I am coming to the end of breastfeeding with this baby. He is now seven weeks old and my milk is pretty much dried up. When I pump on the occasion that I'm feeling like I need to, I only get about 2 ounces total. My baby consumes about 4-6 ounces of formula or breastmilk per feeding, so obviously 2 ounces isn't going to cut it. He'll nurse and then he'll still take 4-6 ounces of the pumped milk or formula.
As I look back on the babyhood of my four older children, I don't feel guilt for not breastfeeding them for long. After all, I did breastfeed them. I just didn't do it for the recommended 6 months to one year. I did it for as long as I could.
I realize that when my child is sixteen and learning to drive, nobody is going to care or even think about whether or not he was breastfed as an infant. When my child is thirty and having her own children, nobody is going to question the feeding methods that she had when she was seven months old. It's not going to matter whether my child was breastfed for two hours, two days, two weeks, two months, or two years.
A blog I like to read, Women Living Well, had a post about breastfeeding, entitled, "My First Failure as a Mother." You can click over to read the post yourself, but in it, she talks about how she tried and tried and even sought help from a lactation consultant. She finally realized that this was a challenge God had given her and she needed to humble herself and realize that she couldn't do everything perfectly, she could just do her best. I never really thought about breastfeeding in that light before or even considered that God would care about it. But because he cares about all the minute details of our lives, he does care about it and how we feel about ourselves with respect to it.
I had a revelation today about feeding my babies. Some women love to breastfeed. It's their special bonding time with the baby and it's something that only they can give their baby. But I am the opposite. I think I love to bottlefeed. And while I do feel a twinge of guilt right now over my inability a fifth time to breastfeed exclusively for the recommended 6 months to one year, I won't feel that guilt in about two or three months.
I love sharing that aspect of caring for a baby with my family. I love that my children actually fight and shed tears over whose turn it is to feed my baby a bottle, so much that I have to set up a system of taking turns. They love holding him and cuddling him and helping me with changing, but they especially love feeding him. I think somehow innately they realize that feeding is an incredible bonding time with a baby and I relish in the fact that my husband and children get that time with the baby as well as me. I don't always turn the feedings over to them, only when it's a time that I'm needed for something else, like making a meal, but when I do, they get that time with them.
I have gotten many compliments on how my children seem to have such a strong bond as siblings. They really are each other's best friends. My oldest was making a list of people to invite to his 8th birthday party this weekend and the first person on the list was his brother. When I thought about it, I realized that we have let our children be part of the feeding of our babies from the beginning--our oldest fed our second child occasional bottles (with our help, of course) when he was only a toddler himself. And with every subsequent baby, they all participated in feedings. This time around, with the children being much older, they can even burp the baby and sit on the couch just holding him.
We've never had trouble with our children being clingy to me and not wanting to leave me for things like nursery at church or being baby-sat by someone else or even being jealous when a new baby is born. I think this shared responsibility of feeding has contributed to this.
So this is what works for our family and I'm okay with that. I know that the best nutrition is breastfeeding, but I also know a lot more goes into feeding a baby than just the nutrition, and I'm glad that my whole family can be part of that.