I remember when we entered out first antenatal class way back in 2014. I knew I wanted to breastfeed the baby that was rapidly growing in my stomach, but I didn’t really know what that actually meant, beyond the obvious of course. We were given all the facts and “benefits” as part of our course and from there I read plenty on the subject. But nothing can prepare you for the reality. The (at times dark) art of breastfeeding – the tricks, the highs-and-lows, the physical and emotional demands – was something I had a crash course in when Little H made it earth side.
Whilst at times it was incredibly hard, it is a decision I have never regretted. As the months passed with Little H, my confidence in nursing her grew. We fed exclusively for 5 months, then introduced the odd formula feed and then food. When we approached 11 months, the final feeds naturally fell away and we found ourselves done. I was sad that part of our relationship was over but it was stress-free and natural – it really felt like what was meant to be. When 3 years later Little Z came along there was never a doubt in my mind about doing it all again. Yet, as I latched Little Z for the first time less than an hour after she was born, I never anticipated I would still be feeding her as we entered into the twentieth month of her life. And yet here was are – twice a day I feed by not-quite-so-little girl.
Exactly as my two darling girls have their own unique personalities, so too did / do they have their own attachment to breastfeeding. Little H was a fussy feeder (quite probably because she was the first) and as time passed she became less interested. Her sister though has been quite the opposite. She fed without challenge from day one and has only by extreme exception ever refused a good feed. Even once weaned, she still had two daytime feeds after her naps until I had to drop them in the month before I returned to work. She didn’t complain about it only because I gave her snacks instead!
But timings for my morning commute on returning to work this second time were different and I realised that it would be possible to keep the morning feed until Little Z was ready to drop it by choice. I didn’t think she needed the additional change whilst also adjusting to nursery. So we kept it there, along with the night feed. Time passed, first weeks and then months and there are no signs of stopping right now. And I am enjoying it. I love feeding her and it’s fascinating breastfeeding a toddler, something I didn’t experience last time. Breastfeeding a baby is a full-time job and a huge demand on a mother’s body. But breastfeeding a toddler is so different; my body is adjusted to it so it doesn’t feel like a drain. But dealing with feeding a squirmy toddler makes feeding like an upper body workout. She won’t just lay and feed anymore – she needs something to play with and more often than not I’m feeding her whilst she also cuddles at least one of her toys. Then there are the teeth… Nothing has you on edge than breastfeeding a toddler (naturally volatile by nature) with a mouth filled with 16 teeth!
We’ve come a long was from those cluster-feeding early days, with my balancing a feeding Little Z on my arm whilst trying to get Little H ready for bed. Now I’m boshed in the face; get the little feeding night light shoved up and down the sleeve of my t-shirt; get thumped on the arm, or worst pinched; get grumbled at because the side I’ve chosen is the not the side preferred and been summoned to feed by a hand thumping on the feeding pillow. Then between all of that there are those moments of calm that anchor the start and the end of the day, where I can stroke my little baby’s head and commit the details of her precious face to my mind. I’ve enjoyed every extra minute of breastfeeding Little Z beyond her first birthday. There is far too much opinion about breastfeeding and when mothers should stop; with some implying it’s wrong to go beyond 12 months. All I can say is that feeding Little Z at this age still feels completely right and natural – something woman should be supported to do if it’s right for them. Choice is everything. I don\t expect to breastfeed again so I can confidently say I will enjoy every single feed until it naturally reaches it end.