Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The end has come

The story is that for 5 months or so, Willem has been leaving teeth marks on my nipple that I've found uncomfortable and sometimes painful. I could no longer breastfeed him in comfort and often had to tell him when it was time to unlatch or switch sides because I could no longer take the discomfort. I was still willing at that time to continue breastfeeding him in hopes that he would figure out a way given some time to stop making it uncomfortable for me. Instead over time, it remained the same and he began to resist my directions. When I told him it was time to let go or pointed out the teeth marks that were there, he would refuse and deny. This basically led to me getting frustrated and him being sad. I continued to try to be patient explaining to him why it was important for him to follow my directions at those times. I was resistant to give up and begin to wean him because I was hopeful there would be a solution and improvement.

That solution hadn't come before the day (first time in his life) when I dreaded the next time he asked to drink mama milk. I didn't want to and it surprised me the force of that feeling. At that point I realized our breastfeeding relationship had to come to an end. That night I told him I was done trying to give him mama milk and done with the arguing and the frustration, sadness and hurt. That's also when I realized that I had to be consistent and firm in that resolution. There wasn't going to be and couldn't be an gradual weaning process.

Over the next few days when he asked, I wanted to go back on that resolution. I still wish that there could have been another way. I wish that breastfeeding older children was more understood. If I could contact a lactation consultant who would know what to do to teach an older child to fix his latch, I would have done it. Although I assume that most LCs wouldn't have a clue with a child his age.

I'm not very hopeful that someone can help because he and I working together has not yielded a solution. I thought it might be one of those examples of a stage in a child's life where if you as the parent don't like it, be patient and wait a few weeks and it will resolve itself. In this case, the resentment came first. In fact, I'm glad to not have breastfed him in a few days. My main regret is that he can no longer benefit from the immune boosting powers and motherly connection.

Often quoted to me is the maxim that extended breastfeeding is only constructive when it is working for both mother and child. Once its not, its time to stop. I felt I tried to persevere having found a balance that I considered acceptable. But it was no longer acceptable to me when I didn't even want to try. I don't want to know what the next nursing session would have been like with me knowing I didn't want to and going ahead anyway.

I've actually replaced the breastfeeding with spoon feeding for the time being. The last couple of weeks, he has discovered that he is too busy to eat. And often the only way to make sure he was getting the nourishment he needed was to interact with him over food, the best way to do that was hand feeding. He still can feel the connection with me and there isn't crying on either end. I don't have to feed him by hand all the time but in times that he is struggling to focus on eating, I will.

I had hoped that our breastfeeding relationship could have lasted longer--until he was 4 years old or so--knowing that in many cultures in the world, that is normal. Instead, we made it 2 years, 6 months and 3 weeks.

I probably could have stopped right after Belle's birth with the simple explanation that babies don't eat foot, they only drink mama milk and Willem was not a baby anymore and he needed to eat food to stay healthy. Instead, I tried to find the mixture of food and mama milk for his diet. Then he started using mama milk as meal replacement so I had to put limits on his breastfeeding like only after breakfast, not before because he wouldn't eat breakfast otherwise. I know he'd love it if some pumped breastmilk made it into his cup, but I'm not yet sure if I should do that. I know I'm not going to go out of my way to pump milk for him, but if I happen to have extra, I think I will share with him.

3 comments:

TopHat said...

It sounds like it was a pretty smooth transition for all! I hope it'll be like that for us.

Rixa said...

I'm sorry you had to stop earlier and more abruptly than you had wanted. I'm glad that I was already only nursing Zari for naps & bedtime before Dio was born because she would be happy to nurse much more than that, but I can just tell her she has to wait until bedtime. I nurse her until it becomes uncomfortable and then I count to 10 out loud (so she can be prepared) and then I ask her to stop. She often won't want to stop. She'll say "I'm not hurting you. I'm being very gentle." Which is sweet, but sometimes it does get irritating with those teeth. And, with all the abundance of milk since Dio's birth, she wouldn't ever stop!

Shawnette said...

I don't think there is any way to end nursing without some heartbreak. If it's their choice, we're sad, if it's ours, guilty AND sad. But that doesn't cancel out the awesomeness of having done it to begin with.