Breastfeeding was my dirty secret

By the time my son was a year old breastfeeding was my dirty secret.

I fought incredibly hard to breastfeed my son, Cygnet.  I breastfed a bit in the hospital after birth. Or at least I thought I did.  I was never actually sure whether Cygnet got any milk or whether he was just there latched on for comfort. The midwives insisted on giving him formula in the hospital.  They were really busy. They were lovely but they didn’t have the time to help me with the whole breastfeeding thing.

It took about a week for my milk to come in. I was never actually sure when it did.  Cygnet lost over 10% of his birth weight.   The midwives recommended that I supplement with formula at every feed.  I was instructed to breastfeed for twenty minutes at the beginning of each feeding session and then top him up with as much formula as he wanted. 

He wanted more and more formula…and I felt more and more like a failure. 

There is nothing so crushing for a new mother as the feeling that you are unable to provide for your child. 

It took weeks, in fact about six weeks, for me to be convinced that I was actually producing milk and even then I googled constantly for tips on how to increase milk supply. I took fenugreek. I drank breastfeeding teas. I ate oats in abundance. I expressed like a demon.

My now ex said that I should give up.  He accused me of starving our child with my stubbornness. I continued to breastfeed. I continued to express milk every two hours.  I gradually reduced the amount of formula that I was giving Cygnet. His weight was creeping up.  And by about eight weeks I was able to cut out the formula altogether. 

Breastfeeding was never easy, but I was incredibly proud of myself for doing it.  I am incredibly proud of myself for my strength and perseverance. 

Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone and I am not even convinced that breast is always best.  The last thing I want this to be is a preachy post.  It isn’t.  I was proud of myself for breastfeeding because it was important and personal to me. 

Cygnet is now two, and I gave up breastfeeding a week ago.

breastfeeding was my dirty secret

When Cygnet was 6 weeks old I congratulated myself because I was still breastfeeding.

When Cygnet was 3 months old I congratulated myself because I was still breastfeeding.

When Cygnet was 6 months old I congratulated myself for achieving my 6 month breastfeeding goal.

When I returned to work when Cygnet was 7 months I congratulated myself for continuing to feed him in the morning, before he went to bed and then for a ‘dream feed’ at 10:30pm.

By the time Cygnet turned 12 months old it felt like breastfeeding was my dirty secret. 

I no longer breastfed anywhere but at home.  I stopped talking about breastfeeding.  I stopped wearing maternity bras.  I prayed that Cygnet would not grab at my breasts when we were out of the flat. 

But I was really enjoying breastfeeding and Cygnet was enjoying it too.  Breastfeeding was a nice part of our routine.  Breastfeeding enabled us to connect before I went to work and again at the end of the day when I returned.  It was really important for both of us.   

I separated with Cygnet’s father when Cygnet was five and a half months old.  I contemplated stopping breastfeeding when I started sleeping with someone when Cygnet was about eighteen months old. I never told the guy that I was breastfeeding, and I would get a bit nervous when he touched my breasts.  Breastfeeding was my dirty secret and I am lucky that I have never been a leaker!  Sex with someone who isn’t the father of your child when you are still breastfeeding feels a bit strange. 

But I didn’t want to give up.  My desire to breastfeed had eclipsed the sun.  I was proud of myself for having made it work.  I knew that, as a newly single mum in her mid-30s, this was probably going to be my only chance to breastfeed.  I just wasn’t ready to give up. 

I finally gave up last week.  The time had come.  Our breastfeeding sessions had got shorter and shorter.  Cygnet wasn’t really taking any milk.  I didn’t feel that I was really producing any.  Our night time routine includes lots of cuddles.  I didn’t feel that we needed the breastfeeding any more and neither did Cygnet. 

On the first night I took him for a play date after nursery.  He was so tired when we got home that he fell straight asleep.

On the second night he stayed overnight at his Daddy’s house. 

On the third night he seemed satisfied with the explanation that “boobies have gone away”.  The high necked t-shirt helped.

On the fourth night he didn’t even ask.

He was definitely ready.  We were both ready.

