do have a number of times in the coming months where I will be away from my daughter for more extended periods of time. Like more than five hours. (Exclusive pumping moms, you are the true rock stars.) I really am not a lover of the pump, unlike my two year old son who is so sad he cannot make milk from his bellybutton. That being said, there are some things about breastfeeding that I will miss.

  1. Convenience: Being a 24 hour diner has its downsides, but there is something so convenient about having everything you need contained on your person at all times. It is much easier to redirect (i.e. swat at) a toddler while nursing with one arm than bottle feeding with two.
  2. Cost: FREE goes a long way. I love free, who doesn’t love free?
  3. Closeness: I do feel particularly bonded with my babies when I get to retreat to a calm dark space and nurse quietly.

I am not someone who magically bounces back (a term I personally hate, being a person rather than a four square ball) after birth with the aid of only breastfeeding. In actuality it makes me ravenous, and has the somewhat opposite effect. I also, had some serious symptoms that mimicked feelings immediately postpartum upon weaning my son. I am not looking forward to the emotional pendulum of that process again. However, I am looking forward to the freedom of having my body be purely my own again.

I love when people are confident in parenting decisions. Kind of in the way that I love when people can ride a unicycle, its unique and I know I will never be able to do it. It’s a gift to not have a forced timeline in anything, but especially in breastfeeding. I am not sure what my path will be, but I hope those of you who also have a love/hate relationship with milk making can relate to the struggle.

I Am A Crappy Wife Sometimes

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Five years into our marriage, and I can finally admit, I am a crappy wife sometimes. Not all the time. I have my moments: carpet lines and handmade dinners have occurred on the same day, but generally there’s a combination of success and falling short on the daily around my house. I am a stay at home mom, but if you have ever read anything I have written you know that is way too ambiguous a title for such a type A person. I never had aspirations of June Cleaver, but maybe at least Clare Dunfey? I fill my day with a lot of immeasurable tasks, but, truth is, I don’t even always do those. Here are some examples:

My House is a war zone.

Let’s start with the most obvious. I love it when my house is clean, but I kind of suck at it. Every closet looks like that secret one Monica has on Friends with crap towers piled as high as the eye can see. I have tried chore charts, apps, everything short of cleaning hypnotherapy. I bleached scratches into our stainless steel cooktop. Apparently, they make stainless steel specific cleaner and contrary to my third-trimester clean-freak pregnant brain, one cannot bleach everything. Thank the good Lord that my husband never complains about the daycare that is our living room or the stacks of $%!t on every flat surface. I am a crappy wife sometimes.

I am appallingly terrible at laundry.

Like really appallingly terrible. Got brand new designer jeans you need shrunk down to fit a toddler? I am your girl. Part of it may come from technique (or lack there of). Literally everything goes in the washer in some random assortment, gets washed, then rewashed with scent booster after sitting there until that awful mildew smell sets in, and finally dried repeatedly for about 24 hours. My super wife stain remover tricks are limited to scrubbing baby poop out of car seats with dish soap and vinegar. Can’t win ‘em all. Oh and I also can never remember to get the dry cleaning. They usually call reminding me of close we’ve had their since March…of 2017. I am a crappy wife sometimes.

I still nap when the baby naps.

I really, really like to sleep. Several days a week instead of oh say, laundry or cleaning (see above) I hunker down in my covers at naptime and get absolutely nothing accomplished. That pretty much leaves post-bedtime to log measurable work done throughout the day, and that is even rarer for me. With two little kids, I know I am likely to be tired for the next several decades, but much of the population seems to do just fine with no nap. This is not to say I am not occasionally productive during naptime, I mean even the Cubs win the World Series every so often. I am a crappy wife sometimes.

I can cook, but I don’t always.

I am actually a decent cook. Sure, I have had my fair share of Pinterest fails like any mere human, but for the most part I can turn out a pretty tasty dinner. I just don’t always do it. I love to go out to dinner. I love Postmates (delivery of local restaurant food as take-out for those of you unaware). I have all the resources at my disposal to cook healthy, nutritious meals 24/7, I just don’t. I am a crappy wife sometimes.

If you were to ask my husband, he would not complain one bit because that’s just the type of gentleman he is. I’m sure he’d appreciate a cleaner house, more home cooked meals, and he’d really appreciate my not destroying his clothes with my atrocious laundress skills. For all of my crappy wife habits, (I didn’t even touch on my mood swings or the fact that I don’t believe in cuddling while sleeping), I do love my little family more than anything in this world. I hope I can show them they are so cherished even if I cannot manage to retain sock marriages or have streak free windows. I am a crappy wife sometimes, but my heart is full.

