Choosing Not to Breastfeed Adelaide
We were sitting together on the hospital bed, Adelaide and I, one of us smiling at how much easier birth was the second time.
But she hadn’t eaten in awhile. And the white board indicated it was time for another feed. And she was starting to stir.
I opened my robe and helped her tiny little mouth find something to eat. And my whole body tensed in pain.
Ben watched, from the other side of our hospital room, and as the tears streamed down my face he asked bluntly, “are we really doing this again?”
That question was the permission I needed to stop.
To choose something else for our family this time around.
To choose a different newborn experience.
To choose my sanity + happiness + comfort over the nutrition of this newborn.
And it was so much easier than I expected.
I wondered how I’d ever be able to make a choice that was second best for my baby. With Lincoln, even choosing to pump instead of nurse, and eventually to stop pumping and switch to formula at 5 months was HARD. And this time the babe in my arms was hours old and I was already planning on giving up on the liquid gold of breastmilk.
I have read the studies. I have poured over all the facts of breastmilk being better than formula for babies. And it is. If the only difference between two babies is what they’re fed, the one with breastmilk is going to be more emotionally stable, test better, and have a (slightly) higher IQ.
But do you know what else is important for a baby? (not to mention for my toddler at home and my husband who had sworn off babies the first time around) A happy, functional mom.
The studies also show that babies with happy functional parents are better all the way around (I haven’t actually read those – but I’m assuming — especially because learning is emotional, I loved this book about baby brain development when I was pregnant with Linc).
I’m not sure I really bonded with my first baby until I quit nursing. I remember long afternoons on the couch, whispering through clenched teeth with tears streaming down my face that I loved him, that I loved my little Lincoln. Because I did. But also because I needed the reminder through all the hurt.
And with Adelaide, I couldn’t wallow in pain alone on a couch all afternoon. I couldn’t be up for 5 hours pumping + bottle feeding each night. I had a toddler to love and I HAD to be more functional this time around then I was after Lincoln was born.
So I stopped. I pumped a little bit in the hospital to help my milk come in. I let her latch a few times over the next week. I pumped at home until my mom left and there wasn’t someone to give Lincoln + Adelaide attention.
I didn’t count milk ounces or wake up to pumping alarms. I didn’t dread nights or force feed myself to keep supply up.
I played with my kids. I smiled and laughed and snuck off to the bathroom to deal with the rest of post partum recovery.
Having a newborn was still a lot of work but it was happy and exhausting work, not dark and heavy and scary… and it reassured me that making the best choice for my baby wasn’t necessarily making the best choice for my baby.
I’m sharing this because if any of you are struggling with this I wanted you to know you’re not alone. I have heard countless stories about the joys of breastfeeding and I hope those stories encourage moms to try and nurse their babies. Because nursing is awesome. But those stories didn’t help me A few of you pregnant with #2 reached out to ask about breastfeeding because you know how much I struggled with it the first time. Well, I didn’t struggle with it the second time because I didn’t do it for more than 24 hours 🙂
TMI: The damage done from nursing Lincoln for two months was significant enough at Adelaide’s birth that nursing was initially much more painful that I’d experienced with baby #1. The lactation consultant explained eventually I’d get use to the pain but that with the tissue damage and new tissue growth, it wasn’t a matter of toughing it out for the first few weeks – the discomfort when nursing would last for much longer than that. Turns out I would rather birth a baby every morning than have to nurse one for the rest of the day. I HOPE that next time around my experience is different. But it might not be, and motherhood is still joyous and wonderful and worth it.
From what I’ve heard, nursing is painful no matter how it goes. For some it gets better quickly. And for some it doesn’t. We all respond differently to pain and if you need permission to choose something happier for your family this is it (but also, if you just need to stick it out for another week… hang in there, just think about all those bottles you won’t have to wash!).
Sometimes doing what’s best for your baby requires looking at the whole picture.
THIS is beautiful, just beautiful! Thank you for sharing your pain and peace in your journey of motherhood. I absolutely love women sharing REAL experiences to empower and educate the rest of us.
Wow just wow. Just came about this and this was my horror to having a second. I am still breastfeeding my baby who is almost nine months. My sex life died after she was born. I haven’t been able to go out for more than an hour without getting crippling anxiety that she’s hungry. Pumping is to painful. My breasts who were one perky have deflated and I can tell after she stops eating are going to need some kind of surgery to fix because I didn’t know I didn’t need to squeeze them like a cow but since I didn’t know I let a “lactation consultant” do that to me in the hospital which tore the muscle tissue from the top of the breast. I always wanted two babies so my baby could have a sibling but mentally it has been tough with breastfeeding. But now that I read this I think after I have my breast surgery once she stops feeding I will try for another once she’s older but this time won’t be scared of the formula.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I felt this same struggle with my son. I bf for 3 months and then switched to pumping until 6 months. Once I stopped pumping I got so much happier, that for me was when I truly bonded with my son. We’re thinking of a second and my mind is determined to make it work, but this post, this is liberation and truth. I needed it and am bookmarking it. I need a reminder that my love is no different and there shouldn’t be shame and guilt in doing what is best for the mental happiness of mommy and her babies.
I breastfed my first until she was 2.5. It was draining and she was addicted. Although I never felt pain while nursing, I did have other issues. I decided to nurse my 2nd baby until she was 6 months old. Best decision ever. Yes, formula, even costco brand did add up each month a ton, but I was happier. A happy mama=a happy baby and vice versa. Guilt is there, but it gets easier once the nursing ends. The hard part was my mom reminding me that my baby got sick more because I stopped nursing. The guilt is real, but there are ways to overcome it.
As a mother probably your mothers age, maybe older, you need to tell your mom that that will be enough of that type of comment. It’s really none of her business, is it?
I so appreciate this post! I do hope I am able to breastfeed comfortably, but your story – and my mom’s, which was similar to yours after she had my little sister – confirm that you can be a great mother while doing what’s best for you as well as the baby even if it goes against conventional “wisdom.”
I literally read this while pumping, with tears streaming down my face. Breastfeeding has never worked for me, and like you I have two close together (just under 19 months apart), so I decided with #2 to go straight to pumping rather than even endure the discomfort and frustration of trying to nurse. But pumping is making me just as miserable — it hurts, I’m always sore, and it’s causing me tons of stress, so at 2.5 months I’m in the process of weaning. And like you said, I will be a much better mother when I stop, and my little boy is going to be JUST FINE. Thank you so much for sharing your story!
Oh hang in there sweet friend! First of all, you’re a rockstar. 19 months apart is no joke…and keeping two humans alive is enough work without complications. And second, I’m so glad you’re making the best choices for your family 🙂 They look different for different moms – but it sounds like the best choices for your family look alot like mine…and I think one of the happiest moments for me was putting away that silly pump for good! Your little boy is going to be more than just fine – he’s going to thrive with a mom who can make tough decisions for his overall development…a happy functional mom is one of the best things you can give him 🙂 sending you a virtual hug and lots of solidarity 🙂
Good for you! It’s time we stopped shaming fellow mom’s and their choices. You know what’s most important for a baby? Being fed. I struggled breastfeeding with my first. In her case, it was a tongue-tie, that once we got fixed made life exponentially better but that struggle is real. And it’s the worst pain imaginable. You need to do what your mother’s instinct is telling you and don’t let other people get you down. So, thank you for putting this out there!