I hated breastfeeding my son. I was adamant that I would do 6 months and then he was getting formula. I had gone through split bleeding nipples, no sleep, the judgement of those around me, my own personal discomfort, having no life anymore...... and I hated it.
6 months arrived, and I suddenly realised that without noticing I had come to love breastfeeding. We had overcome all of our issues and were now in this wonderful time where breastfeeding was a lovely, close lull in the daily hum of activity. I was proud of our achievements, but more to the point I had come to value breastfeeding. It's not just all the normal benefits that everyone harps on about. Breastfeeding changed me. It made me the person I always wanted to be. That may sound over-zealous but its true. For me, breastfeeding had become this whole new centre in my life that was this huge source of inspiration and passion. It had taught me s much about myself and the value of the people who surround me. It made me want to help other people to have a good experience. At 6 months, I was determined to do 2 years.
My son's first birthday arrived. I was like the queen of breastfeeding. Everyone new about it because I was always wittering on about it. I was gonna breastfeed till my children were 30.
15 months came. My son had lost interest. He was bored at the breast. I was basically having to force it down his throat in this massive battle of wills every night where I eventually gave in and just put him to bed. It was a wrench, but I had to admit to myself that I no longer liked breastfeeding. I supported it vehemently - but we had come to the end of the road. While I would have fed forever if my son wanted it, he didn't want it either. I decided not to offer anymore. There was no ceremonial last feed, which I have mixed feelings about. I just stopped. He stopped. It was over. I found this very sad, but I am so thankful that we 'self weaned'. There were no tears (well, not from him), I gave him what he wanted for as long as he wanted.
So where does that leave me now? Nothing has changed. I will feed my daughter until she doesn't want it anymore. But I think that this time around I have nothing to prove. I would love to feed into toddlerhood (although I look at my son who is nearly 3 and find it a bit odd to imagine still breastfeeding him). I am glad that there was no battle with my son, I didn't upset him by taking his milk away. It just fizzled out of its own accord. I hope I get that with my daughter. But, I would like to experience feeding further into toddlerhood if that is what she wants.
Every stage has its beauty. Even when I look back at feeding my son in the early days, there was a lot that was good about it. I was just not in a position to recognise that then. But I do remember the quiet snuggles and the pride as we overcame each barrier. However, I was inordinately proud to be feeding past a year. To experience feeding a fidgety active little toddler who keeps pulling off the breast to look at his toys. Maybe I will get to feed past 2 this time? To have a baby who has a name for breastfeeding and can talk to me about it. I think I would like that.
So what is my point?
Feelings change. If somebody had said to me when my son was a week old that I would feed him for 15 months and then feel terribly sad when I gave it up, I would have raised my eyebrows in disbelief. If you now suggested to me that I stopped breastfeeding my daughter before she was ready I would be furious at the suggestion. As far as I see it, breastfeed your babies as long as you both want, whether that is a week or a year or a decade (OK, that may be going a little far).
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