I don’t miss it now.  It was the right time to give up.  I am still incredibly proud of myself and I will cherish the extended breastfeeding memories. 

Goodbye breastfeeding.  For now, and probably forever. 

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  1. September 2, 2016 / 10:16 pm

    This makes me so happy and sad, all in one. In had an incredibly similar journey but had to give up much earlier, against my will almost and I missed it and still to this day, feel sad about it. I’m so happy that you were able to have a natural journey and end to what can be, a wonderful time of your life and parenting. I love this post xx
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    • thesingleswan
      September 3, 2016 / 8:29 pm

      Hi Hannah,

      Lovely to hear from you. I am glad that you enjoyed the post. Loads of love. Pen x

  2. September 3, 2016 / 9:23 pm

    Aww this is a poignant post! Breastfeeding is such an emotive subject and one that everyone has strong opinions on (including your ex, I can’t believe what he said!) but I think like you have done, you have to trust your instinct and do what feels right and when it is time to stop you will know. You have clearly done a fantastic job. I had two c-sections and first time round I was unable to breastfeed despite really trying. I tried but then we ended up in hospital so we went onto bottles. Even though I know it was the right thing to do for her, I still feel like I failed Oldest 🙁 #KCACOLS
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    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:38 pm

      Oh Emma, you absolutely didn’t fail. It is really hard to breastfeed after a C section. Well done for trying and well done for succeeding with your second. Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  3. September 3, 2016 / 9:54 pm

    Aww well done for keeping going when it seemed so tough. What an emotional post! #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:36 pm

      thanks Becky. pen x

    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:34 pm

      Hi Sunita,

      Thank you for reading and for your comment. Much appreciated. Pen x

  4. September 4, 2016 / 6:28 am

    It sounds like a very smooth transition for both of you. Well done for managing to breastfeed so successfully without much support. I just like you more and more with every post I read 🙂
    x Alice
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    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:33 pm

      Ah Alice, thank you so much. Pen x

  5. September 4, 2016 / 6:45 am

    I am SO glad you posted this. Josh is coming up to a year now and I am still happily breastfeeding, and although we’ve dropped some feeds I still want to breastfeed him before bed for a while longer. It seems so frowned upon and I’ve had a stupid comment said to me before that I shouldn’t do this! If I do half a good as job as you I’ll be so pleased xx #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:33 pm

      Ah, that is a lovely thing to say. Thank you. I firmly believe that you and only you should make the decision as to how long you breastfeed your baby. Ignore those comments. They are ignorant and mean. Pen x

  6. September 4, 2016 / 8:05 am

    It’s a shame we are in a society where breastfeeding can become a dirty little secret when all mothers are doing is nourishing their children like Mother Nature intended. Well done to you on having persisted and let it come to a natural end #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:32 pm

      Hi again Alex,

      Yes, I agree it is a shame, but so very true. Pen x

  7. Soppymum (Sara)
    September 4, 2016 / 8:13 am

    Well done for persevering. I’m still feeding my 13 month old and absolutely love it still! Good to hear that stopping wasn’t traumatic! #kcacols

    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:31 pm

      Hi Sara,

      thanks for your comment. Pen x

  8. September 4, 2016 / 10:37 am

    Well done you,what a great achievement after such a rocky start. We’re still breasfed ingredients at 22 months after a very shaky start due to tongue tie. I know he’s not ready to stop. Glad it was the right time for you. I’m sorry you felt it was your dirty secret. I’m sure your son has benefited from it immensely #KCACOLS
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    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:31 pm

      Hi Andrea,

      Thanks for your comment. Much appreciated. Pen x

  9. September 4, 2016 / 11:57 am

    I feel exactly the same and it sounds like we had similar breastfeeding experiences. #kcacols
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    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:30 pm

      Indeed, I think there are quite a few of us. pen x

  10. September 4, 2016 / 1:29 pm

    Wow, I think anyone who breastfeeds until their child pretty much self weans is amazing. It sounds like you had a hard start to your journey but you should be so proud of yourself for persevering. It is a shame you felt like it was a dirty secret once your child turned one. I breastfed my boy until he was 10months and I am hoping to be able to feed baby number 2 for the first year when he arrives in October..only time will tell though xx #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:30 pm