The Identity Crisis of Motherhood

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I really thought I knew what I was getting myself into with this whole parenting thing. Spoiler alert: I did not. The hardest thing for me, aside from the sleep deprivation and soul crushing mom guilt about literally everything, is the identity crisis of motherhood. Who am I now? Who am I when I am not mommy?

It’s not that all of my aspirations and personality traits vanished when the stick turned pink, they just got put into perspective. I know there are plenty of moms out there who are complete badasses. They literally do it all: careers, parenting, hobbies, volunteering, organic baking. I just have to accept that is not me. I am more the amazon prime loving, store bought cookie mom rolling in wearing yoga pants that have been to a yoga class.

I have tried many things to figure out what type of mom I am. That’s just how a closet type A mind works. I need to put myself in a box. A set of rules for the order of all the things. I still haven’t quite found my niche. The thing that fulfills all of me.

The exercise mom

I will never be a yogi or cross fit guru. I have to let go of the idea of ever being #fitmomgoals. I will say, proudly, that on my journey into this type of mom, I found that exercise can actually be great for ridding oneself of extra anxiety some of us were just lucky enough to be born possessing. And, it makes me feel like a little less of a poser for wearing athleisure wear exclusively. But, it’s not my box.

The direct sales mom

This idea is very intriguing to me. The thought of harnessing the SAHM work force, is a brilliant move by companies. I look around me and see my sister about to graduate from business school, and I have a random thought of, could I do that? I’m sure I could, but what would I have to give up, ask my family to give up to make something like that happen. And do I even want to, or am I just jealous of her passion? I am enjoying my foray into direct sales as It’s pushed me to try new things and reach out to people I don’t know well. I don’t think I have the personality that’s required to turn it into more than a hobby. Not my box either.

The crafty mom

Hahahahahaha. I hate senseless messes. I hot glued my finger together trying to make hair bows. I have completed one sensory bin and I spent eight times as long cleaning it up as my toddler did playing with it. DEFINITELY, not my box.

The blogger mom

This has been the best fit for me so far. I can spill my true feelings as a kind of therapeutic exercise without giving up any family time. When someone resonates with something I write the joy in that is inexplicable. I have always enjoyed writing, my challenge comes from the technology side. I can barely check my email without help. This could definitely be a part of my box.

It’s quite the transition.

Going from a career in nursing that I was so passionate about and good at, or so I like to think in my romanticized rear view memory, to a stay at home mom. There’s no rubric for my evaluation. No set of standing orders that tell me what to do in a given situation. That being said, I will not pretend to be unaware of my privilege here. I am extremely fortunate to be able to stay home with my kids, while my husband provides for us financially. I try not to take that for granted, though I am not always fantastic about the expression of that gratitude. Sorry, babe! Motherhood is an amazing journey and while I am incredibly passionate about my sweet little spawn, I often feel like I am not good at motherhood. Raising children is like doing a one million piece jigsaw puzzle over the course of decades. I put A LOT of pieces in the wrong place, maybe even lose a few. The final picture will be beautiful, even if I can’t see it yet. I want to show my children that being a mother is one of the best gifts life can give you, but it will never erase my other gifts. Therefore, I will continue to search for things to fill my box.

Dearest Darlingest Mommy to Be: A No BS Letter on Bringing Your Bundle into the World

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Dearest Darlingest Mommy to Be,

As Ben Franklin famously said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Childbirth is proof that God wants to keep us from becoming self-sufficient snarky bitches. I found that a lot of people sugar coated the transition from pregnant to motherhood. I vow to do no such thing.

 

Labor:

It hurts a whole hell of a lot. I don’t care what your pain threshold is. It’s painful. But no matter how you give birth you are a badass. This brings me to the first of many mom life lessons, if you push for 6 minutes or practically sneeze out an 8 pounder with no tearing/meds/while looking like a rock star, keep your mouth shut. No one wants to hear how you rocked the hardest physical experience of most female’s lives. I have no doubt that you will do an amazing job however it goes down. Keep an open mind. If you trust the care providers that are helping you deliver than everything will go great. The best birth plan is a healthy baby.

 

  • You usually cannot eat, so I brought a pack of lifesavers to have something to suck on when I got hungry. I didn’t tell my nurse but the reason you can’t is for anesthesia in case of an emergency c-section so just be prepared to spit out the watermelon flavored candy or risk getting caught.

 

  • It’s really messy. I brought cute nightgowns and ended up wearing the hospital gowns the whole time. Blood and sooooo much amniotic fluid (like for real there’s a lot up there).

 

  • You will be sore. Not just lady parts. Arms, abs, pretty much everything. It feels like you just lost American Ninja Warrior. It’s called “labor” not “vacation”.

