For nine months, she grew within my body. She came into this world small, helpless, and still dependent on me. The nurse put her on my chest to breastfeed, she immediately latched on as if she knew what she needed to do. Luckily, my body produces enough milk to enable me to breastfeed exclusively.
Since her birth, over eight weeks ago, she and I haven’t parted. While I love her with every bone in my body, I’d be lying if I said it was easy. Between breastfeeding on demand (around the clock), the lack of sleep, the discomfort of being engorged, and sometimes even being a human pacifier, I do wish I had a little bit of time to myself. I had discussed with my husband how I’d like to start working out again or even be able to meet a girlfriend for a cup of coffee without having to breastfeed just as my coffee arrives.
To enable my desire to beseparate from our daughter for several hours, I decided to pump. Over two days, I painstakingly pumped slightly less than three ounces, not even knowing if it was a sufficient amount for a feeding. I wanted to see how our daughter would react to being bottle-fed.
So, during the early afternoon, when she woke from yet another nap, I offered my husband the honor of giving her her first bottle. At first, she refused and as I offered words of advice (how to hold her, stroke her cheek), she began to drink. As she gulped down the bottled milk, it satiated her hunger faster than my breast ever did.
Suddenly, I remembered conversations about nipple confusion and how some infants refuse to breastfeed after discovering the ease of being bottle fed. I held myself from snatching the bottle away, scooping her into my bosom and breastfeeding her. A wave of sadness and envy engulfed me as I realized that my daughter no longer needed me to feed her. She could be fed by others without needing me or my breast. Once she finished eating and pulled away from the bottle, I was secretly relieved.
My husband and I have discussed the ingrained inequality in birth and breastfeeding. We are still far from the days when men will be able to breastfeed, if ever that day should come. Hubby enjoyed bottle feeding our daughter, although he knows it’ll never be akin to breastfeeding.
Thankfully, he understands my desire to be able to separate from her for a few hours, but also my sorrow at seeing her being bottle fed. He is supportive and understands that it’s not going to be the norm, just a fix for the times when we are apart. In the meantime, however, he has the monopoly on bath time, which she enjoys immensely.
An hour later, she was hungry again, and as I offered her my breast, she easily latched on and fed. Relieved she had not abandoned me for the bottle, I ran my fingers over her soft hair and inhaled her baby scent. I smiled at her and she smiled back.
She is dependent on me, as she will be for quite some time. Yet my desire to maintain my own independence means, I will be granting my daughter more and more of hers. Over the next 18 or so years, she will learn to be more and more self-sufficient. If her father and I do a good job, she’ll manage to spread her wings and leave the nest.
I just never expected it to start so soon.