It's been almost three weeks since I made the difficult decision to stop breastfeeding and switch to feeding Bensen with formula exclusively. It was a rough transition for all of us at first; I was a hormonal, emotional wreck and Bensen cried a lot because his little tummy was upset even though he'd been getting one or two formula bottles a day already and we were using the orange container for gas and fussiness. After a few days, things got better and it's been smooth sailing ever since! It might not be the ideal scenario that I had in mind for feeding my baby, but I think we're all better off because of it.
Bensen has been a bottle fed baby since the beginning. Long before I was even pregnant, I had every intention of nursing my babies, but that just wasn't going to work out for me this time around. Because he had jaundice, he liked to sleep the day away and didn't have any interest in food. The doctor told us to force feed him a certain amount at specific times until he decided to wake up regularly and eat on his own. By the time he was interested enough in eating and had gained enough weight to satisfy the doctor, I developed mastitis, such an evil infection, and I had to mentally prepare myself before I pumped every time. I wasn't in any mood to work through both of us learning to nurse. At seven weeks old, after my first week back to work, Bensen boy decided that it would be the perfect time to catch onto eating from something other than a bottle, but for whatever reason, my supply had decreased, and no matter what I tried or how religiously I pumped, it wouldn't come back.
After four weeks of religious pumping, writing down every ounce produced and trying every trick in the book, I was tired and frustrated. Breastfeeding was honestly one of the hardest things I'd ever done, and even though I was nursing Bensen at night, I still had to feed him a bottle before bed as well because I just wasn't making enough to keep him happy and fed on my own. We made the decision to supplement with formula and that took some of the stress away from me, but I was still obsessed with recording how much I pumped each time and secretly hoping that my situation would magically improve and I could fill my freezer to overflowing with bags of milk like I've seen some people do. I finally decided, after a little coaxing from my mom, that we would all be better off if I quit. At first I told myself that I would pump twice a day and supplement his formula with that, but that didn't end up happening and three days after I made my decision, I was completely done.
I'm not sure why it was such a hard transition to make. I blame underlying hormones from other things going on for a lot of the emotional trauma I went through that week. Nursing hadn't been my favorite because I didn't have the patience to sit through the hour long event that Bensen turned it into and we were still feeding him the same, there was just something different in the bottle. I guess I felt inadequate as a mother and I kept thinking back to all of the things that I could have done differently from day one that probably would have made the journey more successful for me. One night found me curled up in a ball in the chair in Bensen's room, sobbing while he screamed because he was so uncomfortable. Apparently my tears were comforting to him because he quieted down and I was left there sobbing to Joe that it was all my fault that he was in pain because I couldn't give him the food that he needed to keep his tummy happy. It was a rough week, but I don't regret quitting one bit.
In the three weeks since I made my decision, I feel like I've been a better wife and mother. Joe and I have started trading off nights getting up with Bensen, so we're not as tired and there isn't any resentment toward each other (Bensen sleeping through the night most nights may have something to do with this as well). Those middle of the night pumping/feeding sessions were brutal for our marriage. We joke with people that it's a good thing our relationship was strong going into parenthood because there was no love between us at 3:00 in the morning ever. I'm less stressed and as a result, I have more patience with Joe, Howie and the baby and am not as easily provoked to anger. My baby and I have been able to bond more, which seems weird to say, but it's true. I've loved that boy from day one, but now that I'm not constantly worried about providing enough milk, I'm more relaxed around him and we have more fun together. My life isn't spent pumping or feeding, I have more time to spend with Joe and Bensen and more time to get things done so I feel more satisfied with what I've accomplished at the end of the day.
My experience with breastfeeding wasn't a great one with this kid, but that doesn't mean that I'm not willing to try it again in the future. In fact, I already wrote a list of things that I want to do differently from day one that I hope will make the whole thing more successful and enjoyable for all parties involved. At this stage in our life, and with the events surrounding the situation, this decision was the best one for us and we're all happier because of it!