The other day a (male) friend and I were talking when he commented on my breastfeeding blog. At first I wasn’t sure what he was referring to, until I realised he meant this blog. I was a bit confused, but then realised that I do talk about breastfeeding quite a bit, don’t I, so I must love it.
Here I am, mother to a 20-month old and still breastfeeding. I must love it, right?
I advocate for breastfeeding. I try to encourage others to breastfeed. I’ve said nasty things about formula companies. Which must be because I love breastfeeding, right?
And it’s easy for me to love breastfeeding, because my daughter latched on immediately, fed like a star from the start, we co-sleep so I had plenty of sleep in the beginning, I didn’t have cracked or bleeding nipples, I had a perfect home water birthÂ with almost no recovery time, and didn’t even have the 3rd day baby blues. I was all awash with hormones and everything was great. No wonder I love breastfeeding, right?
While absolutely all of the above is true, that’s not why I love breastfeeding. And it hasn’t been easy all the way. At 18 months, for example, I was seriously considering giving up. I was in so much pain and my daughter was feeding so often, I started feeling like a prisoner. She’d wake up a few times a night and latch on and presumably stay there (I’m asleep, I don’t really know). I presume so, because my nipples started feeling partially digested. Like what happens to meat when you marinade it in coke.
There have been times when I simply no longer feel like it. I don’t want to be the only person who can give her milk (I express fine, and plenty. But she wont drink it by bottle or cup. Boob only for Ameli.)
There have been times when I’ve been entirely ‘touched out’. You know â€“ when carrying her around all day (which normally coincides with an increase in nursing frequency, probably due to illness or some developmental spurt) and breastfeeding a few times a day and a large part of the night, have simply meant I cannot bare being touched, clambered over and clung to. By anyone.
There have been times that I’ve wondered if it’s due to the nursing that she’s so attached to me â€“ again at 18 months, I couldn’t leave the room without her crying (which may also have been down to moving countries and leaving every relative and friend she knew behind, and I know she missed them.)
There have been times I’ve wanted to run screaming for the hills.
Times I’ve considered giving her a dummy in case it was teething pain causing the excessive need to suckle. Or just to soothe her.
Times I’ve just plainly and simply had enough.
And it’s a big but.
I have no doubt that I’m doing the right thing for her.
I may not have felt the beautiful rush of emotion, the need to lie awake staring at her at 3am like I used to, or the overwhelming wow-ness of it all in some time, but I know I’m doing the right thing for her.
I know about the health benefits. I know about the emotional benefits. I know about her immune system. I know the savings to my family now, and in healthcare in the future. I know I’m giving her brain food. I know that breastmilk has incredible healing properties. I know it’s the right thing to do.
And like that song that says Love is not a feeling, it’s an act of your will, it’s devotion not emotion and it truly will fulfil, love in this instance can be substituted for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding beyond infancy is not about the feeling. It’s an act of will. It’s being devoted to doing so, rather than doing it for the emotion, or the kudos (there aren’t many!) of it â€“ because sometimes that emotion can be a very negative one â€“ and it truly will fulfil. I see that fulfilment as reaching my “target” of two years.
And the bad does get better. Sometimes you need professional help, sometimes just a bit of a break, but every bad thing does pass. (If I was to quit at 18 months, the guilt and sense of failure â€“ for not meeting my own target – would have stayed with me much longer than the month or so that it was a real trial for.)
Added to which, I don’t know how I could wean her if I tried. It would involve many tears – for both of us.
So yes. I do love breastfeeding, but not because it’s easy, not because it’s simpler, not because it saves me money, not because it’s building my child’s immunity, not because it makes me a better mother, not because it makes me better than any other mother and not so that I can wear it as a badge of achievement but because I know the power of breast milk, and I know the value of the gift I’m giving my daughter.