It’s funny how over the years my opinions on so many things have changed. Maybe I have mellowed with age, or maybe I have now just lived enough of life to understand that the world isn’t black and white.
Whatever decision we make there are multitudes of shades of grey. We are all just winging it, making it up, taking one step at a time.
When I had my eldest, I was somewhat of a Breastfeeding Nazi.
She and I took to it like a duck to water, it was easy, effortless. I honestly couldn’t understand why anyone would do anything else.
After all, I figured. Why would anyone really want to get up in the night and make bottles? Mums who bottlefed (in my naive opinion) were either saints or crazy! There was no way I was sacrificing any more of my hard won sleep, my boobs were attached, life was easy….
Roll on the arrival of Number Two, some eight years later.
I was terrified of giving birth, anxious about juggling the needs of two children. But Breastfeeding? That was easy. I had it covered.
Breastfeeding I knew how to do.
Except I didn’t.
The second time around things didn’t go to plan. Number Two struggled with his latch and he couldn’t locate the nipple. In fact, most days he didn’t really seem to understand that he needed to open his mouth at all.
He began to stop gaining weight, was unhappy a lot of the time and I began to realise that maybe my principles were getting in the way of what was best for him.
Amidst many tears (mine) I began to express. Mission bottle feeding began.
Except, bottle feeding was even worse. He choked on every mouthful, quickly becoming aversive to the sight of the bottle anywhere near him.
I was a failure.
I was his mummy, but I had no idea how to feed him. He was no longer about what was right or wrong. I had no idea where to turn.
Eventually he learnt to feed whilst sleeping, asleep natural reflexes seemed to take over and he managed to gain weight. We continued to breastfeed. It was no longer a choice, it was necessity.
At five months, he eventually seemed to learn. I’ll never forget the moment, we were sat in the middle of Covent Garden and suddenly he started feeding. And there he stayed, in excess of five minutes, which in those days was unheard of.
Our friends were starting their weaning journeys just as we mastered breastfeeding. We had overcome our first hurdle just as another began.
Weaning, as those who are regular readers of the blog will know, didn’t exactly go to plan for us. Food is – even now – a daily challenge. Weight gain is slow, few foods are tolerated and even fewer are swallowed.
The bottle is no longer our enemy, but neither is it our friend. Number Two will take tiny amounts, from bottle and cup. But not enough from either to keep him hydrated and nourished.
So, we still breastfeed. Twice nightly, but also during the day. At home and out and about.
Like a much younger baby, breast milk remains Number Two’s primary source of nutrition. We have been told that in the coming months he’ll need a tube. Breast milk alone won’t keep him going much longer.
I have no idea whether I would still be feeding him now if our lives were different. It’s entirely possible that I would be at least at night.
But our extended breastfeeding journey would then have been more discreet. I would not have been pulling my top up in cafes, or park benches beyond what is considered the norm.
I would have had more choice about where and when I fed him.
But this is not the case.
So this is my answer to those that stare, to those that tut, and to those who look away with disapproval in their eyes.
I wish with all my heart, my son could sit and eat like yours. I wish I could give him food and know he’d eat it, I wish I didn’t spend every waking minute worrying if he had enough calories inside him.
But our reality is different.
And that is ok too.
So yes, I still breastfeeding. And I will continue to do so as long as my son needs me to do so.
I am not making a moral point. I do not judge you for how you fed or continue to feed your children.
We all walk different paths. Life is not black and white.
One day, I will no longer be able to snuggle him in my arms as I feed him. I will be reliant on wires and tubes.
But that day isn’t yet.
So please don’t judge me.
Our feeding days are numbered, our journey has been one of necessity but that doesn’t mean I don’t relish those moments holding my boy close.