I keep a running “posts I want to write” list on my computer, and near the top of the list is “my love/hate relationship with breastfeeding.” It stares at me each time I open my list, as if to haunt me. I originally added it in January, at which time, my son was happily breastfeeding. Around that time, I began struggling to enjoy our nursing sessions as they became more tedious than enjoyable. Having to plan my pump schedule at work around his breastfeeding schedule in the morning and at night. Finding places to nurse while out in public. Dealing with the biting – oh the pain as his teeth started to come in.
But that was, until one day he just stopped. Just like that.
Right around the time he turned 5 months old, I got ready to feeding him before bed and he refused to latch. He arched his back, pulling away from me with all of his might. The sessions that followed were terrible. He would turn his head when I’d offer him milk. He would scream, flail, arch some more and it broke my heart. Suddenly, my love/hate relationship with breastfeeding became a longing for its return.
I had no idea what was happening. I googled “why won’t my baby breastfeed at 5 months.” There is was at the top of the search results – nursing strike. Feeling somewhat relieved that this was actually a thing, I did everything in my power to reconnect with him and convince him to put down the picket sign.
We had small victories, but nothing stuck. He began nursing in the middle of the night, but then started sleeping through the night (I never thought I”d be sad about that). I tried ridding the room of all distractions, nursing in the dark, skin to skin, baths, trying the bottle-then-swap method, expressed milk in an eye dropped, a nipple shield, pumping then swapping, even planking above him to be more of a “bottle.”
After a surprisingly uninspiring call with my lactation consultant and hearing my son’s pediatrician say “he just self-weaned,” I reached out to online breastfeeding support groups. I was informed that self-weaning does not occur until 12 months old at a minimum. Such weaning is indeed a strike. I received some great advice about going back to the beginning of his infancy, lying in, and making the day all about the two of us. But after an amazing day of 2 successful nursing sessions, that was it. To this day, that was the last time he nursed.
Now, 2 months later, I refuse to give up. It’s been 3 months since the strike began and I’m capped out emotionally. I’m exclusively pumping and as each day passes I feel like I’m growing further and further apart from both the possibility of ever breastfeeding again and, in a way, from my son.
I just cry. And cry and cry. The emotional toll of trying to get him to nurse every single feed became too much. I spent a good month just accepting that he is now exclusively bottle fed my breast milk. But I don’t want to give up, but I don’t know what else to do. As he’s growing older, he’s becoming more independent and less of my little snuggle bug. I feel like the car is driving too fast and I can’t slow it down. I feel isolated, sad, like a complete failure.
So here I sit, at a loss for what to do, how to feel, what to bury deep inside, shamefully, and what to take action on. It’s a crossroad, as many things in my life are right now. And it’s at these times that sun peeks through the clouds. It’s a matter of what comes next, and what we do about it.
Has anyone else been through an extended nursing strike? Do you have any suggestions? Please – any help is appreciated!