Boob or Bust! I’ll breastfeed my son until WE are good and ready.

Breastfeeding

Hi y’all,

So many things have stood in the way of me writing regularly and so there has been a wee hiatus. And here I emerge from literally weeks and weeks of everyone in my family suffering back-to-back servings of bronchitis and related stuff. You will note from a previous posting that my little boy is extremely small (8kg at 21 months), so illness and teething, which almost definitely put him off his food, (getting him to eat well is always a challenge but sometimes we kick big goals…illness kicks us in the teeth…so to speak) means a plummet in weight and a very stressful time all around. He was teetering on the 9kg mark, and now we find ourselves back at 8kg and I’m wondering if there are any volunteers out there who think they could do a better job of this child-raising gig? I jest…I think. Though on the darker days I quite honestly could throw in the gastronomic towel as food gets thrown, pushed, outright rejected and my nearly four year old daughter plays into the stress which must be exceedingly tangible at mealtimes and also provides her own version of mealtime hell (she does not need worrying about as for the most part, she eats well, albeit sometimes her fussiness makes me want to send her on a “Get toddlers to cook and fend for themselves” course, but sadly such a course does not exist. Please, someone? Anyone? Please start such a course and ensure that toddlers are required to stay over for a full week while they learn everything from cheese sauces, pancake batters, pasta sauces, quiches, pies, cakes, savoury muffins, slow cooked children…and such…).

So I’m trying to lighten the mood at mealtimes now because we were headed down a very slippery slope where mummy truly nearly loses her mind and descends into a dark abyss where I virtually break out in hives or excruciating headaches whenever one of the three main meals is imminent. When things are good, they’re great. When they’re bad, I try to disappear in my head to the Bahamas and appear like I don’t care, and when it comes to my son, I break all the rules I had established for my daughter, and offer all manner of alternatives…including sugary things which I have always steered clear of.  However, Sod’s law would have it (sod Sod) that my boy does not seem to really care for the chocolate milks, chocolate mousses or loads of other fattening naughties which most other kids would inhale without a thought.  We succeed with chocolate custard now and then (Pauls…oh my gawd it’s filthy), icecream, yoghurt and the odd smoothie, but the idea is to push protein and get the boy eating some honest grub.  The rest of us are fattening up nicely.

But the point of this post was not to bang on about tricky eating, yet here I am predictably banging on. The point is that recently, because of the illnesses plaguing my family, I have been forced to visit our local GP far more often than I would like. I like her on the whole, though in the beginning she would bandy about alarming prognoses for my son when he simply had acid reflux…not cystic fibrosis or some other alarming thing requiring stomach surgery (please think before you speak doctors…mothers on less than four hours sleep per night do not respond well to amateur dramatics). Recently, I was so exhausted, on my third dose of antibiotics in seven weeks, my chest crushing with pain with every horrendous hacking cough, my head banging with tension and stress, that I had a little teary in her office. I think I blurted something like “I’d be coping much better with all this if my boy hadn’t boycotted food entirely for the past month and only weighed 8kg…I go through stages where it stresses me out beyond belief…”

Now the GP is well aware of our predicament and that my son is seen regularly by a pediatrician, who indeed the GP recommended, and that aside from his weight gain, all else is looking good. When I first started seeing this particular pediatrician in April (Z was about 17 months), I was breastfeeding four times per day (always after meals). She was all for the breastfeeding, but suggested cutting down a couple of the feeds to encourage him to go for more food. Over the course of the next couple of months I cut out three feeds and currently it is only the last night time feed which remains, though if Zeph had his way, he’d be back on boobie full time (bloody loves it, as did my daughter).   Cutting back boob has made absolutely no difference to how much he eats, though I am not disappointed about cutting back the day time feeds as we get a lot more done in the day, and at childcare two days per week, no boobs are on offer so it was something he had to get used to.  So where was I?  Oh yes, my GP.  Rather than confirming all the correspondence she has received from the pediatrician saying that Z is developmentally sound and everyone is just keeping a keen eye on his weight gain and so forth, she launched into a rather accusatory tirade about how my son was clinging to his role of the baby of the family, and that I was facilitating this by continuing to breastfeed, that I should take more control and give up breastfeeding immediately as only then, she believes, will my son start taking eating more seriously.  IN HER OPINION!!!  She also suggested that I was just breastfeeding Z now at the ripe old age of 21 months out of self-interest, because I can not let go, and implied that I was complicit in retarding his skeletal growth and brain development.  She managed all of this with a smile and a sense of “I’m here for you, but this is your only option”.

