Bye Bye Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has been a huge part of my life, ever since the first ever latch 9 years ago! I can’t say it’s always been the easiest of journeys but neither is motherhood full stop. It’s been 6 months now since my daughter naturally weaned, I may no longer be actively breastfeeding but I’ll always be a breastfeeding Mama.
I’ve written about my breastfeeding journey before but now we’ve reached the end and it’s time for a little reflection. If you’d have told me I’d be feeding a 4 year old in my pre mother days I’d have laughed in your face! For some, natural term breastfeeding is something they always knew they’d do, that wasn’t me. In all honesty I didn’t even know about it, hence me weaning my eldest at one year. I simply thought that was what I was meant to do, feed until age one then wean onto cows milk. I wasn’t aware of my options. And there lies my Mummy guilt. I know I gave my son a great start but I can’t help but feel sad that he didn’t get the same as his younger siblings. It may sound silly but if you’ve ever done something different or in your mind “better” than you did with an older sibling, you’ll totally understand that guilt.
For me feeding baby no.2 and no.3 was a given and it was crazy easy. I knew what I was doing, I didn’t feel any pressure regarding weight gain, length of feeds or breastfeeding in public. It was just part of our lives and honestly I barely thought anything of it. Sleepy baby, sad baby, ill baby, hurt toddler – whip out a boob! Grazes, ear infections, eye infections, blocked noses – breastmilk was the answer!
Now here we are, my milk has dried up. My daughter didn’t feed forever, my boobs aren’t down to my knees. She used to feed to sleep snuggled up to me, now she falls asleep snuggled up to me! It doesn’t really feel like much has changed. It doesn’t feel like there’s a big gapping hole in our lives where breastfeeding used to be. We’ve moved on. I do have the odd tingle in my boobs and I’ve been convinced it’s a sudden random let down at times!
When I stopped feeding our eldest I cried. I felt sad. Looking back now I know I wasn’t ready but I was pressured by so many things around me to stop. It wasn’t a particular person, it was my lack of knowledge of my alternatives. There’s a huge difference between wanting to wean and feeling you should. Second time my son decided, it felt like it came out of nowhere! In one week he threw his dummy at me, weaned and moved into a toddler bed, I was a tad emotional. I was also pregnant so yeah extra hormonal and a probable reason for him weaning too.
Now this time, the third time, the last time. There was no younger sibling to change my milk. But more importantly I had this online tribe of incredible women that made me feel normal for this choice! I’ve lusted over gorgeous images from fellow photographers all over the world, capturing the natural journeys of women with their children. I’ve worked with my fellow breastfeeding mamas too, ranging from newborns to 3 and 4 year olds. Watching these women around me made me feel less alone, I could’ve done with them all those years ago!
And let’s not forget my own history, through the journey that I’ve made over the last 9 years of Motherhood. Through experience we grow stronger and more secure in our choices. It doesn’t mean that negative comments don’t hurt (Like some of the awful comments I experienced following my interview – SEE HERE), but it does mean that I was secure in my choice to naturally wean, that I wouldn’t be influenced by the negative thoughts of others.
So when a person questions why a Mother may choose to document her breastfeeding journey, think about what it means to her and any other mother that may see that image. She may not have a support network, she may just need to see that image online and it’ll reassure her that her choice is valid. That she is not alone.
I am thankful to breastfeeding for so many reasons and I am so proud of myself for such an incredible accomplishment. I used to be afraid to say that out loud for fear of making another Mother feel bad or that I was “up myself” for saying so. But no, this journey was ours and ours alone. So right now I am owning this, I AM proud of myself! One year, 2 years 3 months and 4 years 2 months, that’s a lot of breastmilk!
Bye bye breastfeeding, I will miss you but this time there is no sadness. It was the most beautiful and gentle weaning process. It was slow and steady and this time we were both ready for it.