I remember the first time.
I can recall when he was born the frustration of knowing I had nursed 2 children previously without any issue and the midwife saying that he needed to be given formula right away because he just wasn’t taking enough from my breasts. I remember feeling confused as to why the act that I had assumed would be as natural to this hairy little beast as it had been to his brother and sister was just not happening.
I remember feeling pissed off with myself because as much as I knew that I wanted to breastfeed I was just too tired to argue after being in pain for hours before. I remember the temporary relief as he was taken away for his “first proper feed” as they put it and then of course that first flush of our favourite – Mummy guilt.
Mummy guilt is a bitch. I don’t know about you but for me it is there from day 1 right through to, well, I don’t know the answer to that because actually I am 15 years 7 months and 5 days into being a Mum and that guilt has been ever present. That’s ok and I think I would miss it now if I didn’t feel it.
I remember how sad I felt when the midwives (who really were just trying to help I am sure) offered to go get a bottle of formula the following day when again my tiny boy just would not latch. All I could do was in my hospital bed feeling uncomfortable, alone and utterly defeated.
I remember later when my sister arrived. My sister who is 8 years my junior, as fierce in personality as she is short in stature and who as luck would have it also happened to be a breastfeeding peer support. Into my room she strode clearly excited to see her new nephew and armed with the best of gifts for a new mother; COLD caffeinated fizzy drinks and the best kind of junk food. She may as well have been wearing a full set of armour and riding a white steed (probably frowned upon in most hospitals). Moments after she took a look at my fed up face and I had relayed the situation she had marched off and returned with the largest breast pump I had ever laid eyes on. An instant game changer and I had the help I needed.
Of course it was still tough. I soon realised that my little Moose was a snacker – that meant I could kiss goodbye to more than a couple of hours sleep a night. I found my peace holding my beautiful boy close while the rest of the world (or so it felt) snoozed. With a lot of trial and error we got to the 6 month point – that’s where I stopped nursing his siblings – and on we went. When we reached 1 year people began raising an eyebrow if the subject arose. At 18 months I stopped volunteering the information. I was never ashamed or embarrassed about it, quite the contrary but I think people just assumed that we had moved on. We hadn’t.
I often thought then about how and when we should stop breastfeeding. There is a fair bit written about how to start nursing but not much about how to end it.
Do I wait for my son to stop? Would he ever? Should I instigate the stopping process? What the fuck would a stopping process involve anyway? What if he was still breastfeeding when he started preschool? If they are old enough to ask, is that too old? Did I care if society said it was?
It was something that had become part of his (and my) every day. As much as I am not a fan of routine really, this kind of was our routine and oh man. Those cuddles first thing in the morning and last thing at night. What would make me want to miss those? I read about picking a date and making that the last supper (as it were) and then one day not too long ago I realised that we were sitting on the sofa and we were having a cuddle.
He wasn’t pulling at my top or getting cross because I wouldn’t give him milk. We were just having a cuddle. In a way I wish I could have seen it coming so I could have made myself treasure those last feeds but that’s just not how it happened. As we cuddled I realised that I wasn’t sure how or when we started stopping…
…and that, was that. It was hard, it was easy. We had learnt how together and then it was over