As I’ve mentioned once or twice, I like breastfeeding. Personally, generally, physiologically, politically, ideologically. Whatever-ally, I’m all for babies getting human milk right from the source. To state the obvious, it’s
free, convenient, healthy, soothing, comforting…. just better. And most of the time I love actually doing it, rather than just delighting in its betterness. In the first few weeks, despite the attachment pain, I wallowed in the satisfaction of the fact that I could do it. Not only that, but after a pregnancy of fretting that genetics were against me, I gloried in being the first breastfeeding woman in my family for at least three generations. A month or so in, the attachment pain disappeared, and the small one and I settled in to the comfort zone, curled up together, his tiny fist pressed into my breast, eyes blissfully closed. And he fed and he fed and he fed. Every three hours or so, round the clock, in every conceivable location, without pause. Somewhere in those early months I anticipated mourning the age when he would only want the ‘bookend’ feeds of morning and bedtime. I anticipated that this would be around 12-18 months (yes yes, laugh all you like, god knows I do). And so the months slipped by. Six months, small is still going strong, flirting with the odd morsel of food but reeling in horror at the offer of expressed breast milk in any vessel (bye bye Masters study, I’m staying home to breastfeed with a mixture of relief and regret). Eight months, still going strong, powered by breastmilk and three-four cornflakes per day. Ten months. Twelve months, still going strong, stretching out to all of four-five hours between feeds, handily allowing me to go back to work doing a weekly half shift of four hours. Twelve and a half months, reluctant mamas crack under pressure and force the food issue. Thirteen months, meals! Expressed breast milk in a cup or bottle! Naively, I assume that as small eats more he will breastfeed less. Not heaps less of course and I certainly don’t want to wean him, but a little less? One feed less? Ha! With his big brown eyes, his most solemn expression and one hand possessively clutching the neck of my t-shirt, the small one has no need for words to express the obvious… Oh mama, why would I want to do that? So, at sixteen months he’s still feeding like each feed could be his last, vigorously, desperately, every two to three to four hours, round the clock.
Mostly it is still deeply satisfying. It’s certainly not at all painful or difficult any more – small could feed upside down and tap-dancing if he felt like it. I can smugly report that he’s never been more sick than having the most minor of colds. It is a hugely convenient way to keep a now keenly mobile child still and quiet when I need to. And so on and so forth and blah blah blah. In itself, breastfeeding has not changed. It is still free, convenient, healthy, soothing, comforting… You get the picture. And mostly I continue to delight in it. Mostly I have adapted to sleeping in three hour intervals and expressing when I work and continuing to feed any time any place. Mostly I love dealing with the looks of horror when strangers seeing me feed ask me how old small is. And I certainly love the occasional looks of joy in the same scenario. That’s a buzz.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I’m over it. Really over it. Sometimes I think if my nipples get idly twiddled and distractedly bitten once more I will run out of the house screaming. Sometimes I think if I have to wake just one more time overnight to feed I will sneak away and hide in our spare room and leave the beloved to fend off small as he sleepily gropes his way across the bed. This week is one of those times. Early in the week we had a 24 hour interstate trip. Small fed through most of the outbound plane trip, through the night in a tiny hotel room, through part of every meal, through each of the five appointments we attended and through most of the plane trip back. (See above re breastfeeding being a convenient method of quiet immobilisation.) Not unreasonably I suppose, he now seems to feel that he cannot be within a five metre radius of me without being attached to my breast. It’s driving me bananas. Rationally, I know I have caused this. Rationally, I know I can’t spend 24 hours saying ‘Drink Up!’ and just as suddenly switch off the tap. But I don’t care. I just want to be able to go five minutes without a wailing limpet scaling my leg and pulling my top off. And you may say ‘Just Say No!’ or some such, but it’s not that simple. The small one, reveling in his emergent toddlerhood is very determined. Can’t imagine where he gets that from. Bloody genetics.
I know I want a lot. I want to demand-feed but I don’t want there to be too much demanding. I want an abundant supply without too much demand. I want to night-wean but I still want to co-sleep. I want to follow small and respond to his needs but I want him to be less needy. I want to complain about this without alienating everyone who’s ever struggled to breastfeed. Right now, at seven pm, I want to pack up my boobs for the night and not get them out until seven am tomorrow. I want to sleep the long, heavy sleep of my pre-baby years. I want a spare lactating woman, or two. I’m happy to return the favour*. Just not today.
*For an excellent discussion of co-feeding, or ‘Informal Breastmilk Sharing’ look over here at PhD in Parenting