      Hi Wendy,

      Thanks for your comment and I hope all goes well well baby number two arrives in October. Pen x

  11. September 4, 2016 / 2:03 pm

    Oh , something so beautiful shouldnt be a dirty secret. I can understand why you did it but im glad you are telling us all now as you should be celebrated . Well Done You X X X #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:29 pm

      Thank you. Pen x

  12. September 4, 2016 / 5:34 pm

    Well done on making it to two years, that’s a brilliant achievement. I had a rough start with both of mine losing weight too, but I’m glad I stuck at it. It makes me feel sad sometimes that I’ll never do it again! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday
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    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:29 pm

      Hi Fran,

      Thanks for your comment. There are not many people who don’t have a rough time of it to start with I think. Well done for sticking with it. I know how tough it is. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:27 pm

      Hi Madeline,

      Yes, you are right, there is a hell of a lot of emotion tied up with breastfeeding. I could never have predicted how strong my desire to breastfeed would have been. Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  13. September 4, 2016 / 6:34 pm

    Well done for pushing through those tricky early days and for going so long and such a painless ending. I’m 9 months in now and am having mixed thoughts on ending. Part of me feels it’s the right time to draw a line under it – selfishly I like the thought of not having to wake up early for the first feed and the freedom of being ‘tied’ to the evening feed. BUT I’m not actually doing anything about it and carrying on feeding… I think when the time’s right the time will be right! Thank you so much for sharing this. #kcacols

    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:26 pm


      Thanks for your comment. Every mother/baby pairing is different and I believe that you will know when is right for the two of you. As long as you, and no one else makes the decision, I am confident that it will be the right one and at the right time. Pen x

  14. September 4, 2016 / 7:56 pm

    The first 10 weeks were really hard for me but I am so glad I persevered with it.

    To have persevered with it when you had such little support is something to be very proud of yourself for. Being a new mum is hard enough, none of us need the negativity you faced. #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:24 pm

      Congratulations Rachel. Well done for persevering. I know how tough it is. thank you for your comment. Pen x

  15. September 4, 2016 / 8:34 pm

    This is really a beautiful post, you can really feel the emotion. I think once you get to a year, people are ashamed to share that they are still breastfeeding. I am currently 6 months in and my aim is a year, but I really can’t imagine stopping. It’s the only time I have a nice cuddle with my son as he is forever on the move! Thank you for sharing. #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      September 4, 2016 / 8:41 pm

      Hi Louise,

      thank you for your comment. Stop when it feels ready for you…and not before. Good luck. Pen x

  16. September 4, 2016 / 8:55 pm

    Congratulations on breastfeeding for two years. It’s not easy and I genuinely admire anyone who manages to breastfeed. I has a c section and failed to breastfeed because of the pain and failed to try when I felt better. I wish I had. #KCACOLS
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    • thesingleswan
      September 5, 2016 / 8:12 pm

      Don’t beat yourself up Geraldine. C sections are really tough for breastfeeding. One of the girls in my NCT group breastfed after a C section. She had a really tough time of things. She ended up back in hospital because her scar got infected (not linked to the breastfeeding) and also with mastitis. thanks for your comment. Pen x

  17. September 4, 2016 / 9:08 pm

    This is such an emotional and honest post. Congratulations on reaching two years of breastfeeding, it’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve done since becoming a mum. It’s incredibly demanding. We are actually still going, my little girl turned 2 last month. I do feel a little bit uncomfortable doing it in public now but if it stops her from having a complete meltdown and she needs a bit of comfort then I will do it. I’d rather have that than her screaming the place down. #kcacols
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    • thesingleswan
      September 5, 2016 / 8:10 pm

      haha, very true. Yes a tantruming toddler is very embarrassing when you are in a civilised place where people are having a quiet cup of coffee. At least you have your secret weapons! Think of it that way. Pen x

