My reasons for breastfeeding were initially selfish. My husband and I went through years of infertility treatments until we were blessed with our daughter. We didn't have a lot of money leftover when we brought her into this world, so my plan was to breastfeed her to avoid the high costs of formula.
Plus, I was lazy. It was so much easier to nurse in the middle of the night rather than leave the bedroom to mix up a bottle and warm it. Instead, I could lie in bed with her, pull up my shirt and feed her, continuing to keep my eyes closed.
So for all practical purposes, breastfeeding just made sense.
Our nursing relationship has made it to five months so far with no end in sight. We've saved so much money not needing formula. And I have yet to make a 2 a.m. stumble out of my bedroom to prepare a bottle for her.
But it's become so much more than that. Was it hard in the beginning? Yes. Did I cry on more than a few occasions? I distinctly remember the night I burst into tears to my husband at three in the morning because she hadn't left my breast in six hours and the pain was unbearable. I have gotten up to pump in the middle of night because of engorgement. I've had to work my way through clogged ducts. I had to slather on gobs of nipple cream and wear little ice packs to try and manage the soreness.
It's all been worth it.
Breastfeeding has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. I now look forward to it. I've become attached to it. Nursing has helped shape the powerful bond with my baby. I am the one that can always comfort her. I'm her safe place, her place she come when the world proves to be too overwhelming. I'm the sole source of nutrition for her.
Here's the thing: it hurts me to think that one day this will all be over.
In a month or so, she'll start trying solid food and I'm having a hard time with that. Is that being over-emotional? Maybe. I don't know if my infertility plays into it, or the traumatic hospital stay with her where holding her close was the one thing that kept me from unraveling, but I'm having difficulty letting go of exclusive breastfeeding. Because it's become so much more than providing milk for her.
My house is in desperate need of a good cleaning. The dishes always pile up at the end of the day and my poor husband dutifully cleans them without complaint when he comes home in the evening. I look at the toys scattered over the living room floor as I cradle my daughter in my arms. I should really vacuum, I think to myself.
There have been moments (OK, who am I kidding, there have been a lot of moments) when I wonder if I should be doing something else rather than lay with my baby and nurse. After all, she doesn't nurse to eat all the time. I suspect a good deal of our sessions are out of comfort more than a nutritional need. Should I sleep train? Try to cut down the nightly feeds so I can get more sleep?
Guilt is a powerful thing when you are a mom. We have to balance caring for our babies with the ever increasing amount of household duties. The laundry piles up. There's dog hair everywhere.
Here's the thing: it hurts me to think that one day this will all be over. So I treasure every breastfeeding session we have and I hope we have many more months of nursing.
I want to end with this: Enjoy those moments, if this is you, if these are your same thoughts. Spend a few more minutes sitting in that chair with your baby. There will always be dishes and laundry and pet hair to vacuum. Cuddle with your nursling because you won't know if that one time will be the last time.
Someday, whether it's next week or next year, it will be over and there will be plenty of time for all that other stuff. There will be plenty of time to feel that guilt over those toys scattered across the floor. There will be plenty of time to do "something else."