How I Finally Got the Courage to Stop Breastfeeding
When my daughter was one week old, she contracted Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), an illness which causes infection in the lungs. She was immediately put on feeding tubes and IVs. The doctors told me that she not only needed to get over her illness, but also had to gain weight.
To say I was dedicated to breastfeeding would be an understatement. I ended up pumping milk for her every two hours (including throughout the night) so she could get breast milk through her feeding tube. I believed that the breastmilk helped my daughter get better faster, and soon became obsessed with ensuring she was getting adequate amounts of breastmilk. My obsession paid off--she recovered her health and became chubby.
My goal was to nurse for six months. I pumped four to five times a day since I had returned to work, and then nursed the baby when I was home. Six months passed and I was still breastfeeding, so I aimed for nine months. At 12 months, her pediatrician told me that it was no longer necessary to nurse the baby or pump milk unless I wanted to. At this point, my daughter had started eating table food, but still expected to be nursed at night. I realized I had to think about stopping breastfeeding because she needed to learn to go to sleep on her own. What happened if my daughter was eight-years-old and still needed to be nursed to fall asleep? Breastfeeding was a good way to comfort my daughter, and while she was getting some nutritional value from it, her varied diet was keeping her healthy. Nursing meant relaxation time for my daughter. She calmed down, and it was the only way she would fall asleep at night.
I felt guilty that I wanted to stop breastfeeding as I watched my mommy friends nurse their two-year-old children. Science only helped me vacillate in making a decision. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you breastfeed until the baby is at least 12 months, and for as long as mother and baby desire. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond.
When we went on vacation with my parents, my mother was taken aback that I was still nursing my daughter at 12 months. “The baby is too old for that,” my mother said. Our daughter had started taking her first steps and was becoming more independent. “If you don’t stop nursing now, it will be more difficult to do it later.”
When she was 14 months old, I learned that I was pregnant. That changed everything. I couldn’t imagine having two children fighting over who got to nurse first. I started giving her whole milk in a bottle.
At first, she didn’t like the milk. She had been drinking pumped breast milk from a bottle since she was an infant, so she was familiar with the bottle. At night, I changed her bedtime routine by giving her a bottle of milk while we snuggled and read her books. After one week, she seemed to have forgotten about breastfeeding and looked forward to drinking milk from the bottle and stories.
Of course, my daughter became addicted to the bottle and soon she needed a “baba” every night in her crib to sleep. We eventually cut the bottle out, but that’s a whole different story.
By Eunice Park, founder of pochedemaman.com