  18. September 4, 2016 / 9:17 pm

    Feeling very emotional for you but it sounds like it was the right time for you both. I gave up breastfeeding my second only when pregnant with my third so knew I was (most likely) going to be doing it again. This time round it will be different. I know I will struggle to let it go 🙁 #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      September 5, 2016 / 8:08 pm

      Wow, well done you. And good luck with giving up without the pregnancy this time. Pen x

  19. September 4, 2016 / 9:32 pm

    I’m glad you’ve written this post, because I think it can be really emotional when you want to stop breastfeeding. I fed mine until 18 months and 16 months respectively, and I think I stopped when they were ready, but like you I had a feeling that others thought I should have stopped sooner. Good for you for carrying on as long as you and your baby wanted to. #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      September 5, 2016 / 8:07 pm

      Thank you. And well done to you for caring on so long with your two. I don’t know how people do it with two children. It is just so time consuming. Hats off to you. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      September 5, 2016 / 8:07 pm

      Thanks. Pen x

  20. September 5, 2016 / 6:13 am

    Congratulations! Breast feeding is hard and to get through those difficult early days is an achievement in itself. It’s sad that you felt you had it as a dirty secret but I know more stigma starts to be attached to those who breastfeed for longer, although I don’t know why. It is a personal choice that really effects no body but mum and baby. Anyway I’m glad you kept going to a time that was right for you xx #KCACOLS
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    • thesingleswan
      September 5, 2016 / 8:05 pm

      Thank you. Pen x

  21. September 5, 2016 / 12:58 pm

    My littlest is 2, and we recently stopped breastfeeding too. Like you, it was the right time for both of us, and he stopped of his own accord. There is something so warped about our society and breastfeeding:
    You MUST do it, but we WON’T actually help you. Breast milk is definitely best for your baby, but here, have some formula because your body probably isn’t up to the job. You MUST feed until at least 6 months, but after that it quickly starts getting WEIRD!
    Drives me nuts.
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    • thesingleswan
      September 5, 2016 / 8:05 pm

      Drives me nuts too! Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  22. September 5, 2016 / 1:21 pm

    Good for you! It’s sad you felt you had to hide it but I can understand why. You followed your instincts and did what was right for both you and your little one. That’s the most important thing, whatever anyone else thinks.

    • thesingleswan
      September 5, 2016 / 8:04 pm

      Thank you. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      September 5, 2016 / 8:13 pm

      Thank you. Pen x

  23. September 5, 2016 / 8:49 pm

    I fed mine for two years. My friend fed hers for 5 years. Both very working class single Mom’s. Anyone who told me it was wrong I’d tell them to take a running jump.
    Both myself and friend never had a single person criticise us. Perhaps it’s only something that happens in certain circles. I fed discreetly as did my friend. I do see some right on types making a massive show of whopping out their breasts and ensuring everyone gets a good eyeful of boobage.
    I’m certain you don’t/didn’t do this OP.
    I never really discussed breastfeeding with anyone TBH; I just did it and there were no issues, I don’t think anyone gave a shit how I fed my DC as long as they were fed and cared for.

    • thesingleswan
      September 5, 2016 / 9:01 pm

      Ah yes, I totally agree. And no, there was never any wild flashing of my boobs – not intentionally anyway, sometimes it is tough to feed a screaming baby discreetly. pen x

  24. September 5, 2016 / 8:54 pm

    A beautiful post. I love breastfeeding and still going strong at 7 months. A lthough i’m back to work next month so doing the morning, evening breastfeeding. I do get a bit of stick from my mother in law why I’m still doing it. Mind you she wondered why I breastfed in the first place!

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    • thesingleswan
      September 5, 2016 / 8:59 pm

      Ah yes, mother in laws, who’d have them. My now ex mother in law said to me “you are not one of those terrible women who breastfeeds in public are you?” I wasn’t that day! thanks for your comment. Pen x

  25. Liane wilson
    September 5, 2016 / 10:09 pm

    I’ve always found it bizarre when I hear about women wanting to breastfeed beyond a year for reasons too detailed to go into. But your post has helped me understand that you just stopped when it was right for you and your child to do so. Sounds completely natural to me now. Such a shame that you did have to feel it was a dirty secret. When you said you carried on because you both enjoyed it- I can’t think of any better reason to continue. It’s what was right for you and your baby. People will always judge – I guess it’s human nature but you don’t have to listen. And I am glad you didn’t. Thanks for helping me to think differently next time I hear about breastfeeding beyond a year. I wish also I’d had your strength and perseverance to continue doing something you felt was right for you and your child. I can imagine you are a fabulous mother in many ways.

