It started happening around six months, the weaning from the breast. It started with comments like: “I don’t know how you can keep doing that” and “Haven’t you had enough?” There were phrases that practically echoed formula ads and that skewed NHS guidelines.
I suppose it started earlier. In the past year only 47.2 per cent of women were found still breastfeeding when their babies were six to eight weeks old. And yes there may be a cultural aversion to breastfeeding, depending on where they live, but I’m sure many of those women would have liked to have continued. In one way or another, they were unsupported, maybe before they had their babies, maybe after and maybe both.
But I didn’t notice people stopping around then. That was when it started with the pumping, the domperidone, the SNS, the breast compressions. That was when I was up and down, feeling like a failure because my breasts were not producing enough milk for my baby to progress beyond static weight gain.
Trapped in my own breastfeeding maze, I did not see bottle feeding mothers. They were invisible to me. All I saw were breastfeeding mothers. I saw them tenderly and easily feed their babies. It stung.
When Talitha was five months old, we finally got to a place where I wasn’t supplementing or pumping in order to feed her. I was ready to join this sisterhood of breastfeeding mothers (of course, I had always been part of it anyway), except most of the mums I knew were stopping. I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
So, I found a new reason to go to my local breastfeeding group. I wanted to be around mothers who’d decided to keep going simply because it made sense. When Talitha was eight months old, I trained as breastfeeding peer supporter. This too made sense, to remain in this breastfeeding community while giving back to it. I still thought, I might breastfeed for a year, for no reason other than I was still taking Domperidone and couldn’t believe that if I stopped taking it, my supply would be sufficient to continue.
A month later, I stopped taking it, weaning off it slowly. We continued. Her weight was stable. I saw the future stretch out before me without arbitrary limits. There was freedom in our breastfeeding relationship, for the first time. We could continue as long as we liked. No GP’s power to prescribe would decide for us.
And so, a year came and went. I joined La Leche League and met mothers breastfeeding children far older than mine. It was beautiful. It was normal. And now two years have come and gone. The breastfeeding maze is all faded memory. And the numbers I breastfed alongside fall and fall, which is fine. Every mother makes the decision that’s right for her and her family.
But if it weren’t for these breastfeeding groups I go to, I reckon I’d feel like the last woman standing. I kind of think, though, I didn’t get out of that breastfeeding maze just to stop any old how.
I’ve written this post for this year’s Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, celebrating National Breastfeeding Awareness Week 2013. To gather points for a chance to win a grand prize of LOTS of breastfeeding-related products, please enter the Rafflecopter widget below. You can gather more points by checking out some of the other bloggers participating in the hunt this week:
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