It is no secret how much I wanted to breastfed Caelan. How much I grieved that relationship with Avery and how much I looked forward to bonding with Caelan through the act of nourishing him from my breast.
Nature had different plans however. I have a post in my drafts folder that I never published, talking in depth about the issues we have had in regards to feeding. Speaking about the heartbreak and pain of being a breastfeeding advocate and being unable to breastfeed has been extremely difficult. Not because I worry about what people think – bottle feeding has been essential – but because this was not me. This was not what I wanted, or dreamed of. I was not ready to let go of all hope I had.
I know the health benefits of breastfeeding, the bonding benefits, the oral benefits in development. It is not just as simple as breast or bottle for me. That’s not to make anyone feel uncomfortable about their choices – I strongly believe you must stand firm on your decisions, and embrace them. I don’t feel guilty for bottle feeding him. But I have felt very very sad. And that is a big difference to me. There was grief mixed in with determination. It was not as simple as just putting him on the bottle. It has been a very hard road. But through that time, through the months of struggles, of weight issues, of sucking issues, of biting issues, of refusal of the bottle and the breast, we both persevered.
We managed to feed 2-5 times a day once the bottle was introduced full time. Mostly at night, when the air was cool, the blankets were warm and the TV buzzed in the background. He would be half asleep and would nuzzle into me, searching out for the breast in the most primitive of ways – instinct taking over from the fighting brain.
But it has been getting harder and harder. His breast refusal was getting stronger and stronger, and even when he was not really awake, he would battle against feeding. I was hoping it was just a phase, except it was getting more intense, rather than subsiding.
On Saturday, the day before he was 6 months old, we went to the movies. He was flustered and cranky. He had his injections the day before and he was not acting like himself. The last thing I wanted was a screaming baby in the cinema, however mixing the formula was not going to be easy in the dark.
So I offered the breast.
And for the first time in such a long time, he took to the breast with minimal biting, before settling into a long and proper feed. He drew back the way skilled feeders do, ones with no suction issues. He had a perfect seal and I could feel him draining what small amounts of milk I had.
I looked down at his face, he smiled at me, milk dribbling from the corner of his mouth, before he buried his head against me and fell asleep feeding.
What I did not know then, but what I do know now, is that the quiet moment in the cinema, with my baby in a sling wrapped to my body, was probably my last ever successful breastfeed. I think it is safe to say, since then, he has not sought out my breast for food or comfort at night.
And so it is with hindsight I realise that it is the end. An ending that comes with a sense of melancholy.
I feel very lucky I had the forethought to take a photo of that special moment, of Caelan feeding for the last time.
Because, after 6 months… it is time to let go.