 

  • The hospital bathroom will look like a scene from CSI. You will bleed A LOT. It’s normal up to a point. Granny panties for a while. Wear those vagscicle pads. Get some super large night time pads for home as well. I slept on a towel for a week with each kid to protect my sheets, but I may have been a bit of an overachiever in the blood loss department. Le sigh.

 

Postpartum:

Your boobs will be out so just don’t fight it. Between lactation consultants, nurses, and all sorts trying to help your baby figure out her first meal. Its ok for it to hurt, but not so much that you want to cry all the time. If it hurts like that see an LC immediately. It’s not worth losing your breastfeeding relationship by delaying that if it’s something you really want to do.

 

  • Get yourself some Dermoplast. It’s numbing spray that will numb up your postpartum whoha when you have to pee after birth. Because that shit stings. https://www.amazon.com/Dermoplast-Pain-Relieving-Spray-2-75-oz/dp/B0006GWSTO/ref=sr_1_3_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1525141917&sr=8-3&keywords=dermoplast

 

  • Speaking of shit. Take your stool softeners. Everybody poops. Everyone but you if you don’t take them. Also stay hydrated this will help the whole process.

 

  • Night 2. Babies realize that they are no longer ethereal mermaids on day two and that the world is cold, lonely and all around sucks compared to life 20,000 leagues under the sea. It’s completely normal for baby to want only mama and a boob in her mouth at all times during night two. This is particularly hard because you are so exhausted from birth, but thankfully there’s still so much adrenaline.

 

  • New babies have their days and nights mixed up initially. This takes some getting used to. Everyone will tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps. This also means do laundry when the baby does laundry. It’s kind of crap, but try to catch as many winks as you can. It’s so hard with all the emotions, feeds, and adrenaline.

 

  • Day 4/5 Milk comes in (cue your new porn star boobs). But you won’t want anyone, including your baby to touch them. A lot of increased tenderness even a slight fever is normal. Try to avoid over pumping as milk is supply and demand and it will just make the problem worse. hot Hot HOT shower with bikini top on + some Motrin or pain meds if you are taking them postpartum (which I recommend) should help.

 

  • Take it easy. It’s very easy to feel weird surges of energy but try to rest as much as possible.

 

  • Temp changes are normal. Going from freezing to sweating is hormones working themselves out..

 

  • Mood swings like you’ve never had before. Chances are whatever you are feeling, its 100% normal. You can want to protect your baby so fiercely as to never let her experience so much as a paper cut and simultaneously hope someone else will adopt her so you can just get some mother effing sleep. Hormones can make you feel very, very dark and anxious. I suggest talking only to people who have had a baby in the last five years about this because the older moms forget and those who haven’t experienced it just don’t get it.

 

  • Breastfeeding is hard work. You need a ton of water and a ton of calories to make milk. The pain gets better at about week two. Put those Lasinoh soothies in the fridge for extra soothing comfort. Kellymom.com is a great resource. She’s a little crunchy for my taste on parenting in general (ie is pro bed sharing) but has good feeding advice. Particularly for the middle of the night when you don’t necessarily want to call anyone.

 

  • On that note. Please don’t bed share. If you do, don’t tell me about it or I won’t sleep. Most SIDS deaths are actually bed sharing accidents. I really wanted to a few nights because I was just that tired. If you need ideas on how to stay awake for night time feedings, let me know.
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  • You will love your husband so much more. Watching him care for your baby is the sweetest thing in the whole world

 

  • You will hate your husband and his ineffectual stupid nipples.

 

  • Baby poop is freaky. There are sites devoted to the many normal shades of poop.

 

  • You will still look six months pregnant after delivery. This pissed me off to no end when I did the math. Its life. You may live in nursing tanks and sweats for the next few weeks, unless you’re Kate Middleton. And if you are don’t brag, no one likes a superior princess.

 

  • Babies don’t sleep, which is super annoying but also protective. Needing milk every few hours means someone who loves them is giving them the once over every so often and hopefully noticing if anything is wrong. If you have a freak baby that does sleep, again it’s probably not your superior parenting but luck so don’t brag. The kids who sleep early on will probably be on MTV’s Teen Mom later. Parenting is all a karma laden trade off.

 

  • Everything you are feeling is normal. Unless it’s not normal and that’s ok too. Just make sure you talk about it.

 

  • Shower and get out of the house. This can change your whole mindset.

 

  • You are doing an amazing job. Not only did the universe destine this baby for you, but it also destined you to be the one to love and protect this baby. Literally a match made in heaven.

 

  • Call your friends. We love you.

 

I could have gone on and on, but you’ll do great!

 

XOXO,

Me