Why I Wouldn't Breastfeed a Child Again

I know, it's a weird topic for someone whose youngest kid just turned 8, but I was doing a lot of thinking about self care and knowing my needs and limitations (why I so desperately needed this break that I was on), and I wanted to share with you my thoughts and reflections about having breastfed my children. 

So, let me take you back 15 years. I'm pregnant with my first and am determined to do everything right as a parent. I had a pretty miserable childhood, and I'm going to make sure to do everything right for my child. Be the best parent I could possibly be, making sure that they had everything emotionally I never had growing up. 

Just, already there, you can probably see where I'm getting at.

I decided to go full on crunchy mama attachment parenting mode, intervention free birth, exclusively nursing, co-sleeping so my baby could feel comforted by me all night long, babywearing, and of course no sleep training. Add to that cloth diapering and being a stay at home mom... I read all the parenting books, worked very hard on doing the "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen" stuff, etc... Let my kids know that I'd be with them, no matter what, and they could always count on me.

I homeschooled them, at least one kid always, until my oldest was 12.

Nursing played a very big role in my life as a mother. I had heard that you shouldn't switch off between a bottle and nursing because at first it can cause nipple confusion and later it makes babies less interested in nursing because taking the bottle is easier. So nursing it was. Other than for a period of about a month where my then husband watched my eldest, Lee, while I was working (he must have been between one and two months for that duration). During that time he got a bottle from his dad, but then Mike said that he couldn't manage to get the baby happy, so from that point on I brought Lee with me to work, and no more bottles. After that month, he also started rejecting a pacifier whenever I tried giving him one. And from then on, that was it.

Lee had issues sleeping from day one. He wasn't able to sleep longer than 45 minutes at a time, but he'd wake up cranky, needing more sleep, but unable to go back to sleep. Unless he nursed. Which he did. In 45 minutes into each of his 1.5 hour naps. And every 45 minutes from about 7 pm and onward. And by that, I mean for 15 minutes every 45 minutes... so that would be 30 minutes not nursing, 15 minutes nursing. He was simply unable to fall asleep without nursing and unable to stay asleep. If you can imagine how tough that was; I was attached to him by the boob from 7 pm and onward. I wasn't ever able to go do anything in the evening because of how often he insisted on nursing. And it was all on me, no one could take over from me, because all he wanted was me, his "pacifier". When he was younger I was able to bring him with me if I wanted to do anything in the evening, but by the time he was 6 months old, I couldn't really bring him along, so from that point on I was stuck at home every evening. I tried giving him a bottle at that point, and he refused. I bought the most expensive bottles that were supposed to be the shape of and mimic the movement of a nipple when nursing but he flat out refused, no matter how many times I tried. And it's not like I didn't know how to teach a kid to take a bottle- I did that with kids I babysat, but he refused from me and his dad wasn't willing to put in the effort to see if he would from him (other than a half hearted attempt or two).

At about 13 months I was so frustrated with how horribly my nights were going that I did what I swore I would never do- sleep training. I didn't want to do the cry it out method, because I didn't want him to feel abandoned by me, but it wasn't sustainable for me to nurse him every 45 minutes the entire night long. So I sat with him in his room, with him in the crib and me on the floor right next to him, while he screamed for 3 hours straight. I was shushing him, trying to soothe him with my words and patting him, but all he wanted was my boob. Eventually he fell asleep. The second night took 1 hour. After that, it took him 15 minutes to fall asleep... not nursing. (And then less than a month later Mike decided to take Lee into our bed again, don't ask me why. But at least he wasn't nursing all night long.)

I got pregnant with Ike when Lee was 15 months old, and I tried nursing throughout the pregnancy since I heard that the World Health Organization says you should nurse your kids until at least 2 years old, but after nursing through the pain of the first trimester, at 5 months my milk dried up and I stopped. 

