Breastfeeding is killing me. My fastidious two year old clings on to my boob every chance she gets. Nursing on demand was great for her as a baby. She’s like a wolf now.
Nights are a killer. She nurses two-three times a night and once she’s latched, she stays there forever. I have to pry her off and say, “Mommy has to go to the bathroom” even if I don’t need to. If I’m lucky, I’ll get an uninterrupted four hour sleep. I teach and write part-time. It’s hard to stay functioning. At night, I crawl into bed on four. I thought those days of around the clock feedings would have ended by now. I thought I’d get my life back. I’d have my freedom again. Why is this still happening?
The other night I yelled at my husband for not helping me enough through these nightly feedings.
“She isn’t a newborn anymore. Why does she need to nurse every two hours? This is absolutely insane!”
I wanted to cry. I loved breastfeeding in her first year. When she reached her second birthday, her cake was mine too – the reward for achieving such a milestone. The bond and connection we have is irreplaceable. But now, she’s become demanding, and still, I push on through sleepless nights praying to have the strength to tackle yet another challenging day.
Call me insane. Call me too willful. Why the heck do I continue? At what point do I start saying “no” to my child to save myself? Each time she nurses, I remind myself that my daughter is getting what I didn’t have: an unconditional, nurturing, emotionally connected mom. It is the comfort in this knowledge that fuels me to keep going during the most challenging of moments.
But tonight, I decided I had enough letting her chomp at my breast for forty minutes straight. I love her, and even if she’s a vulnerable two years old, I had to limit her time on the breast as a way to honor my needs. So I gently pulled her away from my breast and cried out to my husband to come take her. I needed to reclaim my own space at nights when I’m ready to break down.
As I expected, she cried incessantly for ten minutes straight and finally settled back into her cheery self. As I’m writing this, she’s happily babbling with her father. We’re both zonked and she’s now wired up. The fact that she’s not crying for my breast so she can suck for another forty five minutes is good news. But in just a few hours, she’ll be crying again in the middle of the night for my boob. And I’ll appear with what she wants because at the end of the day, I want to give the best of myself for her.
How many “nos” will it take to save myself each time she cries? Will I be strong enough to patiently pull each away and hand her over to her father so I can honor my own needs? Part of me feels that this “pull-push” will take more time than what I originally thought. It’s time to really breathe now. Since she’s still vulnerable, I guess I’m back in the “breastfeeding arena.” As much as I exclusively want to part from breastfeeding, I’ll put myself on the back burner just a little bit longer. As the old Yiddish saying goes, “This too shall pass.” And when it does, I’ll have my freedom back.