I knew I shouldn't have been embarrassed, but I couldn't help it. I felt like I failed as a mother, that I should have been able to keep nursing until I wanted to stop, not because I had to stop. I felt like somewhere, somehow along the wild ride of nursing, I screwed something up that compromised my supply in the long run. Maybe I introduced the pacifier too early, maybe I didn't drink enough tea, maybe it was because I didn't feed on demand after a few months, or maybe it was one of the ten million other decisions I made as a new mom that ultimately killed my supply.
There's nothing I stressed about more than keeping my supply up. It feels like everything you read and everyone you talk to has a solution as to why you lost your supply. I can't tell you how many times people told me that if I just did this, or just understood that, then I would have been able to nurse my son as long as I wanted and it should be fun, beautiful and bonding because it was the natural thing to do as a woman.
For me, it wasn't. For a variety of reasons, it was incredibly painful for me to breastfeed my son for at least 5 or 6 months. But I suppose I should back up - if you haven't yet, take a look at this post - it will get you up to speed on the first six months of my nursing journey. At the time I wrote it, I was hopeful I would be able to nurse my son for at least the "gold standard," one year. I had gone through a lot of ups and downs in my nursing journey and the particular day I wrote that post was an up. But very quickly it spiraled downward again. Suffice it to say my supply didn't return for the long haul, and by the end of November (Eli was nearly eight months) the formula canister was a constant sight near the kitchen sink.
Around that time, my pumping output decreased for reasons I'm unsure of. Knowing babies can get more out of mom than a pump can, I began breastfeeding Eli for each feeding and then supplementing with formula immediately after. By this age, Eli was more patient with a slower flow in breastfeeding, but I still think he might have given up early, because he knew he'd just get a bottle. I struggled letting him go hungry - both because I would feel bad for him and because I knew he'd wake up in the middle of the night from hunger - therefore waking me up. Selfish as it was, it was what I did.
Then we took a trip and I was away from Eli for about two days. Since I had no freezer stash, he was formula fed, and I pumped and stored the extra for me to supplement him when we were reunited. I was able to pump a few oz. each time, but nothing like the months before. Pretty quickly I knew it was only a matter of time before I would lose my supply completely.
During these weeks, I was upset, disappointed in myself, and I was telling myself I must not have tried hard enough to keep my supply. I kept looking back at things I did at three months, four moths, five months and trying to connect them to why it would have hurt my supply at seven and eight months.
Christmas day was the last time I nursed Eli. I had maybe an oz. or two for him, if that. I knew it was over, finished, but I was clinging to the dream I suppose. I figured a little breast milk was better than no breast milk. For about a week I had been nursing once a day, Eli latching for only a few minutes before he cried. If I tried more than once a day, Eli would just turn away, I'm assuming because there was no milk to be had. I didn't know how to make him latch if he didn't want to, and each time I skipped a feeding I knew I'd lose my supply even more - but at that point, I was beginning to realize it wasn't worth the constant headache and worry - it was becoming too much.
I'm sure some people reading this or my previous nursing post think they will be able to tell me where I went wrong, what should have been, could have been, would have been. But I would say that there's probably no one reason, or two reasons or even three. In some cases, I'm sure there are - but I'd be willing to bet that for most moms, the reasons are not always easy to see and it does more harm than good to try to tell her the error of her ways.
Today, I can say I'm glad I stopped nursing and I don't regret stopping when I did - in fact, sometimes I wish I would have had the courage to stop earlier. There comes a point when it's just not worth a mom's mental sanity anymore. Breastfeeding is a sacrifice and is certainly something moms do to serve their babies, but it's not the only way, and it is far from the most important way. It took me a long time to come to terms with stopping, (a post for another day perhaps) and I do think I will do things differently with our next baby, but right now I'm just thankful for a healthy, happy baby boy and with finally being at peace with my decision.
If you're in the same boat, I'd encourage you to check out this post on the guilt associated with stopping breastfeeding. It was written mainly to myself, but by the looks of it, lots of moms resonate with it.