With my next, Ike, he absolutely refused the pacifier, despite my trying multiple times because of how hard a time I had with Lee and sleeping. I tried at about 3 months old to give him a bottle but like his older brother, he flat out refused, no matter how many times I tried. I had heard about this method of scheduling a baby called EASY baby, where you are supposed to put them on a schedule that they first Eat then Activity then Sleep then do something for Yourself. But he wouldn't fall asleep without nursing, so it ended up being Eat Activity Eat Sleep, which wasn't a help. And while his sleep wasn't as bad as with his older brother, and he was able to sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time, I still ended up being tied to him and the house from when he was 6 months old, because he woke up wanting to nurse every hour and a half or so, which meant no me time. And as he got older, instead of nursing less and less throughout the day and night, he nursed more and more, until at about 15 months he was attached to me and nursing the entire night, and nursed about 20 times throughout the day as well. Nursing him was already overwhelming me so much that when I got pregnant unexpectedly and was so overwhelmed by the thought, I made the decision to stop nursing him cold turkey which made him just turn to other sensory seeking methods such as stroking me and specifically my breasts non stop. (I realized in retrospect that nursing was fulfilling a sensory need in him.)

Oh, at this point I should say that I didn't really mind nursing little infants, but once a kid was anywhere between 6 months and a year and didn't stay still while nursing, I started disliking nursing. I don't know about you, but my kids tried to do acrobatics while nursing, flips while attached to me, and it hurt. I felt very used when they were older and nursing because of how they interacted while nursing, but I did it because I felt that that was what the kids needed.

After my experience with my first two, and especially after seeing how Ike replaced nursing with stroking my breasts constantly (which irritated me almost as much if not more than nursing) I decided that I'd let my daughter Anneleise nurse as long as she needed to, because if she stopped nursing before she was ready she'd just need to find another replacement which may be even worse. So even though I resented every second of nursing past a year, I did it anyhow, reminding myself through gritted teeth, that I'm doing it because that was what my kid needed (and basically screw what I want). I ended up nursing Anneleise until after her little sister Rose was born, until she decided on her own to wean at nearly 3 years old. And, of course, she also nursed all night long and all day long until she was over two, when she gradually nursed less and less frequently until she stopped. And until she was over two she would only fall asleep from nursing unless I wore her in a baby carrier.

Rose was my easiest baby. My first kid who would actually let anyone else put her to sleep. Even that didn't happen too much, but it was shocking for me that she'd let someone hold her long enough to fall asleep. But even if she would fall asleep without nursing (occasionally) throughout the day, night was another story. All night long. And all day long. And again, I resented it so much. I hated it. I hated it. I hated nursing. I hated the acrobatics. I hated feeling taken advantage of. I hated being the only person that could provide this for her. I hated that sometimes 20 minutes wouldn't pass from when she stopped nursing and she started again. I hated that as she got older she nursed more and more frequently until I finally went away for a week and decided that it was the perfect time to wean her. When I searched for this post to link it here, just reading it brings up alllll the feelings that I'm about to get to.

I was not in a good place at that point. In addition to all this, I was also homeschooling my children, and I never got a break, not once. That week that I went away was the first break I had pretty much since I became a mother, and that was for my tenth anniversary. But even after that, I came back and continued homeschooling. Trying to parent in a way that made up for the bad childhood I had. Parenting from a place of reaction instead of in a healthy way. Trying to give everything to my kids so they'd have a perfect childhood from an emotional attachment perspective, but I literally was hurting my psyche throughout it. 

I was spiraling emotionally from that point. To be honest, from when my youngest was born, I started getting in a worse and worse emotional place (second unplanned pregnancy when my previous kids were quite challenging and I was in a bad marriage) and nursing and hating every second of it did not help things.

