I’ve been breastfeeding for 14 months now, or rather, Tibbons and I have, because breastfeeding is most certainly not a solo endeavour. It takes two baby, me and you, and all that jazz. I think if you’d told me when I was pregnant that I’d still be breastfeeding my child at 14 months, I would have been sceptical and surprised. I had it in my head that I would breastfeed to six months. I’m not sure why six months was in my head as it now seems a rather arbitrary point at which to stop – but that’s when my mum said she breastfed me and my brother to, so I had it in my head that that was the “normal” time to stop.
When Tibbons was still quite new to this world I learnt that at six months of age, or any point before 12 months, he would be too young to transition to cows’ milk and would need to have formula feeds. It was at that point that I decided I would most likely keep going to a year, and probably a bit beyond as I didn’t want too many changes at once and was going back to work when Tibbons turned one. And you know, the longer we carry on, the longer I want to carry on. I don’t intend to feed him until he’s past being a toddler, but I do think that 2 years now looks quite likely. Ideally, I would like Tibbons to be able to decide when enough is enough. We’re very much a baby-led, or rather, Tibbons-led household and I don’t see why breastfeeding should be any different in that regard.
It helps that I have got my periods back as I had thought we might need to wean for that to happen and we’re hoping to be adding to our number later in the year. It also helps that Daddy-O has stopped with disparaging comments about not wanting me to feed to the point where it gets “weird”. I know where he’s coming from, and he, like me, certainly doesn’t think we’re at that point yet, but he has also realised that I will do what I think is best for Tibbons and that there’s not much point in trying to dissuade me. Which is where the breastfeeding evangelism comes in – it’s not that I’ve tried to “convert” anyone, Daddy-O included, to the “cause” of breastfeeding, but I have become more knowledgeable about the subject and am more of a breastfeeding groupie than ever before. But I stop short of trying to convince others it’s the best thing for them and their babies.
I had a difficult time feeding in the beginning, cracked, bleeding nipples, thrush, painful feeds – this endured for weeks and when I turned to breastfeeding drop-ins for support they were woefully inadequate. But Tibbons and I persevered, and we got there, and that’s great. For us. I won’t condemn women for formula feeding but nor will I pretend that I think formula milk is as beneficial for a baby as breastmilk or as good for a mum’s health as breastfeeding can be – but a calm, happy mum is important too, of course, because it usually results in a calm, happy baby and sometimes that will result from formula feeding rather than breastfeeding. But, for myself, I am proud of persevering and of breastfeeding my son. I don’t think that my pride should lead to anyone else’s shame. I think that we should all celebrate our achievements as mothers, as parents, wherever we find them.
I am the only one of my baby buddies still breastfeeding and, a bit like with co-sleeping, I have stopped talking about the fact that I breastfeed. (Which should answer the question I have posed – I don’t think you can be an evangelist in a quiet, unobtrusive or silent way!) I don’t feel shame about continuing to do so, but I am aware that some people are uncomfortable with the notion and that makes me feel uncomfortable in general. Not uncomfortable that I continue to breastfeed Tibbons, but uncomfortable that I may be judged negatively for doing so. For doing one of the most natural things in the world. When I breastfed Tibbons the other day (in my own home – not that this should make a difference, except that if you can’t be free from scrutiny and judgment in your own home, where can you) someone said to me about Tibbons “He’s not going to end up like David Walliams’ character on Little Britain, is he?” If you’re not familiar, David Walliams has a character who is in his 30s or 40s and continues to breastfeed, asking his mum for “Bitty” and coming out with choice phrases such as “Want Bitty now!”.
I think the comment was intended as a bit of a throwaway remark but I think it illustrates perfectly the pressure I feel – as though I am swimming against the tide in continuing to breastfeed my son and should be apologetic or shame-faced about doing so.
Despite feeling that pressure, I am neither shame-faced nor apologetic. Nor though do I shout it from the rooftops but this blog gives me a voice and a platform and for once, I would like to stand up and be counted – I breastfeed my 14 month old and it’s the most lovely, wonderful thing. It is natural, health-giving (for both of us) and to me, beautiful.
We will stop one day, but the timing of that is for us to work out and in the meantime, I would prefer it that people, particularly when they are in my own home, didn’t comment in a negative way!
The blog though is different, I’m not looking to stifle debate – I am putting myself out there (or should that be out here?) and no one has to agree with what I say. I almost expect a bit of a backlash because it seems to have become unpopular to be proud about breastfeeding – as though by celebrating that or even saying anything remotely positive about it, you are putting others down. But I don’t think that’s the case, and it’s certainly not the intention here.
No, not every mother breastfeeds but this one does and is it wrong of me to feel proud for doing so, for overcoming difficulties to continue this journey? Does my pride really mean I should be dismissed as an evangelist? And does the fact that some women feel disappointment at not breastfeeding mean that I should keep quiet? I think that would be a sad way to live life, if others couldn’t be joyful about any experience for fear that someone who hadn’t had that same experience but wished they had would be offended. As I said before, I think we should all celebrate our achievements wherever we find them – and for anyone who doesn’t think breastfeeding is an achievement, let me refer you back to the line about my cracked and bleeding nipples.