I’ve been breastfeeding baby B since birth and she’s now seven and a half months. For the first five and a half months she only had milk from me, and then I started introducing solids and now she’s a huge food fan as well as being a true devotee of the boob.
So the question starts coming up a lot now, when will I stop breastfeeding?
I fed Rose until nearly 11 months. I had hoped to go for a year but actually was happy to stop when I did. I was feeling trapped and frustrated by the process, I was hoping to get her onto a bottle for at least part of the time but she wouldn’t go near one, and finally my body made the choice for me. She couldn’t get enough milk out and was getting upset and angry, biting me and crying, and I finally said it was time. I had missed my goal of a year but it was time.
With Boo, who knows?
The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum 2 years of breastfeeding. Whilst I have no negative feelings about the idea of breastfeeding for 2 years, I’m also not wedded to the idea. I understand why it is best for her, and part of me thinks I should be more dedicated to achieving 2 years, but I’m not. I might do it, it would be nice to, but if I don’t I won’t beat myself up over it.
I know I’m not keen to stop now regardless of what the health recommendations are, but equally so I’d like her to start taking a bottle as well.
I don’t want to stop because I love it.
I love that it’s something special for she and I that nobody else has with her. She’s such a social creature, loves going to others, has no anxiety when she can’t see me. Selfishly, I am aware, the fact that she depends on me for breast feeding gives me a feeling of being special in her life. I know that I’m her mummy and I’ll always be special, I’ve not breastfed Rose for more than 3 years but I’m still very definitely special in her life. But still, this babyhood dependency on breasts is incredibly short lived. I’m not ready to lose it.
I love that it calms her and soothes her. When she had her vaccinations she cried, but as soon as I stuck a nipple in her mouth she calmed down immediately and started suckling happily. When she’s rolled off her play mat and hit her head on a chair she’s cried, but breastfeeding instantly calmed her again. When she’s been poorly being able to snuggle into my chest and feed has calmed her when she’s been at her worst. I am not keen to give that up. When Rose is distressed it takes so much more than just popping a boob out and latching her on. She needs so much more. The simplicity of breastfeeding to end her pain, reassure her she’s safe, make her illnesses less distressing, it’s something incredible and I don’t want to lose that.
I love that it settles her to sleep. When she’s tired, rubbing her eyes and getting grouchy, she will fall asleep with cuddles sometimes, or just where she is. But most of the time she gets crankier and crankier as she gets more and more tired. A sure fire way to settle a tired and irritable baby is by cuddling her up with a breastfeed. She sucks away until she falls asleep with an arm around my boob and snuggles in, completely contented. When Rose is tired and irritable it takes more. She needs stories and darkness and calm, she needs wind down and settling. Sometimes she’s so tired that she won’t go to sleep, as bizarre as that seems to me. Giving up that easy settle of breast feeding isn’t something I’m keen to race to.
In a similar vane I love that breast feeding keeps the nights quiet. Other than occasions when she has a cranky night, the baby at night is the easiest one in the house to deal with. She falls asleep in her co-sleeper crib then, at some point in the night, shuffles her way into our bed and latches on to my boob. If she wakes up she just reattaches herself and goes back to sleep. If she’s sad she reattaches herself and feels better. There’s no walking around in circles trying to settle her. There’s no crying baby disturbing the whole house. I don’t even have to sit up. She just attaches herself and we all sleep soundly. Of course, the downside is I have to sleep in the same optimal breastfeeding position every night which gives me a bit of cramp, and I have to sleep with my boobs out which drips milk onto our sheets, but that is far preferable to any alternative. I don’t worry about night time. The big kids, on the other hand, with Rose’s separation anxiety and Z’s night terrors, can be quite a challenge. Indeed, the night time is the time I’m most keen to keep feeding through!
So, with all these positives, why would I want to stop?
Well, I don’t fully want to stop yet but equally so I’d value her being able to take a bottle occasionally for a number of reasons.
I want some alone time with my man. I miss him. We’ve only ever been parents in our relationship, we had none of those heady child free days even when we were first dating, but we did occasionally have nights off where we’d send the children to grand parents and we’d go out for dinner, have a few too many drinks, then come home and (mum, look away for a moment) get down to some seriously excellent sex. Our love life and dating life is now done on the hurry. It’s quick whilst the baby is asleep. It’s let’s go out for dinner but somewhere that’s pram accessible, and never with too many drinks. I’d love a night to just be with him. I miss him.
With two bigger children I am sometimes a little unable to parent them properly because I’m attached to a baby. If a fight breaks out or a toilet crisis occurs I either need to leave the bigs unattended in a time of need, or pull a feeding baby off my nipple and let her scream in despair whilst I sort them out. If she took a bottle I could sort out both.
As work gets more and more busy, meetings occurring and events that I need to attend, I’m either taking the baby with me or I’m leaving her. Currently leaving her can only happen for an hour or two at a time before she needs another feed, or I can take her and breastfeed at the time. I’ve been perfectly happily getting on with breastfeeding her in various locations and have no embarrassment about doing it, but there are times it’s tricky. I have to find somewhere to sit, sometimes not easy, I can’t walk around, meaning sometimes things have to be delayed to accommodate it. It’s possible but it poses a challenge, and one which I could avoid if she took a bottle enough for her to go to her grandmothers for the duration of a work event.
What I definitely don’t want again is the all-or-nothing I had with Rose. She absolutely wouldn’t take a bottle and when I physically couldn’t feed her anymore she was forced to scream and scream whilst her father tried to force her onto a bottle and I sat downstairs crying. I hated it. I hated myself. I felt like a failure and a cruel and horrible mother. My ideal situation would be that she will take a bottle happily, and continue to breast feed until she naturally comes to a stop because she and I are both ready. Perhaps before 2 years, perhaps after, I’m not committed to either, but at a time that feels right for the two of us.
Until then? Until then I’ll just keep making bottles available for her and I’ll keep feeding for as long as I physically can. My relationship is stable and not suffering for our lack of alone time and I’m managing to balance working and parenting a baby in a way that is definitely hard but somehow I’m muddling through, and the bigs are remarkably accommodating and accepting of the new situation. We are not at a point where I’m even considering forcing her off completely, but we are at a point where I can see the definite benefit of her taking both a boob and a bottle.
How long we’ll go for I honestly don’t know, but for the time being I’m definitely not looking to stop.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!