As Parents There Is Nothing More Powerful Than The Stories We Share..
Welcome back to the #BreastfeedingStories guest post series, an opportunity to bring together stories from other mums who have breastfeeding experiences that they would like to share.
This breastfeeding guest post features Rebecca from The Ish Mother who shares her amazing story of successive extended breastfeeding with her two little ones. Of the many, many breastfeeding stories I have shared as part of this breastfeeding blog series, I have never quite read one like this which left me slightly in awe. I’m so pleased to be able to share Rebecca’s story with you all, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
This month I celebrate a slightly unusual anniversary. Five years of being a breastfeeding mother.
Yes, that’s five years continuously.
No, I don’t have a huge gaggle of kids. Just the two.
You see, I never saw myself as the kind of woman who would one day breastfeed a four-year-old. In the first month of my daughter’s life it looked doubtful that I would even manage to breastfeed a four-week-old, let alone any longer.
We didn’t have the best of starts – drowsy from the diamorphine I’d reluctantly agreed to in labour, she didn’t feed from me at all in the first 24 hours, and needed to be syringe-fed my colostrum. Then her latch was terrible, slipping off after seconds and sucking her own tongue so hard it was impossible to prize her mouth open again.
Then, when my milk came in, the screaming started. And the puking. And the pushing me away when I tried to feed her. After four weeks she was diagnosed with reflux and was given Infant Gaviscon, which helped a bit but really is designed for bottle feeding so made breastfeeding even harder. It felt like the odds were stacked against us.
But somehow, with a lot of determination, we made it to eight weeks and it got easier. I started hoping to get to six months. Then when six months came and my little bottle-refusenik still loved her mum-milk, I decided to save my money and keep going until she was one. Then I found out that the WHO recommends breastfeeding alongside food until two, so I carried on. And the rest is history.
People often ask why you would breastfeed an older child – they have three meals a day, they can drink cows’ milk, what’s the point? I like to turn that on its head and ask, why wouldn’t you? Yes, some kids naturally wean earlier, some mums feel it’s time to stop sooner or life gets in the way. Which is all fine and dandy. But if mum and child are happy to keep going, then why stop? Breastmilk doesn’t turn to water, it is still a nutritious drink once your child can eat. And there are other benefits.
Like sleep. Battling my daughter to sleep at night without mum-milk used to take an hour and a half. I didn’t have time for that at nap time, or when she woke in the night, so a feed would knock her out very efficiently, thank you very much.
And comfort. Breastfeeding soothed many a bumped head and grazed knee, it calmed her when she got scared or overwhelmed, in a way that a simple cuddle just didn’t seem to do.
And security. When I got pregnant with my second child, things got hard. I had to cut back on my daughter’s feeds a lot because it was Just. So. Uncomfortable. And lots of other things were changing too – I got bigger, I was much less mobile, I was more tired, and that’s before considering all the baby stuff that kept appearing in the house. I truly believe breastfeeding gave her a rock to cling to through all that upheaval. It told her that, no matter what, I was still there for her and she was still my baby. The most heartbreaking part of being in hospital after my son’s birth was finding out that she had woken up at her grandparents’ house and asked for mum-milk, and I wasn’t there to give it to her.
I managed to keep giving her that security for a few months after my son was born. She was invaluable in the early weeks when my little tongue-tied boy couldn’t efficiently drain my full-to-bursting boobs, and being able to keep breastfeeding really smoothed her transition to big sister, so much that she barely complained about all the changes.
Sadly I developed nursing aversion (just with her, oddly) shortly after having my son so had to put firm limits on her feeds, which she adapted to brilliantly. And when I gently suggested that maybe one day she’d be too old to have mum-milk, she decided she’d stop when she started school. As it happened, she stopped a couple of weeks early.
And so here I am, still breastfeeding my nine-month-old son, which hasn’t been without challenge. Despite having his tongue tie cut at three weeks his latch still isn’t perfect, and he also suffered from reflux although not nearly as badly, so thankfully we didn’t need to faff about with medication again. But in contrast, it’s been a fairly easy ride and I can’t see us stopping any time soon. In fact, knowing he’s my last baby, I am intrigued to see how long he keeps going without pregnancy and nursing aversion to hurry the weaning process along!
And what is parenting like now I’ve stopped breastfeeding my daughter? A little harder in some ways, I admit – if she’s sad or hurt there’s no quick fix any more. But she’s still very affectionate and, I hope, very secure in the knowledge that I love her deeply. I like to think our bond is at least partly down to our years as a nursing dyad, and I look forward to building the same bond with my son.