After 7 years and 3 months it appears my milk has dried up and my breastfeeding career is over.
Emmie was only feeding intermittently for short times at bedtime, but the second night she told me there was no milk I felt a proper grieving process kicking in for my identity as a BF mum, as if my body doesn’t know what the point of its existence is anymore. I feel sad for the loss of being able to support my child in this particular way.
When I first met a mum doing “extended” breastfeeding I felt a bit weird seeing a 4yr old child pretty much helping themselves and didn’t know where to look, but I tried to keep an open mind because it was the first time we had met! Now it doesn’t even register as “a thing”.
Looking back over this lengthy journey there have been moments that have tested me. To name some…
Those painful moments when latching was sharp and sucking was worse; Those moments when I really wanted to punch someone (I remember a particular friend telling me about this feeling and I doubted I’d experience it. Then I tandem fed ); Those moments when I questioned whether I was just being selfish (another mother accused me of this, as if I enjoyed having a fidgety toddler hanging off my sore nipples!); Those moments when I was constantly being told that if I fed my baby to sleep she’d never learn to “self soothe” and I was tempted to withhold because it was also tiresome to be here as laughter from downstairs kept breaking through the darkness; Those moments when I was well and truly touched out; Those moments when I didn’t know what else to do and so I just shoved a boob in her mouth.
It turns out those moments didn’t last forever. They don’t even take up much space in my memory. Largely I feel I did a really good thing and it seems so natural and instinctive to me now. I even feel a fondness for those testing moments.
Emmie tried to get some milk last night. After a few seconds she said “No, none. Well that’s upsetting.” And then she carried on playing with her shadow as if nothing had happened. I like to think that some part of her self-assuredness, of her felt security, of our strong bond where she can always come and cry in my lap, comes from having had this safe and calming space always accessible with me.
Thinking about the irreplaceable moments I’ve shared with my two fills me with feelings of love and connection, and I like that I can conjure those up whenever I want, just by remembering that gaze we often held as they fed.
As I reflect on all the pieces that made this puzzle I realise that whilst I was alone in the act I was never in this alone.
I’m so grateful I didn’t have any problems with my milk supply. I’m intensely grateful for my female body and its instinctive intelligence. I’m grateful my girls didn’t have tongue ties and that my midwives were excellent. I’m grateful I was mostly surrounded by supportive friends and relatives, and that those that weren’t supportive mostly kept their opinions to themselves. I’m grateful for the attachment parenting group in SW London who were epic at normalising breastfeeding for me and for that magical year when we were all together. I’m grateful for the friend that downloaded crazy ideas like this on my husband when she discovered we were expecting. I’m grateful I read The Continuum Concept and prioritised connection with my babies. I’m grateful for all the egg, bacon and avo toasted sandwiches my husband made.
But I won’t miss the sore nipples.