Extended Breastfeeding: A Sore Point. (Pun intended).
Tonight as I lay with my 2 and 5 month year old ‘big’ girl, I thought about the fact that this is World Breastfeeding Week. All day I have read posts and statements and seen pictures about breastfeeding and how beautiful and serene it is. Which it is. Sometimes. Let me start again and elaborate…
Tonight as I lay with my 2 and 5 month year old ‘big’ girl, I could’ve screamed and tied her hands behind her back before getting up and storming out. My nipples are so sore! Its not the sucking itself which is driving me crazy at the moment, its the c o n s t a n t clawing at me, to get them out, to get in to move them around, the twisting and tweaking, the pulling and swapping sides every 2 seconds, sometimes literally. The last few nights have been all night drink-a-thons, or probably more accurately, all night sooth-a-thons, and so my nipples are feeling that too sensitive to touch, used up feeling. I think its called “touched out”, but whatever, you get the idea. The clincher for me tonight was the ‘leave it out’ request which means that both boobs have to be ‘out’ so she has access or at least a visual of one, whilst on the other. I feel like a porn star all exposed and bared for someone else’s purpose. I say to her, ‘dont touch’ and she replies with a nod…nipple in teeth of course… and so we have reached a compromise until she nods off and I pull my nipple out of her mouth through a relaxed yet strong clench. Who knew they could stretch that far? Aaaaaaanyway. She is asleep and as I lay there contemplating this week I think back over today’s events; boob being pulled out mid conversation in a shop; being left hanging, as it were, when she gets distracted and turns away to look at something – I of course am so used to my boob being out that I dont notice right away so the awkwardness is palpable by the time the breeze is evident and I slip it back inside my top. Im not sure who is more uncomfortable, the 65 year old guy serving me, me, or my poor pulled-in-pulled-out-again breast. Then there was the tussle over dinner. “I want boob”. “No Faith, after Im finished eating”. etc etc. Right now if my boobs were in a cartoon, they would be glowing red and visibly throbbing in that bugs bunny way.
Dont get me wrong, from the very beginning I have had it good. Faith was born a natural ‘latcher’ and I had ample boob and milk for her. I have never been bitten (touch wood) and I have never had mastitis. All in all its been a very easy breastfeeding road to travel. My only gripe is my general dislike of any kind of ‘boob action’ – its just not my thing… but enough about me…
Given that my little one is approaching 2 and a half I certainly receive a lot of flack about ‘still’ breastfeeding her. Ive held off writing about it because I myself have been unsure about my feelings. Its not that I want to stop (how could I want to keep going after my first paragraph?? Ill get to that…) its more that I am feeling the pressure from friends, from family, from society and from my culture. Never mind that the average breastfeeding age across the world is something like 2.5-7 years, in Australia its a no-no for the majority, “once they can ask for it”. Don't even get me started on the hypocrisy of those who look down at me while there 3 year old sucks on a dummy, or cant go to sleep without that particular stuffed toy. Ive heard all the lines and been given all the reasons why I should stop. Im told repeatedly how inappropriate it is to do it in public – God forbid anyone should see boobs used for their ACTUAL purpose. I live on a farm and I don't recall the last time I saw a cow shoot off behind a tree with a modesty cloth. I am not for one minute saying I have done it perfectly; if I had another baby I wouldn't comfort feed as much as I have come to understand the importance of allowing the baby to release, in loving arms. I probably wouldn't ‘offer’ as much or for as long. I maaaaay feed and then pop down rather than feed to sleep after a certain age, (but Im still not convinced about that one). Regardless, I am happy that I still breastfeed Faith and will put up with the flack whilst doing so.
But why???? I hear you ask. Im fairly certain that the majority of my readers are pro-breastfeeding and so I dont think I need to go into a great lengthy spiel about the health benefits of breast milk. Instead Ill share MY reasons, as I believe that once our babies reach ‘that age’ where breastfeeding becomes more of a choice than an expectation, its less about nutrition and more about what’s important to us, individually.
Building a strong bond with Faith is paramount to me. All my choices from conception to now have been based around this. Im not saying bonds cant be formed if you dont breast feed, but for me, I chose to allow this special time between us to keep going. “but you hate it!” I hear you yell! No, I love it. But like everyone I have my bad days and times when I have had enough. I know a lot of people think its best to stop if we resent doing it. “if you resent it, change it” is the phrase I believe. And I agree. But really, I believe that Faith knows when I have had enough for the day, I believe she knows that I dont hate it overall and that its just because Im sore; Im not going to throw away the whole practice just because of a couple of sore days. We know each other, and Faith knows that I love her and that tomorrow, after a rest, Ill be ok again. Its part and parcel for building our connection.
There is nothing more beautiful to me than having her curl up next to me, little feet in between my thighs as she nods off to sleep having her last boob for the day. I love ending our days like that, and so does she.
I am a believer in self directed pace for children. I believe that if I am available to her that she will choose to stop when she feels the time is right. Yes I have boundaries, yes I have rules, yes Ill probably have a cut off time. I guess Ill have to see how this idea pans out! Stay tuned..
There is nothing like the giggle and happiness on her face when she sees that boob after several hours apart :) Melts my heart everytime.
From what I am told and from what I have experienced with my gorgeous step children, these years will be over all too quickly. I dont want to rush them, I want to savor them.
People often ask me if I miss drinking or going out late at night. Sometimes I do. I remind myself that sacrifice is something that often pays off in the end. I have gone out and drunk for 20 years. I can go out for 20 more. But for now; for these 3 maybe 4 years, Ill be here for her. I can sacrifice a glass of red, a night on the town and that Sunday beer for this time of giving to Faith. Happily.
This is a biggy. The reason my boobs are so sore right now is that we have had a very very big week. Faith and I have had a rough time and while I can eat chocolate, read inspirational and uplifting books, talk to my friends and mentors, or sit and watch something mind dumbing, my big girl can’t. How I know she has been battling is either through her behaviour, through her tears, or through her comfort feeding at night. How blessed I am to have this gauge. How lucky I am to know that she isnt being ‘naughty’, that she is going through something. Teething? illness? emotional distress? Perhaps she is feeling every bit of my stress and clinging to me that little bit more. I am happy that I am her comfort, I am happy that she knows she can come to me and find peace. I would like her to know this always and so I begin by being there for her now. There is a difference between putting a boob in her mouth at the first sign of distress, stunting her ability to express, feel and move through it, possibly teaching her to turn to a substance to sooth herself in the future, to being there in the dark hours, skin to skin, breath to breath and reassuring her that she is loved, that she is heard and close to me. That I am there for her.
At the end of the day, we all parent differently and have our limits and expectations. We all do the best we can and make sacrifices and choices based on what we find important. Extended breastfeeding is not perfect, day in day out. It certainly has its downsides. But overall, when weighing it up, this works for us. FOR US. Frankly, I dont see how it’s anyone else’s business what I do with my boobs or what Faith does with my boobs, other than hers and mine. We are happy and proud extended breastfeeders and until either one of us decides to stop we will ‘hang’ in there and see how far it takes us.
Happy World Breastfeeding Week everyone. Please dont tell Faith; she may go on a bender to celebrate.
Now…where did I put the icepack…..