If there was one thing I knew I was looking forward to with my second child, it was definitely breastfeeding. Although I had a rocky start with my first child, who left my nipples chapped and bleeding from his constant cluster feeding, once we hit our groove a few months in, it was my favorite part of new motherhood. I loved the unique bonding experience. I loved the feeling of being able to comfort my baby that way. I breastfed exclusively for a year with my son, weaning him easily at 15 months. I expected the same blissful experience with my daughter, but instead I was devastated when my baby self-weaned at 6 months old.
When my daughter was born, I felt like our bond was instant. She latched without any problems, and breastfeeding was a breeze compared to her older brother. There was no pain, no difficulty, just an amazing start to what I thought would be a long and happy journey with breastfeeding. The first time I left home without her at 4 months old, my mother had to call me to come home early from a friend’s wedding because she refused to take a bottle, even though I had left breast milk for her. While I was bummed to miss out on that special event, part of me was secretly happy to be home with my baby, happy that she wanted me and no one else.
However, I knew it was going to be a problem if we couldn’t so much as go out for date night without needing to rush to get home to a breastfeeding infant, so my husband and I started trying to give her bottles more often so she would get used to it. It didn’t take very long for her to take to the bottle once we really started trying, and by five months, she was just as happy with her bottle as she was with breastfeeding.
I figured when she tried formula she'd be coaxed back to breastfeeding, but the truth was, she was done. By 6 months old she didn’t want to breastfeed at all anymore, and I was left blindsided by how fast it had happened.
In fact, she seemed to be more content taking a bottle. While it was great when I needed to go out in the evening, or spend a day away, I was sad that we weren’t getting as much of our bonding time as before. I noticed that even when I was home and there was no bottle in front of her, she didn’t seem very interested in breastfeeding.
She wanted a bottle. She wanted formula. She didn’t want me, and I was devastated. I wanted so badly to be tethered to her for a little bit longer. I wanted to have that bond that made her so clearly and undeniably my baby.
Then before long, she started rejecting breastfeeding. She wanted a bottle, and I wasn’t able to pump enough to keep up with bottle feeding her. I figured when she tried formula she'd be coaxed back to breastfeeding, but the truth was, she was done. By 6 months old she didn’t want to breastfeed at all anymore, and I was left blindsided by how fast it had happened.
I continued trying to patch up our bond, attempting short feedings until she was 8 months old, but it was never worth the fight. She wanted a bottle. She wanted formula. She didn’t want me, and I was devastated. I wanted so badly to be tethered to her for a little bit longer. I wanted to have that bond that made her so clearly and undeniably my baby.
Of course, I still loved her and was still deeply bonded to her, but I always felt like I missed out by not being able to breastfeed her longer. I wonder whether her strong, stubborn independence was born from her early weaning or was simply the first sign of her nature. Sometimes it feels like she was hardly my baby, that she was always her own person. Even now, at 3 years old, she is so fiercely independent I feel more demanded than needed. And while I love every bit of who she is, part of me will always wish I had more time with her. I think I'll always want to turn back time and have more time to breastfeed her, more time to bond with her. It was the first leap away from needing me, and it happened way too fast.