breastfeedingbabyI was shocked.  I was also emotional and wearing a bloody flu mask over my face as per the doc’s request, so I was not best placed to fight my corner. However, I hastened to ask her whether she had actually read the pediatrician’s reports, in which there was absolutely no suggestion that Z’s skeletal and brain development were anything but on track…he is just small.  And no recommendation that I cut breastfeeding out entirely.  Oh yes of course she had read these papers and of course his brain is fine….so did she just fancy throwing in the words “retarding his skeletal growth and brain development” for a fecken laugh?!  Breathe.

The GP continued, saying that with both of her children she made a conscious decision to breastfeed for six months.  A seemingly arbitrary figure in my mind, given that when she made this very finite decision, she had never had children before and could not envisage how they or she might respond to breastfeeding; it might have been the most bloody marvellous thing she had ever done!  But this was what she was prepared to do and in her view, was entirely sufficient…and it appears that this is also the bar she sets for everyone else.  She was convinced that neither of her sons started eating in earnest until she had completely got them off the boob.  They were only six months old for god’s sake!  In the UK we didn’t introduce our bubs to food until six or so months! Eating in earnest?!  I responded with “Well Dr Hooflicky, that’s where you and I are in very different camps. I would never give up breastfeeding after six months or a year or two unless it felt right.”  She said “Ah, but that means you are not in control, your baby is.”  Trying not to show that I was getting riled…easier due to previously mentioned lurgy mask, I said “That’s not how I see it at all…this is a mutual relationship, this is a journey we are on together…it feels totally and utterly wrong to withdraw the breast now…I feel it would be destructive rather than productive.”  (As a side note…is there really anything wrong with a child having some say over how he likes to take his milk?!) The doc went on to call me an earth mother and the ‘h’ word got thrown in for good measure.  She is a very warm, lovely woman, and I am aware that she has no interest in working against me, but still, all of this gave me the shits.  Good and proper.

I was informed by the Australian Breastfeeding Association about a recent survey which revealed that GPs who had never breastfed were better armed with information about breastfeeding than GPs who had breastfed.  Apparently this is because those doctors who had experience of breastfeeding tended to consider themselves experts on the subject and subsequently were less likely to read up on current research and advice.  Hmmmm.

Interestingly on my next visit, the doc made no mention of the above conversation; a conversation which, had I been made of less feisty stuff and less assured of my position, might have propelled me to launch a full-blown weaning assault, denying my baby boob forever more and removing a much-loved source of emotional, physical and nutritional sustenance and comfort (I’m aware that he also gets that from many other interactions and people but you cannot imagine the joy and solace boob brings my boy) and been in the middle of a very predictable and horrendous Zephyr-mummy meltdown.  And for what?  One woman’s momentary inability to hold back her own views on a very personal issue.  And the denial of boob may have had no impact whatsoever on his food consumption and would merely have eliminated a very reliable source of nutrition.

I was moved to confide in a number of dear friends about this situation (notably all in the UK…I don’t know if it was just the nature of the people I was surrounded by in London, but when I lived there, breastfeeding my child at home, in public, up until two years of age, was never commented upon; it was not considered to be remotely unusual and many of my contemporaries were doing the same.), and one of them wrote the following:

“As a GP I wonder why her medical view differs so much from WHO infant feeding recommendations:

“Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants….

…infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health.

Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond…”

…”

Look, this post is not about judging women who don’t breastfeed or only breastfeed for three months, six months, one year or until their children are five.  I’m not judging anyone.  But I do have a few things to say, because since moving to Australia, I do feel judged…often.    Not just with respect to my preference for birth centres and hypnobirthing (calm birthing in Australia I believe), but often people have something to say about the fact that I am still breastfeeding my wee lad.  A quick call to the Breastfeeding Association of Australia unearthed an article on the ABA website entitled Breastfeeding rates in Australia, where it states:

“…statistics from The 2006-2007 Longitudinal Study of Australian Children study show that at 12 months, 28% of children were still being breastfed; at 18 months, 9% of children; and at 24 months, 5% were still being breastfed.”

