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.
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.