Friday, 28 January 2011

Breastfeeding

Some weeks it feels like I've gone all week without a break.  Well this is my first real break this week (it's Friday, yawn) and I thought I'd dump out of my brain something I was thinking about last night in bed.

My son and I have had a sometime fraught relationship with breastfeeding from day 1.  I always wanted to breastfeed since I found out I was pregnant; probably because I was in the (now unusual) situation of being a child born in the 70's who was breastfed.  I'm sure the fact that breastfeeding rates are so low now is because the grandmothers of todays kids didn't commonly breastfeed.  There are lots of reasons for that but from what I can tell, it's mainly because mothers were told not to breastfeed more often than every 4 hours and babies were taken away from their mothers for long periods in maternity wards, neither of which will help milk production in the first days.

Anyway, our relationship has always been fraught because he's never fed like the books say he should (5 mins has always been a good feed for my little man and he likes to be fed often; both of which are "wrong" according to Gina Ford, Babywhisperer and any other number of child rearing books.)  So I spent several months trying to solve our "problem" before realising it was only a problem in my head as my son was unable to read the books and know what he should be doing and the frequency of his day feedings seemed to have no bearing on the night feeds even when I hit the hellishness of 4-6 months.

The next problem I had was well meaning people from those I know to those who are meant to support.  Here, I found myself stuck between two camps.  I found the breastfeeding supporters all "right on" cloth bummed baby wearing cosleeping types (nothing wrong with that but it's a bit much to aspire to for me) and other people who just thought I was making life hard for myself by breastfeeding and letting my son rule me (which at times felt like they were talking sense.)  At 4-6 months as we were going through hell and my son was demanding feeds hourly during the day sometimes and up to 6 times at night, the well meaning types were telling me to take up formula, the breastfeeding advocates were saying "it's a growth spurt, go with it" (to which I replied "really?  For 8 weeks?").  In the end I listened to myself and what I needed (as formula was looking more appealing by the day) so we did a bit of sleep training.  I couldn't bring myself to do controlled crying so we did PUPD and got down to 1 feed in about 3 weeks.

So why all this reflection?  Well I decided last night that he's nearly 9 months old now, has always gained weight well and normally feeds around 3/4am so we should give it a go and see if he can make it through the night.  Part of me feels a bit of loss that this is what I'm aiming for now which has surprised me.  I think it's brought it home to me that as I'm returning to work in May I will be cutting back to the morning and pre bedtime feed in 3 months and then stopping completely as around a year has always been what I've thought I could give.  Despite all the hard work, that does feel difficult.

What will I miss?  There is a sense of closeness, especially on that pre bedtime feed (which I think was why I got so upset when he started refusing it for a while).  The fact I know I'm not the perfect mother but I'm giving him something which will help him and well, it is perfect for him, even if I'm not.

What won't I miss?  The looks.  I wish I was more confident at feeding in public and I have got more confident but now he's 8 months and although he's average sized, people think he's older than he is and so the staring and looks have got worse.  I think people seem to get really uncomfortable at the sight of me breastfeeding a baby who's much longer than my lap now.  I keep saying to myself that I have to keep doing it as part of the battle to normalise seeing babies over 6 months old breastfed or else it will always be a problem to people and frankly I refuse to be hidden away but it's hard.

Though I look like my hair has been combed with a hedge most days so people could be staring because I look a mess!

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