It is now almost three years since I first latched Piglet to my breast that surreal morning in the hospital. Technically, he is not yet three, but unless he suddenly weans in the next few weeks, it looks as though I will have a nursing three year old. I am fully prepared for the onslaught of negative media coverage when we appear on the front of Time magazine under an inflammatory clickbait heading in the style of this duo.
Three years since I battled my way through the challenging early feeding terrain, swatting away the concerns of my mother-“TWO WEEKS until you can get an appointment with the breastfeeding counsellor? He might be on the bottle by then!“-and desperately pleading with those who had been there before me that “it does get easier doesn’t it? Please tell me it gets easier” before almost keeling over and expiring there and then at the thought of doing this-THIS!- for another three months or, God forbid, six months.
Well, we got there. And we got there. And we passed a year. And then two, and now we are on the cusp of three and still going. We have gone past the NHS guidelines, past the oft-quoted (by me) WHO guidelines (shame, as I can no longer use either of these as a handy defence against the aghast faces of those who insist on having unwelcome opinions on the right time to stop breastfeeding). And still we show no signs of stopping or even, for that matter, slowing down. I am starting to lurch dangerously into the sort of territory that could garner interest from some of the nation’s lower-rent tabloids (hello, Daily Mail!), a puzzled look from Phil on This Morning, or even a debate between the Loose Women peppered with personal anecdotes about leaky bosoms.
I’m not sure how long I intended to breastfeed for. In the difficult early days, taking it each day at a time was the only way to get through, and then I became preoccupied with the milestones. Six months, one year, two years….and now I am in the murky territory of not particularly feeling the need to stop, with a child who continues to love his milky pops and requests it frequently, and the only reason to stop seems to be the disapproval of others. And I will not let the disapproval of others dictate my choices. But sometimes, I admit, words can hurt. Words like
“You’re doing it for your own benefit.”
Well, they say that the longer you breastfeed, the lower your chance of developing breast cancer, so I suppose there is some truth in the idea that I also benefit from extended breastfeeding. However, my principal reason for breastfeeding isn’t to avoid getting cancer-such things can never be entirely insured against and anyway, I’m sure there are plenty of other things I do which have the opposite effect like, I don’t know, drinking wine, using cleaning products…..Who even knows? What is certain is that very often there are more inconveniences than benefits with breastfeeding. It’s nice having a bit of a sit down every now and again and a mindless scroll through Facebook or enjoying the guilty pleasure of poking around in other people’s houses on Escape to the Country or whatever gimmicky property show Kirstie and Phil are presenting nowadays, but generally speaking, I can think of things I’d rather be doing than having a small child twist my nipples around in their mouth whilst flailing their legs about.
“You’re trying to keep him a baby.”
No. Just no. Babies are great, but-dare I say it-toddlers are more fun, and unlike babies, they can tell you what they do and do not want. Today, whilst trying to stave off a demand for milky-pops, I dangled the possibility of watching an episode of Paw Patrol in front of Piglet, only to be met with cries of “No! Paw Patrol rubbish!” He loves Paw Patrol, just not as much as milky-pops, evidently, but one day, I guarantee that the preferences will be reversed, which leads me to….
“You’ve left it too late! You’ll never get him off the boob now!”
It seems quite clear to me that this is patently false. As a secondary school teacher, I have met many teenagers, and not one of them is still having milky-pops (AS FAR AS I KNOW). Let’s hope for the best on this one. La Leche League seems to think that the natural weaning age for humans is anywhere from three to seven years, so I could be going for a while yet, but probably not as far as the words above seem to imply. All I can say on this one is thanks David Walliams and Little Britain, but I can only hope that in real life there are no middle aged men going around demanding bitty from their mothers, and even if there are, we will not be among them.
So why AM I still breastfeeding? Well, in a nutshell, it’s easy (this one’s for all you struggling new mothers out there. Have hope-it DOES get easier), he still wants it, it calms him down and helps him sleep, and it costs nothing on my part, except the occasional raised eyebrow and some awkward feeding positions. If he didn’t want milk anymore, I would stop tomorrow, but other people’s opinions are just that-opinions. Ones I don’t happen to share.