As my baby is almost six months old, I have made the decision to stop breastfeeding. Yesterday I reduced the breast feeds down to just one at bed time and plan to gradually decrease these over the coming week. A catalyst for this is because tomorrow, I turn 37, and my other half, my eldest daughter and me are off to ‘Go Ape,’ where we will spend a few hours swinging around tree tops and whizzing down zip wires; my alternative plan to the usual ‘let’s get plastered in a pub somewhere’ notion of how to have fun on your birthday (zip wiring was suggested by Sue on WordPress – thank you Sue). Mum and Dad are babysitting, hence it seems as good a time as any to begin the switch to bottle-feeding.
Giving up breastfeeding is an emotional rollercoaster, for me at least. I will most likely not have another baby, and so it follows that I will never breastfeed again, once I finish for good in a few days. There is something so uniquely wonderful about nursing your child, having the knowledge that you are providing their only sustenance and sharing a bond that no other person on the planet could have with your baby. Those middle-of-the-night rendezvous, the two of you cuddled together in private harmony, innately understanding just what it is you are meant to be doing to keep the other happy, the gulf of age bridged by the simple act of supplying food – there is nothing like it in the world. And I know that I will miss it.
I am happy that I chose to feed my baby in this way for the first half-year of her life, and I am even happier that the reason I am now switching to bottles is not because I want to drink alcohol again. I breastfed my eldest child for 16 weeks, and at the age of 23 that felt like an eternity. Keen to get out socialising again (for socialising, read ‘boozing’) I knocked the nursing on the head in favour of being able to get drunk with my friends again. I realise that age brings wisdom, but it still fills me with sadness that I could not recognise what a wonderful privilege breastfeeding is, and how making the ‘sacrifice’ of being teetotal for a further six months post-pregnancy is no sacrifice at all when you are providing your baby with such a good start in life. (I know that some mothers are unable to breastfeed, and their children are perfectly healthy – I don’t mean to point the finger here. It worked for me, and so I am naturally in its favour).
My life is becoming busier, I am working a lot on our upcoming website, Soberistas.com and am therefore becoming more reliant on other people babysitting, and I have fulfilled what I set out to do – exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months (just shy by a week or two). And yet deciding to switch to bottles marks a new chapter for my baby; that magical, primal connection that the two of us have enjoyed since the day I discovered I was pregnant, is reaching its conclusion. It feels like she is embarking upon the first tiny step she will take towards independence.
When I finished breastfeeding my eldest daughter, I remember being overwhelmed with guilt and confusion, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I knew that the real reason behind me switching her to bottles was because I hankered after getting some of my old life back, I felt as though I had done ‘my bit’ to a degree and I just wanted to get on with living. There are none of those feelings this time around, just an acceptance that now seems like the right time, for me and the baby, and the knowledge that I will miss it (although the thought of getting a proper night’s sleep is wonderful!) once it has gone.
When I feed her for the last time, it will be an emotional experience. But again I am reminded of how much I have grown up and become less selfish as a result of giving up drinking – I have made a measured decision, weighing up the pros and cons for both of us (mainly the baby) and doing what is right for her, primarily. I will continue to be teetotal, to eat nutritious food (and now to begin cooking/pureeing it for the baby too) and to treat my body with respect, just as I had to do during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I will do it as I finally have some self-respect, it makes me happy and because I am setting an example to my two girls.