I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I breastfed my daughter for 15 months. Fifteen months! This from the woman who, though determined to try, only wanted to breastfeed for 12 weeks. I have to admit I’m a little proud of myself. That said, I did find I had started to feel uncomfortable about the fact that I was still breastfeeding post 12 months. I felt like people were judging me, that people were looking at my daughter like she was a character from Little Britain.
Now, I’m sure it was all in my head, but it’s amazing how we constantly feel judgement. We feel judged when we don’t breastfeed, and then judged when we do!
Breastfeeding didn’t come easily for me. In fact, even now I wonder how I did it. For the first 12 weeks I would pump after every feed in order to have enough milk in bottle form for when my little girl would fall asleep at the breast from exertion, the bottle requiring much less effort from her little form. Twelve weeks! At a feed every three hours. With a feed that took a minimum of 30 minutes, stripping off clothes, and then being strapped to a pump for another 30. Seriously, I’m insane. Let’s not forget the blocked ducts in there, or the waking up with boobs so swollen they felt like they would burst, and sheets soaked in leaked breastmilk. Oh, yes, breastfeeding is wonderful!
Then something happened. Missy learned how to get a full feed. The pumping was restricted to mornings (for my own comfort of having a back-up in the freezer more than anything else) and I had my time back. Missy also started sleeping through at six weeks so things were looking up.
Related: I donated my breastmilk
Fast forward to 10 months, and we were down to two feeds a day, which gave mumma the freedom to go out during the day (after all that bottle stuff in the beginning, missy decided at around the six month mark that she was no longer OK with the imitation boob) and even have the occasional cheeky champagne!
At 12 months we were down to one, the morning feed. Each morning missy and I would have a long cuddle, her sleepy warm form curled into me as she got her morning fix before demanding Weet-Bix. It was all sorts of wonderful. I’m not from the “breast-is-best” school, people can do what they like, but there is something about that bond that feels extra special. So, it was much sadness that I decided to stop.
Why stop, you ask? Well, it wasn’t about my feeling judged, but all of a sudden the idea of my almost-toddler suckling on me felt a little weird. Add to the mix getting ready for work and childcare, and the logistical nightmare that is adding a breastfeed if missy decided to sleep long, and the reasons were stacking up. Plus, I was convinced that she wasn’t bothered. Some days she would barely have anything. Surely that meant it was time?
Well, it’s now day four. Today was the first day my daughter hasn’t sat on the bed with tears streaming down her face, pinching my chest and begging for boob. I felt awful. But today we went straight to Weet-Bix, wolfing it down and playing happily, no longer needing that long morning cuddle with mumma. My little girl is growing up.
I’d be lying if I said the whole thing is not making me feel quite emotional. It was my decision to finish, and I am committed to it. But what a lovely journey it was. Sure, it was painful, it was difficult, it was sometimes incredibly inconvenient but it was also a kind of wonderful I had never before experienced, and I already miss terribly. Breastfeeding surprised me. It came in and removed all my pre-baby cynicism, stripping it away and just presenting me with moments of pure happiness, as my sweet little girl curled her body into me, before looking up at me in milk-drunk happiness and coming back for cuddles.
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