    • thesingleswan
      September 6, 2016 / 8:31 pm

      Ah, thank you. I appreciate your comment. Pen x

  26. September 5, 2016 / 10:27 pm

    Oh Pen, that last sentence made me sad because it will be me soon, and I still love it. I’m not ready to give up, and Piglet is still feeding like a demon. Hopefully when the time comes to stop we will both be ready.

    • thesingleswan
      September 6, 2016 / 8:30 pm

      Hi Min,

      It doesn’t have to be soon for you. Stop at the time which is right for you and Piglet would be my advice. Pen x

  27. September 6, 2016 / 4:44 am

    Thank you for sharing this so beautifully. I’m sure it will resonate with a lot of other Moms reading this.
    I’m not a mom, but here in India, it’s perfectly normal for poor mothers to breastfeed their chldren until they’re over two years old. I guess with education and status come a lot more complications.
    Visiting you from #mg

    • thesingleswan
      September 6, 2016 / 8:29 pm

      Hi Corinne,

      Really interesting to hear about breastfeeding in India and how poor mothers tend to breastfeed their children for longer. I don’t know, but I suspect that in the UK the reverse is true and that it is more middle class mothers who breastfeed their children for longer. Not sure. Pen x

  28. Lol
    September 6, 2016 / 11:16 am

    I breast feed my daughter till she was two and and half only stopped as my son was due .He lost interest within eighteen months ,I think there is no right or wrong.

    • thesingleswan
      September 6, 2016 / 8:27 pm


      I agree, there is no right or wrong for everyone, there is only what’s right or wrong for the mother and child pairing, recognising that we are all very different. Pen x

  29. September 6, 2016 / 12:07 pm

    This is an excellent post and one I really relate with – I feel like breastfeeding is my dirty secret! I don’t talk about it anymore other than on the blog, and at 14 months we are down to a morning and evening feed – sometimes we even miss the evening feed if he’s asleep before I get home from work. I feel like I should be moving towards giving up, but more because society makes me feel like that, not because I actually want to! People seemed shocked when I say I am still feeding, but I don’t think they mean it in a nasty way, it’s more they just don’t realise I’m doing it, or that people do breastfeed for so long. Well done for stopping when you both wanted to, despite pressures from others! #fartglitter

    • thesingleswan
      September 6, 2016 / 8:26 pm

      It sounds like you are about 10 months behind me on your breastfeeding journey. I hope it works out for you and that you can stop at a time that is right for you and for no-one else. Pen x

  30. Evergreen
    September 6, 2016 / 1:25 pm

    I understand totally. It’s my ‘dirty secret’ too. When you go past a year, opinions shift drastically. It goes from ‘oh, well done you!’ To ‘Aren’t they a little old for that now?’ And my favourite ‘You don’t want to be one of those mums who is still breastfeeding when they go to school!’ Well, here’s the thing – I AM one of ‘those mums’. He’s five now, he still nurses a few times a week. It’s not wrong, I’m not ashamed – but I do fear the judgement. So most people don’t know. He’ll wean, when he’s ready. Hopefully on that day I’ll be ready too.

    • thesingleswan
      September 6, 2016 / 8:23 pm

      Wow, congratulations. that’s a real achievement. You must have a really good bond between you. Pen x

  31. September 8, 2016 / 7:07 pm

    Well done for breastfeeding him this long, you should be very proud. I love reading such post that actually shed a light that breastfeeding isn’t always easy. Glad your lil one adjusted well with no more boobies.#KCACOLS
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    • thesingleswan
      September 8, 2016 / 8:31 pm

      Thank you. Pen x

  32. September 9, 2016 / 10:05 am

    You did it just the right way and shouldn’t feel guilty! I struggled with my first and had to top up but with the second two, I had so much that I did’t need formula at all. You should give up when both ready, I stopped around 12 months and I know many who keep going longer than you! Well done for persevering. #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      September 9, 2016 / 9:37 pm

      Hi Sonia,

      Thank you!

