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2015, April: In Pursuit of a Happier Mum, Or Why I Said Goodbye to Breastfeeding

The cloud has finally lifted!

Declan is almost two months old and I have officially given up breastfeeding. I almost didn't want to publish this post since I know many people are huge advocates for breastfeeding (justifiably so) and will judge me for giving up so "easily" (nothing about this has been easy), but hopefully, at the very least, sharing my reasons might serve to reassure another mum going through the same struggles. I know all the cons of formula (so please don't tell me about them) and I do have some guilt but, in the end, finding a happier mum for Declan was more important to me than persisting with something that was making me (and him) so miserable.

I have been battling postnatal depression since Declan was born. I have had happy moments and sometimes whole days of relative calm, but most days have been spent alternating between anger, frustration, and sadness. Horribly, I often found myself angry with Declan. Angry when he wanted to feed again. Angry when he cried. Angry when he wouldn't sleep. I knew that it was completely irrational to be mad at a tiny baby, but I couldn't help it. Sometimes I hated him. How awful is that? When I wasn't angry I was crying, and when I wasn't angry or crying I was feeling guilty about both. None of these states were good for Declan and they certainly weren't good for me. Over the last few weeks his feeding increased in frequency to the point that I didn't feel like I was doing anything but nurse. My milk supply seemed fine and the doctor didn't see a problem with how often he was feeding (it's normal for it to fluctuate, apparently, and sometimes growth spurts can last several weeks), but I was finding it more and more stressful and depressing each day. His naps would last 20 minutes at the most before he woke up and demanded more food.

Some selfishness did factor into my decision, as much as I wish that weren't the case. I hated that I was the only one who could feed Declan and I resented that I couldn't easily go anywhere or do anything. If this had been my only problem I'm pretty sure I would have persevered with the boobs, but when added to the depression it just made everything worse. I was having panic attacks about how we were ever going to leave the house for more than two hours, or how we were going to deal with me going back to work. Just making the decision to stop instantly made me feel calmer about the future. Things improved immediately. Declan only woke once the first night to feed, and he went immediately back to sleep (a very rare occurrence - it would sometimes take me two hours to get him back to sleep after breastfeeding). Christian has been able to take on more feedings when he's home. He's napping for longer during the day. I no longer feel constant stress and dread about the next feed, and I'm not worried about how much he's getting.

On the first day after we made the change I went to Walmart to buy cat litter and formula. Alone. Leaving Declan at home with Christian. It was HEAVEN. I have never been so excited. I put on makeup and real pants (unusual for Walmart, I know) and practically skipped around the store. It was possible to leave Declan with Christian while breastfeeding, of course, and I did a couple of times, but it always came with the added stress of having to pump and store breastmilk every 3ish hours. No longer the case!

A few days later, the night feedings continue to be much easier and I'm feeling GREAT. I even caught myself having a thought that began "if we have another baby..." That's the first time I've been able to contemplate doing this again since he arrived! His naps are still somewhat longer and we're getting more happy awake time than we are crying/fussing awake time (from both of us!) It feels like a miracle! I haven't felt this calm or happy since before he was born. This is how it's SUPPOSED to be!

I don't wish we'd done this sooner, because I'm really happy I was able to give Declan 8 weeks of breastmilk, but I'm so glad we've done it now while I still have a few weeks of maternity leave left to actually enjoy the little man. What a rollercoaster.

Edit: I may have spoken a wee bit too soon about the longer naps! They only lasted two days and were likely a side effect of his two month vaccines. Oh well! Edit 2: This doesn't mean I don't still get frustrated or cry, I do, but the emotions no longer completely engulf me.

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