“Nothing in the world could come between us, in those few moments, we were untouchable.”
I’ve been meaning to write this post for months. And by this I mean, I’ve been meaning to wean my daughter for months. As in, from breastfeeding.
I’ve \been breastfeeding my daughter for a total of 3 years, 1 month, and 5 days (with odd days where we’ve missed feeds because I’ve either been away or thought in my head “this is it! I am weaning!” only to feed her again a day later).
Maia has always loved the boob. She took to breastfeeding like a duck to water, as did my body, which was very generous in it’s milk supply.
I was very fortunate, I had an abundance of support from my mother from day one and although it was painful (f****** excruciating would be more accurate terminology), I was very proud to push through those first few weeks and into more comfortable, pain free, relatively straightforward nursing.
Though I did push through, there were a handful of occasions during those first few weeks where I thought I simply couldn’t bare the pain anymore. It was..hell-ish. I’m not sure if it’s like this for all women, but I found it almost like a burning sensation. According to La Leche League International there are several potential causes of a painful let down, and mine was undoubtedly:
“Lots of milk. Some women find that they make a great deal of milk and/or their milk-ejection reflex (let-down) is very strong…..Some deep breast twinges during let down can occur as the milk ducts constrict to force the milk towards the nipple.”
Well my milk-ejection reflex did me proud, and I certainly felt the constriction of my milk ducts. I did read that relaxation techniques can really help with the pain, but I just felt shouting a lot did the trick. Shouting, deep breathing, and good old distraction.
One night this occurred:
Sleep deprived Me: “AHHHHHH DEAR LORD IT HURTS SO MUCH!!”
Grandma: “Well do you want to switch to formula then if it’s so painful?!”
Sleep deprived Me: “NO! F*** that! I’m not giving up! Now hand me a macaroon and let’s do this s***!”
No one warns you of the pain of breastfeeding. It’s all about the birth but no one tells you that in those first few weeks you’re not only sleep deprived, but your breasts are really put through their paces. I’ve never looked at mine in the same way since. They may not be as perky, or anywhere close to being evenly sized, but they’ve done me proud.
Other things no one told me and I failed to read up on:
In the first few days, you may have strong menstrual-like cramps as you nurse (this is your uterus shrinking back to it’s normal size) but again this was scarily reminiscent of child birth and I really wasn’t expecting it to be quite that painful.
I also had odd days in the first couple of months where my body went into cow-mode and thought I had to feed the 5000, I’d sit in bed for most of the day, with a bit of a fever, attached to a pump, desperate to let it all out; this is what we call engorgement ( and if you’ve seen the film Bad Neighbours, you’ll remember the scene where she has to let her milk out after a night of not breastfeeding, this, my friends, was no exaggeration, it ain’t pretty.) They go rock hard. Like watermelons, only Milk-Melons. I was just grateful it didn’t become full on mastitis. I don’t think I’d have coped.
Then there was the blissful stage. The stage from about three months to right up until her teeth started coming through. I’d take her to coffee shops and cafes and happily nurse her under a cover, I dropped over two stone in baby weight (okay and some extra weight too) and ate whatever the hell I wanted. I was in an oxytocin-fulled bubble of baby joy. (Oxytocin – the so-called love hormone, known to create feelings of calm and closeness).
Then, her teeth began to come through. It was always amusing seeing people’s faces as they sat and watched me prize the little sleeping beauty off of my breast, and right before she’s completely off… BOOM, TEETH CLAMPED DOWN.
Visiting friend: “Oh my god that looks so painful!”
“Really? Nahh, nipples are made for this, aren’t yours made of rubber? It’s all good, I only have to do this again in 3-4 hours…”
And each day as she fell asleep my heart would pump a little faster as I slowly pulled my breast from her latch, I’d remind myself of all the love and closeness as she kept her mouth tightly locked, biting down on my -already bruised- nipple. This was attachment parenting in all it’s glory.
There was biting, bleeding and a whole lot of:
“Now just pull it off gently darling, gently..”
“I AM MUM, she’s still going to bite me..she’s like a baby crocodile!”..
That phase took a while to pass as, as we all know, humans tend to have more than just one or two teeth.. But again, we pushed through and eventually got to a phase where I no longer got nervous and hesitated every time I had to pull my boob out of her mouth.
You’ll all be glad to know my nipples have healed and are no longer bruised and battered. But yes my breasts will probably always be two different sizes. – My mother has assured me they will even out when I do finally stop for good, but after months of feeding her solely on my right boob, (this began around February time this year, when my milk supply began to dwindle in my left, and Maia specifically requested “the other one” more often..) it’s highly unlikely my left will just suddenly balloon out and play matchy-matchy to the right one. No, my days of perky-perkersons are over. – This is okay, I am secure enough in my body to have accepted this, and have decided, there are more important things in life than perfect tits.
Shortly after the crocodile phase, the baby elephant phase begun. And by this I mean, the back ache started. Babies, grow into toddlers, and toddlers weigh a little more than 7lbs. Holding and breastfeeding an 18 month old is a little more demanding on: one’s shoulders, arms, and pretty much all of your back. But again, this would come and go and most of the time I didn’t really think about it, I was just so proud to have breastfed her for over a year.
