I had an especially tough time breastfeeding River before bed this evening. Although Mark was on duty during the second half of the day and I could have gone somewhere else without household distractions, I stuck around to be available to breastfeed. Then, when the time comes, River says no.
He’s tired, he’s cranky, he’s ready for bed. But each time I offer him the breast, he extends his white, velvet arm straight out to the center of my chest. That is the milk rejection symbol. Worse was when he’d take a sip or two, then pull away crying and throw that arm out again.
Am I out of milk? I wondered. I suppose it’s possible. I’ve pretty much stopped pumping because I wasn’t getting anything. And I probably didn’t drink enough today. But the feeding this morning seemed to go OK.
Is it time to stop breastfeeding? Maybe I should just let this go. But we’re still a few weeks shy of one year. Even though I know it’s ridiculous and I know he’ll be just fine, I’ll feel like I failed if I don’t try to get him to a year. We’re almost out of formula and we’ll be switching to cow’s milk after that, a few weeks before the recommended switch date. All the more reason to maintain at least some access to breastmilk as well as for the protection from illness he might need during the winter.
I’d try a few times, fail, then realize I can’t force him. So I’d let him sit up as he wanted to. First he was looking at the TV. After we turned that off, as well as the lights, he became fascinated with the standing lamp. He’d grab on to that and pull it back and forth, tilting the lamp from side to side. What a blast, he seemed to think. He even stopped crying in order to enjoy it. I held the top of the lamp to keep it from crashing to the floor.
I wished he knew that Mark wouldn’t have let him push the lamp from side to side. I think it’s important for him to explore his surroundings and I’ll let him go to the verge of hurting an object or himself before intervening. If he knew I was supporting his freedom would he still demand more freedom by rejecting breastfeeding? Probably.
Going upstairs to his dark room didn’t work. So I tried what has helped a bit in the past days – putting him in his crib and leaving him there for several minutes. It feels mean because he cries the whole time. But it gives him the chance to disengage from all of the interesting things surrounding him and refocus on what he needs – milk and sleep.
When I returned in a few minutes to try again, I feared another rejection. I wanted to tell him to hang on a minute while I googled breast rejection at 11 months to see if I could find some ideas of what to do. This time, thank goodness, it worked and he fell asleep at the breast. That wasn’t enough to keep him asleep when I transferred him to the crib, so he got the bottle then.
I’m OK with giving him the bottle after he’s breastfed. But I’m afraid that skipping the breastfeeding will further lower my already minimal milk supply. I know the feedings have reduced and will continue to reduce. But I’d like to hang on to the morning one as long as possible and the before-bottle bed one would probably be second to last.
Mark agreed that the problem was being distracted by the lamp (or the TV or the balloon or the pinwheel or whatever else he’d set his eyes on). But Mark also thinks this is a natural progression towards the end of breastfeeding. He seems to think it will be good when we are past this – less work for me, less concentration needed for River.
“But it’s an emotional thing,” I reminded him.
“For you, right?” he said. “Because River seems to be taking it just fine.”
I had read this, that usually the child is ready to move on from the breast before the mother is. It’s a horrible feeling to try to shove your boob into someone’s mouth when they don’t want it. So if he wants to let go, I’ll have to let him. But only after making sure I give it a good try.
For those readers who have breastfed, when did your babies begin to reject the breast? What made you realize it was time to quit?