Hungry child who wants to be breastfed

So I am indeed one of a very small minority in Australia still breastfeeding my 21 month boy.  This is apparently referred to as extended breastfeeding (anything pat 12 months).  Perhaps this will explain the surprise I regularly encounter.

I breastfed my daughter until just before she turned two, but only because she had stopped asking for it.  Easy peasy.  It was a very gradual, calm process, involving no emotion and had she shown an interest in carrying on, then we would have carried on.  I am a big believer in breastfeeding; the relationship between my children and me when they fed or feed is exquisite, incomparable, life-changing, hugely comforting, nourishing and so much more.  It is down time.  We gaze into one another’s eyes.  We giggle, caress, cheeks glow, eyes glisten, loving words are spoken and we melt into one another with such an indulgence of love that it feels like we could burst…and yet there is always more to give.  My partner and I started off saying that when my daughter was capable of asking for boob then it was time to stop.  What a silly rule to prescribe before you know anything about anything.  The day came when she was able to ask for it and we just kept on going.  It felt right.  I reiterate that I am not undermining the relationship mothers have with their bottle fed babies…my kids never took to bottles so I have no experience of this.  Some of my dearest friends breastfed for a relatively short time and their bond with their children is clearly no less significant than mine.  I am not judging them at all.   I just knew that breastfeeding was the way forward for my family.  I’m not entirely sure where my breastfeeding instinct came from, but it was strong and it worked for my brood.

Where am I headed with this?  I guess I wanted to offload.  I guess I wanted to say that I’m surprised that I am in the 5% of women in Australia breastfeeding my child at almost 2 years.  I’d truly like to meet some of those in the 5% and I’ve discovered through the ABA how to do this if the urge persists.  I guess I also wanted to say that doctors ought to be very careful about how they advise their patients on such matters.  They ought to liaise more carefully with all related medical practitioners and they ought to do some research which goes beyond their own very insular and tiny experience.  I guess I also wanted to say that breastfeeding is a gift.  I have tasted my breastmilk and so has my partner and it was sweet and delicious.  If my children are drinking it, why on earth would I not try it too?  I wish I was surrounded by women still breastfeeding their bubs as it is a lovely experience to share.  I have made a conscious decision not to go into a discussion of people’s issues with public breastfeeding.  That is another post for another time.  Surely you can imagine my take on that one!

So when my boy starts to lose interest in boob and when I sense that our breastfeeding days are numbered, I will gracefully kiss these beautiful days goodbye and consign them to my pool of exquisite memories.  Until then my friends, it’s boob or bust!!!  xx

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12 Responses to Boob or Bust! I’ll breastfeed my son until WE are good and ready.

  1. Faye Brown says:

    Ah it’s good to have you back, I always enjoy reading your posts. Breast feeding my son was quite a stressful experience and we ended up combo feeding and stopping at 9 months. My daughter is completely opposite, took to it pretty much straight away, and I now find myself feeling sad about when she’ll stop. But like you say, I think we’ll both know rather than feel forced by someone else’s opinion.
    Do you have breast feeding clinics in Australia? I think we are lucky in the UK. We’ve had a lot of positive support and encouragement. And a lot of friends are breast feeding their kids beyond 12 months – particularly the evening feed.
    Keep doing what you do best. Can’t beat mothers instincts x

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Hey Faye, the breastfeeding support I received in London from La Leche League was incredible. I didn’t need support here as Zephyr latched straight on (Maple had tongue tie and my boobs were so engorged she didn’t stand a chance). But I am aware that if I wanted to join a community of breastfeeding mothers I can do so through the Australian Breastfeeding Association. I was always amazed at the breastfeeding cafes in London. Such an incredible support for women having issues breastfeeding. A girlfriend of mine used to go there, strip off her upper garments, and just sit there and receive support. The first six months for her were hell on earth but she became the greatest breastfeeder of all time! I don’t know whether those sort of cafes exist here but they should! I’m so pleased the breastfeeding is working so well for you second time around. M x

      • Faye says:

        It does seem low statistics for breast feeding in Australia. Maybe if more people were doing it doctors might learn more about the subject and not give bad advice. Mind you one doc here suggested I stopped feeding for a week so I could take anti biotics for something. It was really early on and I thought a week is a long time to stop, she might not go back to it – so I didn’t do it. Got an alternative medicine.
        Really interesting to read that those docs who have never breast fed seem in a better position to advise! I guess it makes sense.

