The baby had a bottle yesterday.
It was formula, and I’m all mixed up about that. I set myself some pretty soft goals regarding breastfeeding: get through maternity leave, try for six months, maybe get to a year. Beyond a year, I had no expectations, not least of all because I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it by then.
As it turns out, food and nutrition became hot topics for me as a new mother. I was relieved to be able to breastfeed. I got stubborn about vitamins and the seemingly unnecessary additives in the most frequently recommended brand. I thought ahead to solid foods, collecting baby cookbooks and advice on what to start with, though this research had its own perils down the road.
Meanwhile, I set aside a small freezer stash before returning to work, but I wasn’t worried. Little Bear seemed to get by just fine nursing. Sure, you can’t measure that output, but it was obviously enough. Until daycare started telling me that he was hungry. Privately, I thought they might be comfort-feeding him every time he fussed, as the daily reports clearly showed he was napping far less at daycare than at home. But I upped the totals a little, then a little more, and more, worriedly watching my backup stash disappear.
Then one day it was gone, and I panicked a little. Time to add another option. We got the okay for solid foods from the pediatrician, who outlined a course starting with cereal. Problem was, I had, as previously mentioned, been reading. I learned some of the science behind infant digestion and how cereal may actually not be a good first food. Square one. I grappled with the idea of early baby-led weaning, but Bear answered that question by being completely baffled by the notion of putting chunks of food in his mouth.
I finally threw up my hands, and we started on fruit and veggie purées. The baby loved it. LB gobbled it all up and learned quickly. He figured out that he’d get his food faster if he stopped trying to reach for it. He adopted a sitting position with his hands held up and to the sides, carefully out of the path of the spoon, opening and closing his little fists as he stared fixedly at the food. He gaped like a baby bird and gave us an insistent “eh! eh!” if we took too long to deliver the next mouthful.
It was adorable, and quite a relief, as daycare said there were now “no worries” if I didn’t bring quite enough milk. I still had no idea what “enough” milk was, but I felt less pressured to somehow figure it out. I adopted a policy of keeping bottles strictly for daycare, and did okay keeping up.
For awhile, anyway. Lately, pumping is more and more of a struggle. No matter what tricks I try (more water! more sessions! herbal supplements! oatmeal!), I get less each day. The dip that I first thought was one of those periodic temporary things has turned into a permanent situation. And so we gave him formula. He had to have it at home before daycare would give it to him, and I finally accepted that we may need that to be an option.
Well, I say that I accepted it. I accepted it enough to prepare him to take formula. But I have to admit, I’m not entirely comfortable yet. Despite my initial vagueness about the process, I really thought I’d last long enough for LB to decide on his own that he was ready to move on. There have been hurdles along the way, but nothing insurmountable. We certainly never had any medical issues related to feeding. All of the hesitation about different methods is mine, gleaned mainly from reading recent nutrition research. And from a growing sadness that this stage, this sweet, bonded, cuddly time, might really be drawing to a close.
The signs are there. Beyond my supply dip, the baby’s increasing awareness of and lively engagement with the world are interfering a bit. Sometimes we have to retreat to a quiet room so he’ll ignore distractions. We have a number of outings scheduled this spring that will really test my supply and the logistics of nursing away from home. Little Bear has also, shall we say, fully developed his pincer grasp, and I am dreading his incoming teeth. I’m less and less happy with pumping, dragging the equipment to work, the discomfort of the process, the time it takes. Also, LB just really loves eating food. He hasn’t started to refuse nursing yet, but it might be a matter of time. For now, he doesn’t care what the food is or where it comes from.
That’s where I start to recognize the benefits. M gives him a lot of the solid food. Now he’s been giving Bear bottles, too. It gives them some extra interaction as the baby emerges from the mama-centric phase of his early life. I love it. It’s sweet for them, and it is, yes, a relief for me. It would be nice not to be tethered to a contraption or excluded from long stretches of social activities. If I weren’t nursing, I could throw the whole medicine cabinet at my upcoming seasonal allergies. I could probably gain enough time for actual workouts. Most of all, I could let go of a significant source of stress.
I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about nourishing the baby. I know that it is time to let go of preconceived notions and all that research and just follow the direction we’re taking. When I look at all the whys and why nots, I recognize that my heart is starting to tip from the pros to the cons. He’s had a great eight-month start. That’s more than a lot of women can do, and I am grateful that it’s worked for us. Our tall, skinny little guy is growing and giggling and babbling and will definitely maybe figure out how to crawl forward as well as backward. He is, by all definitions, thriving. If this latest development feels like a failure, it’s all in my head.
I can get over that. Eventually.