And now, the end is here.
And so we reach the final curtain.
Blah blah blah whatever the lyrics are (sorry Frank, but eighties Madonna is more my karaoke of choice).
I did it my way.
A year ago, I wrote a piece about breastfeeding a three year old, and various media outlets picked it up, hoping to get a few website clicks off the back of my outrageous parenting. How selfish of her to still be breastfeeding a child that old! She’s only thinking about herself! It’s unnatural! For some reason the topic of breastfeeding still provokes so much debate that if you google “extended breastfeeding” you will mainly find stories of women feeding eighteen month olds, still well below the WHO’s recommended minimum of two years, and asking Google how to wean a four year old produces barely any relevant results, with most people discussing how best to wean their four month olds. Most of the proffered “advice” also involves “getting daddy to put the child to bed,” which is fairly useless from where I’m sitting.
Am I really that unusual? Well yes, possibly, but not amongst my peers. I’m sure I know others who have breastfed four year olds, but it’s something that stays on the quiet, as though it was somehow shameful.
The truth is, if left to his own devices I don’t know how long he would continue. Piglet loves his “pops” and demands it often. It soothes him when he’s upset, tired or in pain, and sends him to sleep each night and again when he wakes up in the morning and after each sleep cycle. I still don’t know how I’m going to get him to sleep without it, but with a heavy heart, I have decided that it’s time to stop, and his fourth birthday, the summer holidays and the impending start of his school years in September seems like the ideal time. Not to mention the more selfish reason of wanting to be able to pack him off to his grandmother’s overnight every once in a while. The love life needs to be sorted at some point, and God knows it’s long overdue.
I have been preparing Piglet for the inevitable by reminding him at regular intervals of his own increasing maturity. “You’re a big boy now. You’re going to be FOUR! And you know what happens when you’re four, don’t you Piglet?”
“Yes, he answers dutifully. “Pops will be CUT DOWN.”
I’m not sure if he thinks “cut down” means that the availability of pops will be greatly reduced, but probably still there and hopefully no cause for alarm, as though it was a hypothetical balsamic vinegar in the aftermath of a no-deal Brexit, or if he literally thinks my breasts are being cut off, like a fighting amazon from the mythological Golden Age, but either way, I suspect that the prospect of going cold turkey on breastmilk is going to be painful for both us. Perhaps literally so for me. Could I still end up with the rock-hard and sore boobs of oversupply after four years? I’m about to find out.
My breastfeeding journey has been long and blessedly not too eventful-the several unpleasant instances of blocked ducts are now safely so far into the past as to be all but forgotten, and to think of myself as a new mother, wondering how anyone could breastfeed for four months, let alone four years, is almost to think of another me, in another lifetime. Most of my peers who had children around the same time have gone on to have siblings-and to complete their breastfeeding journeys with those younger children too. How strange it must seem to them that my almost school-age child is still at his mother’s breast. I try to make myself feel better by thinking of Juliet Capulet, everyone’s favourite totally pathetic Shakespeare character. Juliet! I say to myself. There’s a line in Romeo and Juliet that reveals that Juliet was weaned at four. And look what happened to her! Such a successful life! What a role model!
Fictional teenage suicides aside, there must be LOADS of great people who were breastfed practically until maturity, right? The World Health Organisation says it’s really good for you, and Trump is trying to sabotage it, so breastfeeding must be great!
And you know what, it works for us.
I will be sad to see it go. I will miss those milky cuddles, and the sleepy milk-drunk face of calm happiness, but all good things come to an end, and all things considered, I think I’ve done my time.