It took me going to therapy to realize that I completely and utterly negated myself and my needs for my children's sake, and how much damage that caused me in both the short and the long run. It got to the point that I have felt the need to run away and just be alone far too often. When I took my first vacation on my own about 5 years ago, I had no interest in coming home after. I was so burnt out that I couldn't handle seeing other people's children. I was triggered for so long just by hearing a baby cry, because just a baby crying sets off these really yucky feelings in me, the "They're crying and they need me and they are so demanding and it is all on me and ugh why are they so clingy and why is it always me and ahhhhh get away from me no no no I don't want to, get that away me, I don't want to..." With working on this in therapy, I can hear a stranger's baby cry and not start spiraling into panic attacks, but still I have this trapped and helpless and hopeless feeling when I hear babies cry, and a big part of that was because nursing made me feel so trapped.

Then there's also the fact that 9 years of non stop nursing (other than a few month break when I was pregnant with Anneleise) made me so incredibly touched out that I turned from a touchy feely person to someone who does not want to be touched, and I have to work on myself to be touchy in a way that my kids need.

I have no intention on ever getting married again, and also no intention to ever have another kid. But if things changed, and I ever did decide to have another kid, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I would not breastfeed my child. I would formula feed and search for a good quality formula, such as Holle baby formula. If I were concerned about allergies, then I'd probably try something like Holle goat stage 1 formula since goat milk is more digestible than cow's milk. But even though formula costs more money than breastfeeding, I can tell you that breastfeeding was, without a doubt, irreparably harmful for me. Yes, there probably were ways I could have done things better or differently, but what was done is done, and I do have regrets for having nursed, because even writing this post was quite triggering for me (and I'm dissociating now writing it). So no, I haven't healed from this damage, even though it has been 6 years since I last nursed. 

At this point in my life, I try my best to acknowledge my limitations, and I would never again do something I resented constantly but grit my teeth that "its for the sake of my kids". As a parent you need to find things that work for both you and your kids, and if that isn't simple to do, you need to find a middle ground where you respect both your needs and boundaries, instead of completely negating yourself and your needs "for the sake of the kids".

If you're a new parent or even if you aren't so new at this, and you are thinking of doing stuff that you hate just for your kids, please reconsider. Your feelings matter too, and you can't pour water from an empty glass. Your oxygen mask needs to go on first.

Anyone relate?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. This post hits hard. I couldn't nurse for long with any of mine - the longest was my daughter who had her last feeding the day she turned 6 months. But I also really felt trapped and found nursing difficult and incredibly painful. I was always stunned by how much it hurt. But unfortunately, I also had huge amounts of guilt for not being able to, even though I actually couldn't do it.
    This was a very brave post. I think nursing has become a perceived fulcrum in the mothering world, one on which too much importance lies. It's yet another dividing point between those who wag their fingers at those whom they label as inadequate or not trying hard enough.
    The quest to love and care for ourselves is a lifelong one. Ironically, had you had a happy childhood, you may have been secure in yourself enough to not throw away your own mental health and sanity for the sake of giving your children what you didn't have. Writing a post like this, while it may open you up to some negativity, may also reach someone with the very important message that they are as important as their baby. When it comes down to it, fed is best! And a sane and happy parent is important to a child too.

  2. What an honest post! As someone who did breastfeed for a prolonged period your writing makes or should make it impossible to judge anyone who doesn't unless they have walked the same path as you have. I hope your readers will receive this perspective and think twice before judging other people. I am soon to become a grandparent and I aspire to be as non-judgemental as I can following a "your baby; your rules" mantra when I inevitably disagree with a parenting style/priority that may be alien to my own experience. Sending my best wishes to you. You have been through some awful life experiences and yet the exemplary relationship you have with your kids is apparent in their smiles!

  3. Oof. I had trouble breastfeeding my first baby. My mother in law was supposedly a la leches league leader...and instead of helping, she sneered and gloated about me being a failure, couple that with postpartum psychosis, and a husband (now ex) that was too immature for life, and it was not a good time for me. In my haze, I blamed it on breastfeeding, like if I could've breastfed all of my troubles would've magically gone away.

    New motherhood is traumatic, no need to let idealized versions of how feeding is supposed to go ruin your life.

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