I Wanted My Body Back


I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby. All the women in my family did, and I had done my homework on the benefits of breastfeeding. I had many friends who only used formula and I was, of course, 100% supportive of that too, but for myself and my baby, I wanted to at least try breastfeeding for as long as possible.

But there was one piece of parenting advice that no one ever gave me when I was pregnant, and so I try to tell new mothers and fathers this so that they’ll be prepared to be… unprepared when their baby arrives: All of your ideas and plans about parenthood are valid, natural, and wonderful, but there’s another person in your life who is about to have a big say in how you do things — your baby.

I’ve heard so many moms say things like, “I’m not going to let my baby use a pacifier” or “We’re going to spend all day outside with our baby.”

Well, what if, after 3 nights of trying to soothe your baby, you realize that your two-week-old falls right to sleep with a pacifier? Or your child has a strange sensitivity to some kind of seasonal plant, and spending all day hiking on the trails just isn’t possible?

It’s frustrating when your plans and dreams about life with your little one don’t sync up with reality, but it’s also liberating. You can have ideas in your head about how you want to parent, but you can also give yourself the freedom to compromise, get creative, and let go.

I had dreams of breastfeeding for at least the first year. The first two weeks were tough. I didn’t want to hear the advice of the lactation consultant, who kept trying different breastfeeding positions that were upsetting my baby. I was frustrated with myself that I couldn’t keep hydrated to produce enough milk. So, I let my baby breastfeed constantly, one time for 6 straight hours.

Then, due to a mix-up at the hospital when I was having a procedure, I was given a medication that could affect my breast milk and be dangerous to the baby. I went up to the nursery with my newborn and burst into tears. My baby was crying too. The nurse brought out some formula, and my newborn happily drank a bottle and went right to sleep.

Then the wave of mommy-guilt hit me. I cried harder. Maybe I shouldn’t be trying to force this breastfeeding thing so much. I wasn’t sleeping at all, and I couldn’t pump enough milk to give my daughter bottles in the evening hours, so my husband couldn’t help. All the nurses were warning me about nipple-confusion.

“Could everyone just stop talking about nipples, please!?”

I took my baby home and started supplementing with formula. I let my husband give her a bottle of formula in the evening and if she woke up during the night. It gave my body time to catch up on milk production and be ready for a hungry baby first thing in the morning. It worked for us.

My baby turned into a very tall child. My husband and I are both tall, and my toddler is actually off the chart for her age. She is 37-inches tall, and she’s only two-and-a-half-years-old. Looking back, I’m sure she needed more nutrients than other babies, and my body was fighting to keep up.

She was also a very independent baby, something I never expected, being a needy, new mama who wanted to snuggle with my newborn constantly. She was an early learner and wanted to play and interact with new people, rarely me who she saw every day. She didn’t really enjoy a time-out to breastfeed. And so, at five-months-old, she just gave it up. She refused to do it.

Other moms said things like, “Well, don’t you want to keep going? Have you called the lactation consultant?” Yes, I did want to keep going, and maybe there was some small part of me that was just too lazy or tired to call the lactation consultant, but another part of me was ready.

I wanted my body back.

I remember my sister saying that exact phrase when my niece gave up breastfeeding, and I finally knew what she meant. It wasn’t selfish, I just wanted to focus on taking care of my baby in new ways, to feel more independence as I tried to figure out who I was as a mom and retain some semblance of the woman I was before.

My baby was giving me huge cues that she was done. She loved her bottle  and loved being fed by different people. She was already using sign language to tell me that she wanted to eat, grabbing food off our plates, and mimicking the motion of eating with a spoon. I started pumping less and mixing her formula with breast milk and slowly transitioned away from breastfeeding.

I’m hopeful, especially as I read about other moms on the blog whose second baby breastfed for longer, that my second child will, but I’m happy that I did what I planned with my first, and (eventually) gave myself permission to change and adapt when it wasn’t working.

What about you, moms and dads? Did anything your newborn do completely change your plan for caring for them?


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