Four and a half years ago my life completely changed. I gave birth to my first child and I hadn’t anticipated quite how much breastfeeding would have a big impact on my life as a mother. I’m completely pro-choice by the way, in every sense, and when it comes to feeding it is entirely a women’s right to choose what she does with her body. I have respect for each mother who choses to breastfeed, formula feed, express and feed, mix feed, or any other way they want to as long as they are doing what they want and have access to the help and information
they need to do that.
For me, though, I hadn’t given it much thought; I had been breastfed, my mum had fed 4 of us, for varying lengths of time (these lengths of time would conveniently change depending on what spin she was trying to put on it – making me feel better for feeding for longer, encouraging me that it might now be time to stop…!) so it seemed only natural that I would do the same.
I went from having little opinion about breastfeeding to being adamant to succeed, stubborn to the point of ridiculous and eventually becoming something of a local boob guru (!) reading The Politics of Breastfeeding and running a peer led Facebook group at all hours of the day and night. Breastfeeding was something I initially had a love-hate relationship with. On the one hand, it was totally convenient, ready at a moments notice, free (minus the minimal breastpad/feeding top/manual pump costs), great for the immune system and for my health too, but on the other hand, for me, it hurt like hell for about 3 months. It didn’t hurt constantly, but it turns out I had ductal thrush and he was sleepy and had a lazy latch and a slight posterior tongue tie, and lots of other things which I had no idea about until I became a breastfeeding peer supporter when he was 4 months. Seriously, they need to teach this shit in schools!
I’m writing this now having had a second child, one who has come with her own complications, but feeding wasn’t one of them. Other than initial problems because of her beautiful tiny mouth, which were quickly resolved with the “flipple” and some good laid back feeding, I was confident, fantastically well placed with support from my local groups, other peer supporters, fellow mamas and of course the amazing LLL lasses. She was a little chugger, every feed (no longer than 10 mins) I had visions of her at 18 necking pints and competing with the local lads…she had this down. I have loved our breastfeeding relationship, this time it’s been easy and I’m caught somewhere between elated and incredibly emotional that it is, as of today, after a total of precisely 4 years of breastfeeding, now the end of my breastfeeding journey.
She’s been down to one feed a day for a few months, having been exclusively fed on breastmilk alone until 14 months, and I’m pretty happy with my achievement but it’s been time to call it a day for a while. My supply has waned, although I haven’t done much to maintain it (life has been too hectic and stressful for supplements and expressing) and I can’t decide if I’m sad at the prospect of this massive chapter of my life being over or relieved because now it really doesn’t need to be me that is here for her.
I am sad but I am missing a time when she was interested in the feeds and would snuggle in for a good 15 minutes and even fall asleep on me and that hasn’t happened for a while. I’m grateful it’s been gradual and I will cherish my memories of feeding – at least the times it was easy, connected us, helped us when they were upset or hurt, when it helped me fall asleep in the middle of the night and so on. But I will also cherish the amazing women I have met along the way, both at groups and online, the sense of community I have seen, the mothers selflessly helping each other and the encouragement I have received and been able to give. Breastfeeding has been a huge part of my life and I am crushed that it is now over but humbled that I was a little part of the supportive community that helps so many and I am so very grateful for
those who helped me.