The past couple of weeks, my daughter has begun rejecting the breast. At first I thought it was just normal five month distraction. Too busy to eat kind of stuff. But now every feeding session has turned into a struggle in which I end up frustrated, confused, crying, and dreading the next feed.
The sessions usually go like this. The first two minutes are great. She eats like a champ, focused on the task at hand and guzzling away. I allow myself to hope that maybe this “stage” is over. But then the fussing starts. It’s quiet at first. Pulling away, grabbing at anything and everything with those chubby, dimpled little fingers. Then the body starts to flail and the crying starts (hers at this point, mine comes after). She sucks for maybe two seconds, then pulls off wailing. Repeat, repeat, repeat until we are both miserable and I show her a bottle. Which she instantly grabs for, puts in her own mouth, and slurps happily down. No tears. No jerky movements. The only sound is her swallowing. And me dying a little on the inside.
I know that this is normal around her age. I know that, considering the control freak I am, being able to hold her own bottle and look around as she eats gives her the independence and power she craves. Intellectually, I know that this really isn’t a bad thing. But as I watch my milk supply dwindle and I more frequently run to Costco to stock up on bulk cases of formula, I can’t help but take it personally. It’s not just my breast that’s she rejecting; it’s me.
And so I stare out the kitchen window, my back to my baby and my husband, as I furiously scrub with the bottle brush and try to get rid of that telltale formula smell coming from my sink. And while I do so, hot tears stream down my face.
It’s not just about the breastfeeding vs. formula debate. It’s not just about the fact that I am frustrated because I know my body is capable of keeping hers healthy, strong, alive. It’s not just about those moments when she looks up at me while she’s nursing and strokes the side of my face. It’s that, already, at five months, my baby girl is pulling away. Asserting herself as separate from me. And if I cry quietly in the kitchen now, how in the world am I going to handle the tween and teen years? Is this what motherhood is? At every turn, every milestone, do you simultaneously feel pride and joy while also feeling rejected and heartbroken? I’ve obviously had my fair share of both of the latter, but I would take getting picked last for dodge ball any day. This hurts.
So tell me, moms, especially those of daughters, how do you handle the rejection?