I never thought I’d say the words, ‘I’m not ready to give up breast feeding’. In all honesty after not having breastfed very well with my son, my firstborn, I never even considered that I would be given another opportunity to try and that it would actually work. In the lead up to my daughters birth I did something I never did with my first pregnancy, I researched breastfeeding. Initially I had always thought that breastfeeding was a natural part of being a mother and that the baby would just take to it like a duck to water. I had no idea about latching or that bleeding nipples isn’t uncommon or wrong or anything about supply and demand. It was during my research with my second pregnancy that I was able to see where I had gone wrong but I was never regretful or dismayed about the fact that my son was on formula before he left the hospital and that by two weeks old he was on formula alone. I’m not necessarily a ‘breast is best’ believer, but more so a ‘fed is best’ advocate, in whatever forms that may come.
I recall attending the very first playgroup with my son, strolling in to a room of women I didn’t know but we had all shared a similar experience around the same time as each other; giving birth. I walked in, plonked my son down in the middle of the circle for tummy time and started chatting away with the other new mums. It was only when I saw my two free hands accessorising my conversation that I realised I was the only one not holding my baby, everyone was either breast feeding or cuddling their child. I couldn’t understand why these women weren’t taking up any and every opportunity to put their child down and free their body for a moment. This confusion turned to judgment and I left that playgroup with the theory that these women needed their babies more then their babies needed them, that there was something missing in their lives and they were using breastfeeding to fill that void. Maybe, subconsciously, I was just trying to make myself feel better. That’s usually why we judge others, isn’t it?
Now that I’m breastfeeding my daughter (an act I almost gave up again because of that part where is feels like someone is dragging your nipples across sandpaper), I can understand the ease that comes with this type of feeding: leaving the house with just you, your boobs and your baby, not having to make bottles, being able to feed and soothe your baby anytime and anywhere, barely having to burp them and I’m sure for many mothers there are emotional factors like bonding. I don’t consider myself an overly emotive person; my emotions often take back seat to structure and logic. I told myself that if breastfeeding were a success the second time around then I would do it for a maximum of three months. I’m not sure how I came up with that amount of time but it seemed like a lot. But now, here I lay, in my bed with my baby in my arms, feeding from my breast and we are nearing the ten week mark. I’m writing this as she pushes her tiny hand against my breast, massaging for more milk and I know, despite two weeks still remaining until my three month mark, that this will be close to the last time she feeds from me again. It’s time to move on and I’ve known this for a while.
It’s time to move on to long solid sleeps, intake control and free arms. It’s time to say goodbye to nipple pads, leaky breasts and breastfeeding clothes. But I’m still apprehensive. I just can’t put my finger on it or maybe I don’t want to. Maybe I don’t want to admit that by giving up breastfeeding I’m actually saying goodbye to the last time I will ever do it again. With no more children planned it is as if everything I do and share with my daughter is the last and this saddens me.
I’ve no plans on having a large family, despite loving being pregnant and the wonderful daydream of being surrounded by lots of little people with individual personalities at a big dining table in my future, but the idea of truly knowing it’s all over, that’s a fact I’m not quite willing to fully accept. Maybe I’ll feel this way with every passing milestone, something I didn’t feel with my son either because I took it for granted or because deep down I knew I’d have a second chance. Most likely I’ll feel just as uneasy when my daughter stops wearing nappies, no longer fits into wonder suits, starts telling me she can ‘do it herself’ and then finally goes to school.
The truth is, breast or bottle, my daughter still needs me, as much as my son still does. The breast is just a phase, a stepping-stone attached to growth and development, she will continue to grow and develop without it. I welcome with open arms the opportunity to once again have open arms instead of sweaty armpits. And by writing this, I’m able to let go and move forward on to what will hopefully be long naps and lace bras.