Thursday, 15 September 2016

First Foods and Final Feeds


It has been a month of no longers recently.

I am no longer 'extended' breastfeeding.
I am no longer tandem nursing.
I am no longer exclusively breastfeeding.

The first two I'll admit I'm rather pleased about. Feeding my 4 year old through pregnancy was an uncomfortable experience but even that didn't prepare me for feeding her after the baby was born. I was hoping for a magical bonding experience: I got extreme discomfort and almost a sense of revulsion. The feeling of aversion was overwhelming.

Don't get me wrong, there were perks. In the early days when I got engorged and Ezra's tongue tie meant he wasn't feeding efficiently I was very grateful to have a child who had feeding down and could bring some much needed relief. But when things settled down it became toe-curling. Just with her, weirdly, feeding Ezra never bothered me.

I started setting limits until eventually we were down to one very short feed in the morning. She started to complain that the milk didn't taste right, or she couldn't get much, and I suggested maybe her mouth was changing shape so it wasn't as easy to keep feeding. (There is some science behind that I think although I was using it rather selectively!) I gently raised the idea that she would eventually be too old to breastfeed, and off her own back she said she'd stop when she started school.

Phew.

In the end, it didn't even take that long. In mid-August, the day before we went on a 2 night trip to the coast, she had her morning feed then said she was done having mum milk now. When we got back from the holiday she asked a couple of mornings but when I gently said, "I thought you said you were finished with mum milk?" she would happily distract herself playing with Ezra. I think one morning she wouldn't be put off, and then one night she woke up and asked for mum milk. That was the last time I fed her, sat on her be in darkness.

I thought I'd feel sad when she stopped breastfeeding, but the relief of not having to endure the discomfort any more, and the fact I've still got Ezra to feed, has meant that I'm actually happy about it. I feel a bit guilty for nudging her towards weaning by putting limits on feeding and planting the idea that she would grow out of it, but in the end she was happy enough to stop and, for goodness sake, I fed her for FOUR AND A HALF YEARS! What the heck is there to feel guilty about in that? I've fed her through teething, developmental leap, toddler tantrums, scraped knees and all the challenges being a preschooler brings. And I do believe it's helped her to be the confident girl she is by giving her a sense of attachment and grounding through these tough early years.

Then a couple of weeks later, Ezra turned six months and started eating solid foods. And he loves his food! On the second day of weaning we gave him curry: every time he ran out of food he would bang on his tray and grumble until we gave him more! While it's interesting and exciting to see him enjoy his grub, I do feel sad about the fact I'm not his sole source of nourishment any more. He's my last baby so I will never exclusively breastfeed again. I'll never look at my baby and think, "I grew every ounce of that!" (And he weighed nearly 20lb at six months so that is an achievement I think!)

I know that solid food isn't the end. I know I probably will 'extended' breastfeed again. Heck, if he's like his sister I might have another four years of breastfeeding ahead of me! But coming to the end of so many parts of my breastfeeding journey all at once feels very strange.

I'm so proud of myself for what I have achieved. I think back to the early weeks with Eleanor when I didn't think I'd last a month breastfeeding, and can't believe I managed it. And I'm still managing it. I may not be a great mum most of the time, but if there's one thing I can do well, it's nurse my little ones!

2 comments:

  1. Well done on a fantastic achievement. Don't feel guilty, there's no way the gentle suggestions would have worked if she wasn't ready. M never picks up when I am suggesting something except watch tv or eat sweets.

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    1. Thank you, and you're right, she isn't very suggestible normally - not with me, anyway, hangs off every word her friends say though!

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