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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It may not be loss in your eyes, but I'm still grieving

I planned on nursing my daughter until she was one, or when she could ask for it, whichever came first.  (Insert eyeroll here)  Of course, once she came, my instincts kicked in, and so did hers, and I figured I might start encouraging her to wean when she's four. My friends and family joked that I'd need to wean the boob junkie before she set off for college.

As I prepared for my son's birth, I dreamed of tandem nursing.  I was about halfway through the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing, and about halfway through my pregnancy, when my daughter spontaneously weaned over the course of two days.  And she was mean about it.  The mere suggestion that she nurse made her yell at me.  I don't know what happened.  I was devastated.  I was a complete wreck for a month.  You'd have thought I lost a child.  The only thing that got me through was knowing I'd have another nursling in a few months.

Mikey arrived a tad "early" after a touch of pitocin and epidural.  He had no desire to feed in the delivery room (which I now attribute to the drugs, especially since viewing this video), but I was persistent and I got him latched.  He didn't eat well, and, after his third feed, he completely rejected the breast.  The lactation consultant in the hospital said he was doing everything right.  But he wasn't latching.  I thought it might be because of the size difference between his tiny mouth and my generous milkmakers.  We got home, and he still wouldn't nurse, so my husband broke out the pump.  He took my milk in a bottle with a little coaxing.  (Mikey, not my husband.)

I kept trying to breastfeed him over the next ten months.  We tried rebirthing, nipple shields, cosleeping, baby wearing, skin-to-skin time, latching as he's falling asleep, craniosacral therapy, chiropractic medicine, homeopathy, Rescue Remedy, everything.  By the time he was only a few weeks old, even though he'd ask for the breast (as he still does to this day), he'd scream as soon as it was exposed.  He was traumatized.  He still likes to sleep as if he's nursing, but I still can't expose my breast or he'll freak.

As it turns out, he has a number of congenital defects and other disabilities that made breastfeeding uncomfortable.  I still wonder, though, if I hadn't had the drugs, if I'd given birth in an environment that would have let it be just him and me for as long as I wanted (no tests, no swaddling, no sleeping alone in his bassinet), if I'd been able to delay cord clamping, maybe the disabilities wouldn't have played as large a role.  Maybe he would have struggled but not been traumatized.  Maybe I would have noticed some of his problems sooner.  I don't know if any of that would have made a difference, but I still wonder.  And I still grieve for that relationship.  The loss of that breastfeeding relationship is magnified by the loss of my daughter's breastfeeding relationship.  Every time I think about losing one, I instantly relive losing the other.


  1. From S: That's you, huh? Hugs, sweetie. Mine nursed to 3.5 but only because I made him - food made him sick. Our first 6 months were traumatic for us both - he couldn't latch and required finger feeding and a whole host of mechanical aids. He's disabled too - the HepB shot at birth gave him jaundice and later, autism. In rhesus monkeys it's been found to kill the infant's survival reflexes ...yep, feeding, and to increase boy babies' risk of autism 30%. Thanks, HepB.

  2. From C: It isn't unusual to grieve the loss of something you really had your heart set on doing. The first two years of my oldest son's life were so thoroughly imperfect (not just regarding breastfeeding) that, if I think too long on it, I still gr...ieve the loss of what I wish our lives could have been like. And it goes without saying, that I grieve my other son, who isn't with us today.

    Nothing changes the fact I'm their mom, though. And no matter whether you have c-section, epidural, or however else your kid gets into the world: you're still their mom. This goes for how you feed them and care for them from now until the end of the whole experience.

    I'd say, in cases where a kiddo has trouble, that's the reason formula exists. Also, why, instead of trying to stop formula being made, we should campaign to improve its quality. ((Hugs)) don't beat yourself up. You're their mom and that's the most important part. :)

  3. From J: Katie, the reason why you feel such a loss is because, biologically, when a woman stops nursing her child, her body thinks that the child is no longer in existance (like the child had died) and you physically go through a grieving process as if your child had actually died. The only way to ease this is to slowly wean a child.........but even then, it can be very hard. My guess is that a big part of you wants to have another child TODAY in order to comfort and allleviate the emotional pain......I felt like this.

  4. J, I believe that's what I told you when you were in the throws of mourning. :o)