Ah yes, I remember breastfeeding my baby.
As a young and somewhat naïve mother, it was like stepping onto foreign soil. A place I'd never visited before.
For me, the most unexpected part of this ancient ritual was how painful it was at first. I'd heard about the bonding it would bring, the day and night hours required and how if I ate certain foods before feeding, my baby could end up with a bad bout of gas.
However, no one mentioned that it was going to hurt like crazy until my nipples "toughened up," (as my doctor was fond of saying) or how my breasts would become milk waterfalls cascading through my blouse while grocery shopping. Eventually, I got the hang of it and it began to feel like a natural extension of being a mom.
When it came time to transition to bottle-feeding, I actually felt a little sad about letting go of what had become a special time with my baby girl. Her fuzzy little head resting against my breast and her curious eyes watching my every expression as she ate. We had a lot of one-sided conversations with me telling her about my day and her sucking, burping and falling asleep.
Alas though, one cannot breastfeed forever. So I began again with learning how to keep my baby well nourished while trying to figure out how much formula to give her and how to warm a bottle without scalding us both.
I breastfed for about 5 months – give or take a few weeks. Making the changeover left me feeling a little guilty. My little one seemed to really dislike the replacement bottle, so we did it in stages. I also added breast milk to the bottle at first so she would recognize the taste. It was not a smooth transition.
We ultimately came to an agreement that she would drink from the bottle if I would rock her and sing to her and make funny faces. Another caveat was we'd have to do it in short spurts of time – she would refuse-then accept, refuse-accept. I think it was so that she could feel like she had a little control over the whole unsettling situation. Agreed.
Shortly after we started working on the bottle arrangement, my pediatrician suggested that adding small amounts of solid foods to her diet might also be helpful in weaning her off the breasts.
My first response to this perfectly sane idea was... "What real foods? Biscuits and gravy? Scrambled eggs and toast? Shouldn't I put these foods in a blender or something? I don't think she can eat them straight-up."
"Uh, no" she responded calmly. "Let's start with a small amount of baby cereal."
And so, a new tradition began. Here's how it went.
Make a little baby cereal. Put it on a tiny little spoon and attempt to delicately get it in her tightly shut mouth.
Taste the baby cereal (to make sure it is not too hot, not too cold.)
Stir cereal and try again to get the itty-bitty spoon into her itty-bitty securely shut mouth.
Lead by example.
"Watch mommy. This is really good cereal. Mmmm – I think this is the best cereal I've ever eaten." Actually it's not bad.
Stick finger in cereal and rub on baby's squeezed tight-as-a drum, never to be opened mouth.
Switch to a much larger spoon and start scooping.
"You're missing out on some amazing cereal, sweetie. Yum, yum, yum."
Repeat as necessary.
"Oh look… it's all gone. Good job!"
It took awhile to finally make the switch from breast to bottle. It was quite an experience for both of us. Two important goals were eventually accomplished; my sweet baby survived and flourished and my breasts' finally quit hurting.
If you're breastfeeding, someday you'll introduce a bottle, sippy-cup or spoon to your child. Expect a battle, it's ok. Keep a grip on patience and humor. You'll need them both.
Warm compresses can ease the discomfort of sore breasts and gradually nursing or pumping less will signal your body to stop producing copious amounts of milk.
I'd recommend keeping a small towel in your purse (speaking from experience.) You might also want to stash an extra shirt in the car – and a bra -just sayin.
And you know what? You can ask for help. Have daddy or grandparents, other family members or good friends hold the bottle and make funny faces. Sometimes it actually helps to have someone without your familiar breasts, smell and voice take part in introducing the bottle to your baby.
Every mother who has breastfed has her own stories to tell when it came time to wean her infant. You'll have yours and most likely you'll smile and say softly – Ah yes, I remember breastfeeding (and baby cereal).