Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Am I asking you to put your nipple in my son's mouth? No. Then shut up.

Littlest Cat is coming up to his first birthday.  This huge milestone means not only presents, deciding whether to have a party and finally having to admit that my baby is now a toddler; it also throws up a question which I feel that I've been asked incessantly lately:

"So, when are you stopping breastfeeding?"

I don't understand the obsession.  He hasn't suddenly grown a beard and started reading Kafka.  He's still a tiny little boy, who hasn't yet quite worked out how his legs work and who thinks my tuneless renditions of Baa Baa Black Sheep are the height of entertainment.  75% of his nutrition should still be coming from his milk intake, no matter how much he enjoys chicken curry or fish pie.  And the healthiest, easiest and cheapest way for him to get that milk is from me.

He does have formula - a bottle before bed to try to keep him full for longer and often formula milk in his porridge or when I'm working at night, as pumping is no longer keeping up with demand and I can only spend so much time away from my desk.  I'm not anti-formula and I'm a firm believer that mothers should do what suits them and their babies.  What suits us, right now, is mostly breastfeeding with a bit of supplementing as required.

Even Daddy (Un)Cool has got in on the boob-bashing, though I have a feeling he was just in an argumentative mood and would have said black was white if it annoyed me.  During a protracted and heated exchange of views last weekend, he told me that I was making Dom into a mummy's boy; that he feeds too often (because a poster in the doctor's waiting room said he should feed 4 times a day and Littlest Cat has been known to do so 12 times); that there is no longer any nutritional value in my milk because it looks watery and once Dom needed more than his usual amount at night; that LC bites me; that I should get my life back.  In response, I told him that:

1)  Babies who wean when they're ready rather than being forced to often show increased security and confidence;
2)  All babies are different - Dom doesn't "feed" 12 times and day but bobs on and off, and that number is highest when I've been in work all week and he wants the security and closeness of the boob.  On a normal day with plenty of fun and as much Mama as he can stand, he may feed 3 times;
3)  Appearance has nothing to do with content of the milk and it is still important for him to have a large amount of milk daily;
4)  The biting doesn't happen often, only when he's teething or I misread his signals and try to feed him when he doesn't want it, and I see it as a teaching opportunity; 

Ideally, I would like to feed until LC decides he's had enough.  However, I don't envision myself being so patient or selfless as to keep going if he wants to breastfeed until he's 3 or 4.  In fact, if I made it to his second birthday and was still feeding, I would be very surprised - I just want it to be me or him who makes the decision, not someone outside of the nursing relationship.  I actually think that it'll start to faze out after his birthday.  He already rejects the boob at bedtime in favour of his bottle, so I think he's starting to assert his independence a little.  And I'm starting to look forward to having my body back, though it's not a huge deal for me as there is one piece I'll never get back.  The tiny boy who currently rules my boobs will always rule my heart, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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