Friday, April 13, 2007


I like to make up words for thing that need words. You ever get a takeout coffee that is leaking all over you, but the seal on the lid is perfect and there are no visible cup-breaches? I call that (blasphemously, sorry) "coffee stigmata". It's catching on among my friends, particularly since the beverages at the Timmy's nearest to my department is particularly prone to this phenomenon. "Boobwashed" is my new word for non-rational thinking associated with all things breastfeeding.

I, who thought myself so reasonable, have been boobwashed. And I feel pretty crappy.

Pynchon and I are going to Cuba in early May, for a seven day trip organized around his best friend's wedding. Miss Baby will be spending the week with my mother and my sister. And I will have weaned her by then. It's killing me.

I can't believe how guilty I feel, how many of my guilt cylinders are firing all at once: first, I'm withdrawing breastmilk from my little girl; second, I'm ending that particular intimate connection of skin-to-skin nursing we have together; third, I'm introducing formula. Rational me sees a 21+ pound 30+ inches ten-month-old, and knows that she has been more than adequately been prepared for life after boobies: hell, she even went the WHO-recommended six months of exclusive breast feeding, and she was nearly five months old before she even had to drink this from a bottle. I've been dutifully pumping every day since I went back to work. No harm is going to come to her from weaning now.

That's worth repeating: no harm is going to come to her from weaning now.

I think it's only natural that I am regretting-in-advance the severing of this physical link between us, that intimacy of touch, that intimacy in which my body nourishes hers in an immediate and vital way. And I am reconciled to mourning that. In my rational mind, I know this is a good time, that she, I think, is ready. In a lot of ways, I'm ready too.

But, but, but. I'm boobwashed because I'm afraid of formula. Please don't imagine that I think any less of any of you who formula-fed from day one, or introduced solids at 3 months, or weaned at six months. I respect all of your choices and arrangements. I'm so mad at myself for freaking out about this. I actually grimace when I mix up formula. I don't like to think of her drinking it. I imagine it to be some sort of corporate poison. Worse than taking away the boobie milk is giving her formula. Boobwashed. I feel physically ill about it. And I'm so angry that I have been encouraged to feel this way by some overzealotry on the Breast is Best front. The can of powdered formula even reminds me, that if it is at all possible, I should be breastfeeding my baby rather than giving her what's in the very can whose label holds this text.

I know breast is best. I breastfed--I breastfeed--Miss Baby. But the time is fast approaching to stop. And I'm hating myself for it. And I'm hating myself right now for the pain I'm sure to be causing some of you, those of you who were not able to breastfeed, or who are otherwise not comfortable reviewing the feeding of your own infants. I fed her easily, happily, not so much as a cracked nipple for me or a problem latch for her. We have worked together on this for ten months, and we have one more, gradually tapering, month together in this way. I have nothing to feel bad about, except to mourn, as I will again and again, the end of one stage of our relationship at the very moment I celebrate the beginning of a new one: and to watch her eat from my offered spoon, or from her own remarkably messy fingers is a kind of joy I'm only really coming now. And truth be told, she is largely weaning herself, of her own will shortening her periods of nursing from 5 times or more a day for 10-20 minutes, to 4 times a day for a maximum of 4-5 minutes. She's much less interested in nursing, even at bedtime. I know it's time.

I will miss nursing my baby. The feel of her little suck-suck mouth pulling at me, the joy she shows as I'm lifting up my shirt. I want to cry. I know this business of tapering off is causing some dramatic fluctuation in my hormone levels and that's probably not helping my mood any, but I could really, really do without all the added guilt on top of this sadness. Where did it come from, this idea I seem to have absorbed, that this is so wrong? Why do I feel like a bad mommy?


cinnamon gurl said...

I still nurse swee'pea, but not during working hours and not exactly on demand. My sister still nurses her 3-year-old once before bed and once in the morning. She's taken business trips and just got back from a week in Colombia. So I know firsthand it doesn't have to be either or.

I have spent a night away from Swee'pea, who normally has access to the all night breastaurant, and he slept better without the aroma of the breastaurant. It's something that he only associates with me, so when I'm away, he doesn't miss it.

Just in case you're looking for an alternative to total weaning.

I write this in the most supportive spirit of course... whatever is right for you is right for you. And formula is not poison...

bubandpie said...

Now I forget what I was going to comment because I'm so impressed that Cin managed to work "breastaurant" into her comment TWICE!

Okay. Gathering my thoughts. Yes and yes on the hormone fluctuation thing. Nothing has EVER messed with my mind like weaning - physically messed with my mind, because emotionally I was basically fine with it. And I know what you mean about the formula - a big part of it is how yucky it smells. It's so much nicer after the baby turns one and you can give a nice warm bottle of organic whole milk. (If you can cut out the sneering LLL voice in your head saying "cow's milk" that is.)

Nursing is a lot like labour for me - after it's over I cannot recapture what it felt like. I remember lots of things about nursing my babies, but I can't recall those tugging sensations, and when I try I get kind of icked out. (This freaked me out when I was pregnant with the Pie - and then she was born and it all came back to me and felt normal again.)

Alpha DogMa said...

Since you've confessed to being physically ill at the thought of formula, I will confess that I get squicked out at the thought of straight cow's milk in baby bottles. I know this makes no sense, but I just can't get past using a cow as a wet nurse. Cause cow's milk is breast milk for calves. Any yet, I had no issue with formula since it seemed to me unmilk because of all the added nutrients and vitamins.

So that's probably not at all helpful, huh?

I think you should definitely mourn the end of breastfeeding. Maybe conduct a ceremonial burning of the nursing bras?

Mad Hatter said...

