I never planned to feed Naosie for four years, I just sort of fell into breastfeeding over a long period, and its been a really positive experience for both me and my son. Its been really good just to let him self wean rather than making a decision to stop. If I had returned to work, I think that I would have stopped sooner, and I often think that if you have to return to work after six months then its a real disincentive to continue , as expressing milk is really difficult. I really admire all those women that manage to return to work, express milk and continue to breastfeed their babies.
I have really loved the closeness of breastfeeding Naosie, and the interactions that we have exchanged. The eye contact, the looks of love, the gentle caresses on my breasts. I have more or less forgotten those early months of feeding, fixed to the sofa, unable to move and exhausted by it all. He was a bit of a slow learner, and would get easily distracted when he was little, which frustrated me as feeding became very long and protracted. He was a very nosy and curious new born.
When Naosie started to talk he would ask for “Boo Boo”, “Boo Boo” and demand which breast he wanted to feed on by assertively saying “no that one”. I did’nt really enjoy him pulling up my top in public and helping himself, sometimes this made me feel embaresed and vulnerable. Todmorden though seems like a really easy place to breastfeed, there are lots of mums doing the same thing, so plenty of comrades to exchange notes with. The Sure Start centre used to run a breastfeeding support group and this was really wonderful, it was the highlight of my week when he was small. It provided a social space to meet up with friends feed babies and have a chat, laugh and cry together. I stopped going when they removed the tea and coffee for health and safety reasons, that caffiine kept us all going, juice really did’nt do it for me, and made me feel infantilized.
I wrote Last of the Milk, as I want to try and capture some of what I am feeling at the moment. Naoise has very almost stopped feeding, sometimes he asks with a sweet smile in the morning or last thing at night, but that is all, and its not everyday, just occasionally.
Breastfeeding long term is so much more than providing nourishment, it has helped me to maintain a strong emotional bond with my child, and I really cherish this time that I have had with him. He starts school in September so I am hoping that me and him can close the milk bar down together before then, but I am not putting any pressure on myself or him to set a day when we stop. The milk will eventually dry out and he will get bored or loose the ability to feed and that will be an end of this chapter.
I wonder what other people’s experiences of breast feeding are, how, when and why they decided to stop feeding ?