Beyond Breastfeeding: Three Lesser-Mentioned Things that Make You a Great Mom
Updated: May 2, 2019
I stopped breastfeeding at about eight months. I felt nauseated all the time and she was on me ALL THE TIME. Probably because I wasn't producing a ton so she had to suck for hours to get full. Though I do feel the gradual switch to formula was the right thing for us, I couldn't help but feel an occasional twinge of guilt.
Could I have tried harder?
Could I have doubled down, worn the pump every waking minute that she wasn't nursing to increase my supply?
Could I have sacrificed my sanity for the good of the cause?
Part of what makes this more difficult is the fact that we live in a crunchy-natural town in Oregon where breastfeeding for at least two years is the norm, and some even go until the kid is four or five.
FOUR or FIVE? Okay, this is your choice just as pulling the teat at eight months was my choice. Just sayin', I couldn't do it. I need a certain level of autonomy and by age four or five, I hope my daughter will want some autonomy, too.
But, as many who have weaned know, there can be an emotional comedown. You ask yourself what your role is, if not a source of sustenance. Not to mention the hormonal shift can be brutal.
You're no longer getting those oxytocin drops, and your estrogen and progesterone are coming back, which can make you feel pregnant all over again. Nauseated all the time, emotional, fatigued.
So I want to share a couple of lights at the end of the weaning tunnel.
First, the hormones do level out and you start to feel like yourself again. It took about four weeks for me, but I'm sure it varies for everyone.
Second, and important for all moms to know: there are a THOUSAND OTHER THINGS that make you a great mom, even if you're not one for long-term breastfeeding or making your own food purees or hand-weaving clothes from organic cotton. (Note I have friends who do all of the above, and they are INCREDIBLE, but it's not who everyone is or can be as a mom.)
So, while there are a thousand things that make you a great mom, I thought I'd share three that you may not have thought of:
1. Being PRESENT
At ten months, my daughter has started to entertain herself some. But she wants me THERE. Not just physically, but emotionally.
You may need to go back to work 40 hours a week. You may need to get away for some exercise or, in my case, to write for a few hours every morning.
But when you are there, try to be there fully, because they can feel the difference. It's actually incredible how I see my daughter light up when I get out of my head and just look her in the eyes with total presence. It's not always easy, with all we have going on, but it's a practice we can work on.
2. Being FULFILLED
This ties in with the one above. When you take some time for yourself and fill your cup, it's so much easier to be present with your little one.
It's funny how our society can make moms feel bad for doing this when they would never bat an eye at dad doing so.
When my daughter was about a month old, I was on the phone with a lactation consultant, because there were nights when I was breastfeeding for six hours straight, no joke. She said to just keep letting her feed as long as she wanted, but I was feeling claustrophobic and going insane.
"But what about when I want to get away for a few hours?" I asked
"WHY would you do that?" she asked, shocked and appalled.
"Um, because I'm a human?" I asked—a real question at that point, as you no longer feel human when you've become an around-the-clock feedbag.
I used to be there with her 24/7, so when I first started taking a few hours in the morning to escape and write, I felt guilty. But I now know that this time allows me to return to her fully present, more playful and engaged.
3. Being True to Yourself
We're not all the same. That sounds like a self-evident truth, but we need to be reminded of it, especially in the throes of motherhood.
In the new Netflix series Workin' Moms, one of the characters Anne laments, "I'm not an ooey-gooey mom," concerned that her lack of a high-pitched, sugary voice and the desire to play ponies makes her a bad mom.
I recall having the same concern when I was pregnant, even saying to my counselor at the time, "But I'm not a mom. I'm not like them."
"But I'm not a mom. I'm not like them."
As though moms were some homogenized sort from suburbia who only care about doo-doo and boo-boos.
My counselor pointed out just what I aim to share here. "You can be whatever kind of mom you want." That relaxed me a ton, and I've found it's true.
I don't particularly like making Mya's stuffed animals talk, but I do enjoy chasing her around on all fours and hearing her giggle. I get bored by most of her children's books, but I do like reading her whatever I'm reading out loud. I don't like sewing baby clothes, but I do like strapping her on my front side and taking her salsa dancing. And she loves it all. You do you, in a present and engaged way, and your babe will love it, because she loves YOU.
You do you, in a present and engaged way, and your babe will love it, because she loves YOU.
So yeah, I used to question if I was a good mom, because I don't do all the things. But now, I look at my daughter—SO happy and healthy and social and smart—and I know I am. I hope you know you are, too.