The grief we feel at weaning--whether it happens on day 1 or day 600 is one of life's great sorrows, boobwashing or no boobwashing. That last suckle is the last time you two are in effect one. That is some serious, hard emotional shit to deal with even without the hormones that get layered over it all making it even more difficult.

The formula boobwashing? I know it well. I nearly starved my daughter b/c I believed the rhetoric hook, line, and sinker. For the first while Miss M had formula, I honestly felt as if I were giving her poison. I got over it though and you will too. Miss Baby, she'll just be happy for the snack.

Damn boobwashers.

Beck said...

I had to wean all at once because I'd been bitten by a tick and had to go on medicine right away - I was getting sick from the tick bite, being me - and since there are no recorded cases of Lyme Disease being spread by breastfeeding, I was allowed to nurse my baby once last time before never again. IT WAS SO SAD! Even though I was SICK of nursing by then - she was 14 months old and I'd spent SIXTY FIVE MONTHS of the past seven years pregnant or breastfeeding, I was still heartbroken. So be a bit sad, if you want.

NotSoSage said...

You are not a bad mommy...oh, god, you are not. Mme L weaned herself, sooner than I was expecting, and I still felt badly doing it. This is mother-guilt at its worst, but you shouldn't worry.

And I know you know all this. But I'm saying it anyway.

For me, her first spoonful of rice cereal brought me to tears...because I felt it was the first step in that loooong separation.

slouching mom said...

The feel of her little suck-suck mouth pulling at me, the joy she shows as I'm lifting up my shirt.

This one sentence caused me to feel so nostalgic!

Your baby girl has a weight and height not so different from Jack's, although I believe Jack was even larger (I can't remember anymore, bad mom).

It sounds as if you, like I, could have nursed a nation of children.

And I think particularly because the experience was 100 percent positive, it doesn't surprise me in the least that you would mourn it.

Mourn, mourn. It's healthy.

(I hate the smell of formula, too. I was able to avoid it, but if I hadn't been, I would have been as upset as you.)

kittenpie said...

you know, there is so much guilt involved in this business, no matter how you slice it. Ten months is still plenty of time for her to have gotten lots of the best you could give her. I stopped pumping at 11.5 months and tapered her off onto cow milk the last two weeks before I went back to work. Fro me, pumping for one year was QUITE ENOUGH, thank you, and I was not going back to work in god-awful nursing bras. Some people nurse until their children are almost old enough to be moving right on to beer. We all do what works for us. Trust me here, she will be fine, and it's been a good run. Keep that close to your heart.

Jenifer said...

I cannot relate as I was not successful in the nursing department. I am not to sure if you have heard this story before, but I did try and it just didn't work for so many reasons. It is my one regret, that I was unable to do this for my babies.

Formula for me represented what I was unable to do so there was no resentment per se for the actual formula. It was the bigger picture that messed with me, the comments, judgments and knowing that breast is best.

I have heard these exact sentiments from many friends who nursed - I don't think it is bad just very normal and real.

Try not to be too hard on yourself.

nomotherearth said...

I had a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding (very long story) and still managed to feel incredibly guilty at weaning time. The guilt does go away. And she won't be "scarred for life". Heck, I was exclusively formula-fed and I think I turned out okay (my opinion of course).

Oh, and the coffee stigmata? This is almost always because the opening of the lid is placed over the seam of the coffee cup. I don't know why this should be, but it's the truth. Check it out next time.

Omaha Mama said...

The good news is that the guilt will pass (seems that most transitions in motherhood are accompanied by guilt) and that you will enjoy "getting your body back". It will take time, but you will.

Let yourself be sad, when the time actually comes - it won't seem as bad as you pictured. Just pretend the can is filled with powdered breastmilk. Sometimes a little denial can help in a pinch. Good luck!

Bloor West Mama said...

It is only expected that you feel the loss of breastfeeding. After all you fed Miss Baby exclusively for 10 months. But once you start you will get used to it and slowly forget how it was breastfeeding. Best of luck to both of you.

Karen said...

oh, dear, I hate feeling like a bad mommy. You've nursed her a nice long time and no one could blame you for missing it. I was very suspicious of formula, but my middle child had to have it around 5 months; I was a big cheater and weaned him off it early replacing with more foods, water and even organic milk a month before he was one, so no finger pointing from me, I was a total mess and did what I could bear to do and nodded and smiled at my pediatrician the whole time. He's great now, he likes to drink almond milk of all things - turns out the dairy from both the formula and the cow upset his GERD. My sis weaned her peanut right onto almond milk...we're rule breakers at our house, apparently. Go with your gut, you're doing what you know is best.

Bon said...

nice coinage...i think i've been suffering from a little boobwashing myself. even though i've been using formula - in combo with nursing - for about, oh, eight months now. i've managed to ignore the little voices saying bad things about formula in my head because, you know, he's getting BREASTmilk too. but now he's almost one and after we go on our big trip next week (lots of flights, wanted to have nursing as an option, thus have kept on) we'll be weaning, i think. and i grieve that, in a very messy, hesitant way...because i guess it seems silly to grieve, in the grand scheme of things...but more because it seems SO BIG to let go of that i am amazed people do without freaking out over it. because i too will miss the joy of his little face when i lift my shirt, and the way he calms whenever i lay him prone in my arms. i feel like i am letting go of my capacity to make everything truly and fully alright, forever. and that scares the shit out of me.

all of which is my roundabout way of saying, thanks for your post and expressing so much of what i'm feeling too.

Mimi said...

bon! that's how i feel, that i'm giving up the magic boobie bullet, the one thing that always works in the middle of the night. very scary.

everyone: thanks -- your words (as always) give me a lot to think about, and have helped me to calm down and go with it.