My mother breastfed me for two years, so I was keen to make it to the two year mark. -Little did I know, I wouldn’t quite be done by then…
At some point, I requested that Maia say “please” when she wanted some of my milk, and because she couldn’t say please, she would say “PA”. “PA” became “PAPA” and now, at three years old, this is what she calls it.
So why three years? Why not pull the plug at one or two or two and a half? Well a handful of reasons. One being, she loves it so. Nursing her for even just a few minutes was always enough to soothe pretty much anything. Whenever she was ill, my milk would cool her down. If she was overtired and having a tantrum, nursing would calm her and make her smile. If she was sleepy but couldn’t always fall asleep; booby time. (I should mention I fed her to sleep nearly every night till about two months ago, this isn’t recommended as it’s said they should be able to fall asleep on their own at two/three years old, but hey, it worked for us and she can officially fall asleep by herself now with just five stories and some humming. I also breastfed her back to sleep during the night if she woke up. (I semi-created this problem myself by feeding her to sleep, every time she awoke, she’d need my boob to get back to sleep, purely comfort sucking)). Often my Mum would tap her back to sleep (gentle tap on the back) but sometimes she’d demand PAPA, and at 3am, you just want to make everyone happy, so boob it is.
I am aware many people think it’s “weird” to breastfeed a three year old, but the truth is, most of these people don’t have children, and the others are simply, well, narrow-minded. (I’d love to know at what age it stops being considered normal and starts being weird. In some countries, children are nursed till they are six or seven years old, they’d consider us “weird” for stopping at 6 months to a year…The norm in Western society is very different to other cultures and whose to say which is “correct” or best for a child’s wellbeing? I do wish the word “weird” could be banned in relation to breastfeeding. It’s a woman, nursing her child, it’s healthy and beautiful and anything but weird.)
Those that do have children, and breastfed, will know breastfeeding is more than just what you see at face value. Breastfeeding was more than just “feeding” or a source of nutrition. It has been a huge comfort to Maia her whole life, and a moment of warmth, presence, security, and pure, uninterrupted love. The world is a big scary place, she’s learning and experiencing new things every day and knowing I could offer her a little break, a few moments with the 100% familiar, brought me comfort too.
She’d put her hand on my chest and look up at me as if to say:
“You got this Ma, I’m happy in this moment, thank you.”
And she always looked so peaceful and content, so settled.
But more than the comfort, it was a moment of us. – Mother and baby, the strongest connection of all, as if for those few minutes she was in the womb all over again and no one could harm her, she was safe with me and I was giving her exactly what she needed. Nothing in the world could come between us in those few moments, we were untouchable.
We were. We still are. But now I’ve reached a point where I know we are ready to stop. Well I am ready to stop. I get the feeling Maia will never be. All the love and connection and warmth is still there and always will be in the form of cuddles and kisses and well, my very presence, but I know it is time because she now uses phrases like “PAPA NOW!” and “Please Mummy, I need it to rest!”….
Today I lay Maia down for her afternoon nap and she demanded PAPA, I said no, I would sing her to sleep, but she protested so I said okay, but that it would be the last time. She said she understood, but of course she’ll ask for it again tomorrow and I’ll have to be a little stronger next time. I’ve said no to PAPA a lot recently and felt her pain each and every time. She cries, and it’s hard to see, but I know how important it is for her to learn to self soothe, to settle herself in her own little ways, and she already does a lot of the time, so I know stopping altogether won’t come as a huge shock.
If I could have the last three years again, I wouldn’t change a single part of our breastfeeding journey. The milk melons, the bleeding nipples, the shoulder ache..I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat because they’ve been the most heartwarming, rewarding and amazing experiences of our time as Mummy and Daughter. (Okay maybe I’d take away the bleeding nipples, no one deserves bleeding nipples..).
I can’t believe this experience is coming to an end ( my aim is to have weaned her completely by the end of 2016). But I know Maia is a happy, healthy, confident, bright, wonderful little girl and I know I’ve done what I needed to do, and followed my instincts as a mother every step of the way. I am rather proud.
Well congrats if you made it this far into the post, I didn’t intend for it to be such an essay, but I suppose breastfeeding has been a part of my life for three years now, and stopping does make me feel like I’m losing something. – Not the bond, the bond will always be there, more saying goodbye to Maia as a baby and accepting that she is a child now, not an infant. – Accepting that my baby is growing up.
It’s been a long road, and all I can do now is thank everyone for their love and support and non-judgemental attitudes towards me whipping out my boobs within minutes of them entering my living room for what they thought would be tea and cake, but more The Half Naked Angie Show, a topless surprise.
My mother deserves one of the biggest thank yous for being so amazing and helping me with just about everything, pretty much the entire time.
But of course, above all, thank you to my darling Maia.
Your patience, love and unwavering affection cannot be put into words.
I am very proud of what we have gone through and what we have achieved. Mummy is still here, for cuddles and kisses and tickles and monkeying around whenever you need me. Nothing else is going to change.
It’s been a joy and a privilege to loan you my breasts these past three years. You’ve been tremendous,
All my love,
to the moon and back,