When you realise you have been breastfeeeding for nearly a decade
|Breastfeeding is hard work, but rewarding for your lambs|
It seems like only yesterday that I was squeezing my first breastmilk into a wine glass and holding it aloft in wonderment: ‘Hey, look at this, it’s all just squirting out of me now!’ I yelled excitedly.
My husband pulled an expression that suggested both disgust and pleasure, as if praising a child going to the potty for the first time.
On that day in 2008, I set out on a journey, one I had no idea would be so long. Many middle-aged ladies, including my mother, had boasted they breastfed their children for up to a year. That sounded like a good stretch, and I was ready to give at least half that a whirl.
The health messages about breastfeeding seemed positive and it seemed a convenient way to roll.
After a few months with my firstborn, I considered giving up. Totally exhausted, raw of nip and dying just to go to bed with my own boobs and no one else, I tried to wean my now unfeasibly chubby baby of my chest.
It felt oppressive, I felt trapped and wanted my old life, where my overactive volcanic little udders did not require constant attention.
But it was to no avail. Despite my negative thoughts, the lad loved it, was growing fat on it and I couldn’t think of a more efficient way to keep him happy. He just kept on champing away and showed little interest in food until 9 or 10 months old.
My parenting skills were underdeveloped and I was easily frustrated with my squawky toddler, but my boobs were the best baby calming tool in my apprentice’s toolbox.
After many false dawns, my eldest child supped his last boob at 18 months...and with relief and sadness I tucked my now shrunken breasticles into a cheap push-up bra. And then decided it would be fun to have another baby.
When the next young chap came along, I went through the same happy pantomime of stuffing him with milk, despite his tongue-tied gnawing technique. I remember the indescribable pain of him chewing at my grossly engorged bap as I watched Tottenham burn during the 2011 London riots. My pain was London's pain and vice versa.
But he too stopped at 18 months, with a gentle urging from me, and my nips took a well earned break while they waited for our little daughter to come long.
She appeared in 2015 and displayed an incredible ability to feed with skill from my pre-stretched teats as I screeched at my other kids over her tiny soft little head.
I soon realised that, in my mind, breastfeeding was no longer a burden to me. It had become a way of life. If I was a superhero, it was definitely my specialist skill.
I hoped it kind of made up for being such a shouty, angry mum. I may not be the kindest and gentlest mother, but my kids have always had 24 hour access to a free milky buffet.
The youngest is now nearly three years old and still pretty keep on nibbling on the remnants of my chest. I was told she would ‘self wean’ at two, but I did not notice her enthusiasm waning.
In agreement with my husband, I made a couple of half-hearted attempts to deter her from under my top. But it was, apparently, still a most appealing place to go.
Many breastfeeders say they gave up when their child grew teeth...my child can tell me how well my boobs are performing, flow-wise, and give a full review of the taste, and she is nowhere near giving up.
I know society in general seems uncomfortable with a bit of pre-schooler breastfeeding, but I’ve now decided I’m not going to force her to give up.
If I’m not too busy and she’s keen, I don’t mind. I occasionally wonder if I will become like one of those women in documentaries who have been breastfeeding their kids until secondary school. But I guess I will stop when it starts to feel weird. Right now, it feels just fine.