      Pen x

  33. September 9, 2016 / 10:06 pm

    I had a very similar start to breastfeeding get like you did. And I breastfed my daughter until she was few months shy from three. After experiencing so much stress to get it started I was really annoyed when I started hearing from people that what I was doing was weird and I should stop. I stopped eventually as felt she was ready for it!

    • thesingleswan
      September 10, 2016 / 7:32 pm

      Well done! I feel that because I had to fight so hard to do something, I was so reluctant to give it up. Pen x

  34. September 9, 2016 / 10:50 pm

    Aspen came out ready to feed she latched on like a champion and it was instant love, but my milk was refusing to come in. During our hospital stay she was always on my breast and was attached and sucking perfectly but still I wasn’t producing more than a few millimetres of milk. A few days on she was loosing weight and crying all the time, we had to supplement and it broke my heart. We were admitted into a mother baby unit where I was given support and with the doctors and nurses we tried everything to increase my milk supply both narwal methods and medication, by no it just wasn’t happening. Still for 13 months I breastfed her, with every feed she would get the best of what I could give followed by formula. I hated the bottle, I was grateful my daughter was thriving, but I resented that bottle. She loved breastfeeding and it was a lovely bond between us. It took me a long time emotionally to accept I shouldn’t feel like a failure, but I will always be sad that I couldn’t sole breastfeed. I had high hopes that with my next baby it would work, but with both my other 2 children I had to top them up. The hardest thing was in public I aways felt when giving them a bottle that I looked like a bad mum.I never judged others in fact my sister chose to to even try as she just didn’t like the idea of breast feeding and I understood that’s her choice, but I harshly judged myself. I also found some peoples comments hard, my sister in law said to em everyone can breast feed you just need a good lactation consultant, I had had several location consultants and still nothing I was so upset when she said that to me. I think I was more sensitive to after having miscarriages I was disappointed with my body and felt like it was failing me. But I now see that I did the best i could, I have 3 amazing and healthy children who are actually really bright as well so clearly I did OK. Thanks Pen for such a great and honest post. #mg
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    • thesingleswan
      September 10, 2016 / 7:30 pm

      Hi Mac,

      thank you for such a great comment. I know exactly how you feel. I really really resented giving Cygnet a bottle. Before becoming a mother I never thought that I could feel this strongly about anything. I am glad that you still managed to feed for so long. That is a real achievement. You should be really proud of yourself. Pen x

  35. September 13, 2016 / 3:19 pm

    Sounds like a really positive journey overall and I’m glad it was easy for you both to stop when you’re ready. I’m very jealous as my son and I never figured it out. #fartglitter

    • thesingleswan
      September 13, 2016 / 9:50 pm

      Don’t beat yourself up. Breastfeeding is tough for a lot of us. Babies need to learn to do it to. He may not have been good at sucking, but he is probably going to be great at math in school…or something like that. Pen x

  36. May 18, 2017 / 5:22 am

    Oh … this has made me very emotional. You are right, it’s incredibly tough to deal with the feeling of failure. I expressed milk for my daughter but couldn’t keep up with expressing constantly and my milk supply eventually dried up. I’m breastfeeding my son, and I haven’t received any ‘are you still feeding him?!’ comments (yet). It’s such a personal thing, I think I’ll be very sad when it ends. It sounds like you did amazingly well, with what seems like a not very supportive ex! #brillblogposts

    • thesingleswan
      May 18, 2017 / 8:09 pm

      Oh Meg,

      I am sorry to make you emotional. I hope you are doing okay. Breastfeeding and expressing are so hard. Well done you for doing it. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      May 21, 2017 / 8:39 pm

      Thank you. You are right, breastfeeding isn’t for everyone. Pen x

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