Like many new moms, I was determined to breastfeed. I breastfed my first two kids for about 14 months each, in fact. One of them had food allergies, too, but I was determined to stick it out, and keep with it. I went on an elimination diet with my food allergy baby and kept with it past the first year.
So, when my third child was born, I just assumed we’d take the same breastfeeding journey together that I had with my other two. In fact, that was one of the things I felt most confident about going into having my third child.
That’s why, when I was faced with the food allergy struggle again, and going on an elimination diet again while breastfeeding, I thought that I’d be able to handle it without any problems.
What I could never have imagined though was how my third baby would be my most challenging of all. He had severe acid reflux making sleep for him (and me) impossible. I eliminated the top eight allergens from my diet, yet he was still waking every hour and a half at night, fussy, and suffering with acid reflux at 5-months-old. I was trying to eliminate everything from my diet that might be upsetting him. It was taking a toll on me to be so rigid with my diet. He was also my baby that only took 30-minute cat naps (on a good day).
I knew trying to continue with exclusively breastfeeding was breaking me.
I was trying to take care of a toddler, and a preschooler, on no sleep, and it was turning me into a monster. I was grumpy, yelling at my kids, and barely surviving.
I wasn’t opposed to formula. In fact, I had supplemented with my second child, but the struggle was, that with my third, I couldn’t find a formula that he seemed to tolerate or would even be willing to eat. Then, someone suggested a very expensive kind of formula, Alimentum Ready To Feed, and like a miracle, he drank six ounces in one feeding.
It was at that point that I knew it was time to stop breastfeeding. Not just because he could tolerate the new formula, but because I knew I wasn’t being the kind of mom my other two kids needed.
I will never forget sitting in his room one night rocking him while breastfeeding him after giving him bottles all day. I was trying to wean him slowly, but I was heartbroken. I wanted to keep breastfeeding him as long as I had breastfed my other two, and I felt like a complete failure for giving up. Yet, something kept telling me that it was the right choice. During the day, I felt confident in my decision, but at night, when I would feed him, those hormones would come rushing in and make me think giving up was all a huge mistake.
I saw a huge change in my baby after giving him the allergen-free formula. He slept through the night for the first time in his life after his first full day of getting the formula. I stuck with the weaning, and after a week or so, I started to feel the fog lift. With every passing day, my hormones leveled out, and I felt more and more convinced I had made the right choice.
When all was said and done, I was proud that I had made the harder choice to stop breastfeeding. Some might think it was the easier one, but for me, it broke my heart and went against everything I thought I believed in at the time.
But, that’s the beautiful thing about mothering. We learn to change and we adapt our way of thinking. So often, we have these ideals of what motherhood would look like, and for me, it didn’t look like allergy sensitive babies with colic that couldn’t even tolerate my breast milk on an extreme elimination diet. It looked like being able to breastfeed all three of my kids with ease.
If I’ve learned anything as a mother though, I’ve learned that what we have planned before we are in the trenches may not always be the way it goes in reality. Our best intentions might not even be the right choice for our kids. I know that breastfeeding my third was not the way it was meant to be.
It broke my heart to give up breastfeeding, but it was one of the smartest choices I’ve ever made.