Looking back, my entire breastfeeding career has been spurred by guilt.
We got off to a bad start, with C refusing to eat, and us having to force feed her using a syringe and a tube taped to our fingers. I’d spend half an hour trying to get her to latch, and then half an hour pumping and still feeling guilty about having to supplement with formula, terrified of even trying a bottle, which the nurses assured me would end my breastfeeding career.
Even once C figured it out, and I could put the pump away, she was ravenous, constantly eating, and I felt guilty because I begrudged her because of the pain first of cracked nipples, then mastitis (despite the constant eating) and then vasospasms.
And once that straightened out, I felt guilty that I was begrudging her constant feedings when she was barely sticking to her weight gain curve month after month, obviously needing every single one of them.
I felt guilty that I just wanted to take one afternoon, or one evening away from her, but couldn’t because once we silenced the voices of the nurses in our head and offered her a bottle, she refused it.
I felt guilty that I was beyond relieved when she started solid food at six months and could finally have time to myself without fearing that she was starving to death.
And then I felt guilty that her weight jumped the minute we started solid foods, and that maybe I wasn’t feeding her well enough (despite the fact it’s quite normal to see that jump).
And as I started to regain some independence, and C started to feed, for the first time in her life, at an age appropriate rate. And then I felt guilty I hated all of her feeds when she was younger because now she didn’t need me as much.
When it started to get close to when I needed to go back to work, and I knew I wasn’t going to pump while I was away from her, she started fussing as I tried weaning. I felt guilty for being so selfish in wanting a job (despite not actually wanting to go back to work) that I was forcing C to wean before she was ready.
And yet, days later, she was and from then on she gladly skipped feedings in favour of snacks or walks and I felt terrible that I’d raised a girl who seemed so detached from me.
And when I got back to work, and fell sick almost immediately, I felt guilty telling my coworkers I was still nursing my one year old twice a day when they’d offer cough medicine or decongestants.
But I felt guilty when I thought of getting rid of these last two feedings so my body could be just mine.
And guilty that I subject the whole house to early wake ups so I can get morning snuggles while she feeds.
I don’t know when I’ll fully wean C. I said I’d try for a year, before she was born. I made myself promise 6 weeks when we struggled at the hospital. And then 3 months, 6 months and back up to a year. And now that we’re passed the “until we transition into the new work routine” goal as well.
But unlike the last 12 months where I focused on how I was feeling through it all, I’ll try to let C set the pace.