The breastfeeding debate has been in full swing for many years now, from the 'breast is best' brigade to the mum's who feel victimised when they don't want to breastfeed, or more often find that they can't. I am not writing this piece to add fuel to the fire. This is simply the situation from my vantage point, and a situation several friends have also found themselves in.
I would come under the 'extended breastfeeding' category, pre kids it was never my intention to be an 'extended feeder', I had read, as most people have, the pros of skin to skin contact and breastfeeding in the early months, and I planned on feeding for just that, the early months. Today I am tapping this blog out on my smartphone while my 20 month old daughter sleeps on me- firmly clamped to my left breast. She follows in her sister's footsteps who was breastfed until she was two. However, unless you know me really well you would not know this about me at all. I am a secret breastfeeder.
The world health organisation has the opinion that a child should be exclusively breastfed until they are 6 months old and then continue to feed alongside their meals until they are two 'or more' so why do I feel the need to hide away when I feed? My daughter has strict 'boobie' times- to fit in with when we are at home; one when she wakes up in the morning, one as she dozes off at naptime and one at story time in the evenings. If it is a particularly bad night, or she is ill then she may be fed over night too, but I don't do it in front of extended family, I don't do it in front of friends and I definitely don't do it in public? The reason? I feel far too embarrassed to do so.
When the words 'extended breastfeeding' are uttered anyone familiar with particular sketch shows will automatically picture the 'bitty' sketch of a middle aged man still demanding to be breastfed. I admit it made me laugh, but all joking aside it really is the opinion so many people have, once your child reaches a certain age breastfeeding is 'disgusting'. It is almost as though a switch is flicked when they turn one and you go from feeding your baby one day to 'opening them up to all sorts of bullying' the next. The people who supported you so openly in the early days, praising you for sticking at the breastfeeding through sore nipples and sleepless nights suddenly drop remarks like, 'you are not still feeding her are you?' making you feel like a terrible mother.
Breastfeeding for us just worked. I'm not saying it was a breeze. The first two weeks with both daughters can only described as torture every time they latched on, the first time I have ever experienced 'toe curling' pain. But both daughters needed to be held, more so than a lot of babies. They would scream if I put them in their Moses basket at night so feeding helped sooth them, calm the colic, and enabled us to co sleep so I could get some rest. After months of sleepless nights it was the only way I could get my children to doze so it stayed, in daughter number one's case, until she would settle without it, which was shortly after she turned two. I fully expect the same thing to happen with daughter number two.
Somewhere along the line people forget that it is a food source, that in many developing countries it is the ONLY source of nutritious food. It has countless health benefits, and is an excellent way of bonding between mother and baby. For those that think it is 'disgusting' or I am scarring my children, my confident, well adjusted, healthy, eldest proves them wrong. I for one would like the breast feeding debate to come to an end once and for all. We don't look at someone tucking into a sandwich as disgusting, so neither should feeding your infant be deemed so. I certainly shouldn't be so embarrassed I don't even tell people I still breastfeed. As long as our children are fed, are happy and are healthy should it really matter? Parenting is hard, do what works for you, your family, and support one another to help get through the difficult days. Let's put this 'taboo' to bed once and for all!