Looking back through this blog I realise that I talk about breastfeeding a lot. I’m not actually as obsessed by breastfeeding as it would seem, but there is no denying that it has been a big part of my life for the last fourteen months so it is only natural that I have a lot of thoughts on the subject. I think it’s easy to assume that because I am still breastfeeding now, that it has been plain sailing. This is not the case, I never thought I would still be breastfeeding at six weeks let alone at nearly fifteen months, but here we are. So how did I accidentally become an ‘extended breastfeeder’?
I’ve written a whole post on My Breastfeeding Journey but this is the short version. In the beginning I hated breastfeeding, I was doing it because I felt like I should, but in reality it hurt, it was messy, smelly and totally dominated my first few months of Motherhood. It was like having a giant boob shaped cloud hanging over me, night and day. In the first few weeks I struggled, we had a multitude of problems but I held onto the promise of the midwives that it would all be better by six weeks. I took those weeks one feed at a time and although six weeks seemed like an eternity, stubbornness took over and somehow we made it. I suddenly realised that it didn’t hurt anymore, my hormones settled down and Darcie was gaining weight and developing well.
The next hurdle for me was to feed in public, something I hadn’t even attempted while it was causing me so much pain. I started by feeding in a park, then in quiet cafes until I got to the point where I could breastfeed anywhere and not bat an eyelid. By now I was enjoying breastfeeding. It was so convenient not to have to make up bottles and every time I head a Mum complaining about forgetting to bring milk with her, or worrying about ounces, I felt quietly content that these weren’t things I had to think about.
Being a first time Mum, I didn’t fully understand the process of weaning onto solids and naively assumed that by about seven months old, Darcie would probably be hardly breastfeeding and that I would possibly switch to formula around this time depending on how I felt when it came to it. Doing Baby Led Weaning and allowing her to discover and eat foods at her own pace meant that it took her a while for her to consume many solids throughout the day and at around 8 months old she was still mainly sustained by breast milk. I was still enjoying breastfeeding so we happily carried on at our own pace and by around ten months she was eating lots of solids and having breast milk three times a day and as and when she needed it at night. Around this time some of her new teeth started causing me discomfort but everything I read online said that this would only be a brief phase as she learnt to latch differently to accommodate for those pearly whites (or razor blades which is how they felt). I had a new goal in mind of reaching a year of breastfeeding and as I was so close to reaching that, I persisted through a month of these toothy problems.
I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen when we reached a year. Did I think she was just going to magically stop wanting breast milk? Or that I would suddenly be able to harden my heart and take away her milk, her comfort and our bonding time? Well, whatever I was expecting, it didn’t happen. And so here we are at nearly fifteen months breastfeeding and I can’t quite believe it. It seems so recently that I was wishing six weeks to come around. I don’t know how long we will carry on, but I have far exceeded my expectations. She only really feeds before bedtime, in the night and sometimes before her nap if she can’t settle. I do get asked quite frequently if I am still breastfeeding and I always proudly answer yes. Inside though, I do start to worry what people really think about my answer. I’ve never had any negativity around the subject of breastfeeding but I do know that it is not the norm to breastfeed past a babies first birthday in this country, despite recommendation from the WHO to feed until the age of 2 and it being normal in other countries to feed up until the age of three or four. As I’ve mentioned on here before, it really doesn’t concern me how other people feed their babies, but it would be nice to know a couple of other Mums who are still breastfeeding. I know I have been lucky to not have to go back to work and definitely don’t want to make anyone reading this feel badly about not breastfeeding or for stopping.
I would ideally like for Darcie to naturally wean and it does seem to be heading that way as the frequency of her feeds decreases all the time and more often now she will settle with just a cuddle instead of milk. On a practical level I am ready to stop soon and to regain some more of my independence, but equally I know I will find it hard to stop. I don’t want to find myself in the position of weaning her before she is ready but I am firmly of the belief that at this point in a breastfeeding journey, it has to be working for both parties and we both need to be happy still feeding. If I start to feel that I want to stop then I will, it is my body and I have the autonomy to make that decision. At the moment I am happy with our breastfeeding relationship, it is our quiet time before she goes to sleep and although we spend all day together those moments feel more like quality time.
So yes, I am still breastfeeding and will be until further notice.