        • Sweet Mother says:

          I know Faye! Fancy thinking that because you did a bit of breastfeeding back in the 70’s, that you are an expert on the subject now!! Crazy.

  2. Zoe Cottew says:

    Darling Miranda,
    Change your GP. I don’t like the sound of her.
    Breastfeeding should only stop when you and baby are ready and it feels right. When did our society become so judgemental? How sad are those statistics of the very low percentages of kids being breastfed after 6 months. Both my babies loved being breastfed, and I loved it too for all the reasons and ways you describe. They both self weaned as well, no drama. My daughter at 17 months and my son at 21 months. They both could ask for it – “boobaa” and what’s the problem with that? It was a natural cessation and there was never a battle to ‘get them on the bottle’.
    Traditional cultures breastfeed their babies well into childhood. Are we so ‘evolved’? I don’t think so. There are plenty of things to do with child rearing in Western culture that I reject.
    It was booby juice all the way in my home. Birthing under the calm birth, doula supported, natural way was empowering and made me feel like I wanted to do it all over again 2 days later. And as for breast feeding in public – if baby is hungry, and someone has a problem with it, maybe you should offer them some milk with their latte.
    Stay strong. It’s your choice.

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Darling Zoe, thank you for dropping by here. I have actually had my own breastmilk with coffee, in London just after Maple was born and we were out of milk and couldn’t move to go and buy some!! You would not believe the number of people who are horrified by that! I agree with all you have said and then some. Wish you were near. Love M x

  3. Caroline Wullrich says:

    Good to have you back!
    I’m not going to judge anyone on breastfeeding. We had a difficult time, with feeding taking for ever and Tove just not interested at all ie, got no milk either. When I finally got Tove to take the bottle at 6.5 months I was relieved and I think so was she. But everyone is different and I have many friends who continued to breastfeed far beyond the 1 year mark.
    What amazes me is your GP’s view that Z would eat more if you stop breastfeeding??? I’m no expert but all people I know who have kids give them a bottle, or breastfeed, in the evening till 2/3 or 4 years of age. In Sweden we use something called valling, it is a formula that is grain based so slightly different to normal milk or formula in UK but the usage is the same. I think all parents I know do this so what is your GPs point? It happens after bath time, nice and calm, before bed.. It helps our children sleep well with a nice full tummy and it is an amazing moment to just cuddle up together.
    We do this every evening, and Tove drinks a large bottle up to 250 ml every night before bed. It gives her added nutrition and ensures she gets the dairy she needs to grow healthily. I would not stop that for anything! Mine is in a bottle, yours is from the boob. Same concept just different execution!
    Tove is still a fussy eater and honestly I have given up. She eats pasta, sausages, cheese, meatballs and smokes salmon + fruit/veg. That’s it, most of the time. Forget any sweets, cakes, biscuits, bread, potato, rice -well anything with starch. But I’m not worried, she will grow healthily with what she gets. The milk does the trick. It provides a lot of the vitamins she needs and calcium, and it helps her sleep well even if she had a bad eating day.
    So, keep breastfeeding as long as you and Z want and need!
    Bottle or boob, no difference. It is best evening meal you can provide to him with the added benefit of a really nice cuddle.
    xx

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Thanks Caroline. Couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said darling. It’s a roller coaster and we have to trust in our instincts. Not always easy when your family GP’s views are so at odds with your own!

  4. Trina Ambrose says:

    stay strong…..

  5. nadine says:

    Hi everybody,

    It is funny to read that some of you feel pressured to stop breastfeeding when I felt the pressure to start breastfeeding. My baby was a preemie so I could not breastfeed. He was fed through a feeding tube and then we had to teach him to take the bottle as breastfeeding was too much hard work. But there was the pressure of having to pump and I felt the pressure of having to try and breastfeed. I wanted to breastfeed but you probably can imagine that it can be very frustrating if it just does not work out. I kept at it and I am breastfeeding now. I just wanted to say it can go both ways! One can be pressured into breastfeeding and I think that everybody should choose what is best. If one does not enjoy breastfeeding one should not do it. and if one does then one should go for it!

    • Sweet Mother says:

      Hey again Nadine, I can imagine those must have been tricky times for you. Indeed, we all must do what feels right. M x

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