I am sad today

I am sad today.

I am increasingly coming to terms with the fact that, in my past, I did everything that I could. I made the only choices that I could, with the knowledge I had and the strength that I had with my inability to breastfeed my first boy and my ferocity at continuing despite all evidence that told me to stop. This is a wonderful feeling, to feel a sense of forgiveness creeping up on me, knowing that acceptance and moving forward with it all is right there. 
First time this has worked successfully, out of total desperation.
Not easy, not in any way pain free, but absolute kryptonite to an overtired baby. 
I have had to write a very long and complex assignment as part of my studies, where I discussed my own breastfeeding experience in an entirely factual manner (I chose this current one, not my first), followed by an assessment of a number of specific choices that I made (deciding to try again in the first place, deciding to use the supplemental nursing system, deciding to use donor milk, deciding to start taking domperidone, deciding that I will fix his tongue tie even though he was already almost six months old), a discussion of my rational and irrational feelings at particular points along the way and the parts of my personality that led to these, a reflection on those decisions and how these choices impacted myself, my baby and those around me, and how all of that can be applied when I am working with other mothers in the future.

You can imagine what a mammoth task that was for me.


Milk in a cup

This might be a little odd, but I'm preparing myself for some catharsis today.

For the first time in this 10month breastfeeding journey, I expressed some milk. There is still no way that I am getting within five kilometres of any pump, but I did a bit of hand expression. It was totally on a whim, after my baby pulled off early, and I figured that I would just see what happened.

Wow. I totally have milk. Like, really. Wow.

With my first baby, I pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped and friggin pumpetypumped. Once, just once in the three months that I did this, did I ever see a little 'jet' of milk. It was always just tiny trickles that I would be collecting, perhaps amounting to anywhere between two and seven millilitres after forty minutes. To put this into perspective, when I went to receive my donor breastmilk, the mother fed her baby in front of me using one breast, and pumped on the other. Within four minutes, she literally had 160ml.

I got myself a clean glass, made sure my hands were clean, and practiced expressing. I figure that it was a good skill to have anyway, seeing as I'm embarking on studies of this nature, so I may as well use myself as my first guinea-pig. I had always been too scared to do this because I might be taking milk away from my baby for when he needs it next (maybe it would be one of those feeds where he was only half done and comes back two minutes later), or I might not get any, and I wanted to avoid overthinking it.


Breastfeeding an older baby (and visions of toddlerhood)

There has been a quietening of my breastfeeding-related thoughts of late. Oh, don't get me wrong, I have still had days where my knickers have been in one hell of a knot (like the fact that I seem to be one of the people – of course I bloody am – who experiences a very dramatic loss of milk just after ovulation. Sigh. That was stressful.), but on the whole, we are nine months in and going very very strong. Yay us!

Nine months beautiful
I can not ever foresee a time where it will stop, to be honest, and I know that we are nearing a point where so many successfully breastfeeding mothers start to pull back a bit, introducing a bottle and focusing on the concept of actively weaning their babies. I can totally understand that, I totally support that one hundred percent for any mother who wants this, but it just isn't where we are at at all. I still feel very much that we are new to this. We have been feedingsupplement-free for three months now, and I suppose in a way I feel as if we have really only been breastfeeding for this amount of time. I love that it is our go-to in times of pain, discomfort and tiredness. I love that I have a quick-fix for those times where, in other situations, things can get pretty tough. And really, there is no thrill greater for me than seeing a drop of milk roll down my boy's cheek when he distractedly turns his head mid-feed. I am still amazed at what we have achieved, amazed that I have milk to give him at all, and I am revelling in it.

I had never before thought about breastfeeding an older baby. Breastfeeding was something you did with teeny little ones who can focus only as far as the distance from your breast to your face. I even remember saying, once (and there's a high chance this came out of my father's mouth once upon a time; it sounds like him) that once that baby can chew a steak, it is time to stop. The eruption of teeth is a signal from nature, you see. And yet... here I am, eight teeth later. Instead of sleepy feeds in the morning as we wake up, he immediately gets into a crawling position, pulls up on the sides of the bed, starts gnawing away at the wood, then plops down on his bum, crawls over to me for about three sucks at my breast, and then continues. We even reached a point the other morning where his feet were at my head and he was feeding in a crawling position upside down. We are definitely at a new phase now.
The 'lying down' feeding position has become
the 'crawl with a truck in hand' position

It is so rare that you see a mother breastfeeding her toddler. I remember when I was pregnant with my first boy and I was all about being prepared, I attended a local La Leche League meeting. I tried very hard to appear nonchalant when a toddler walked up to her mother on the couch, pulled her shirt up and started breastfeeding, and yet I was absolutely weirded out. This was a child, not a baby. This child could walk and talk and play with her siblings and eat lunch... so what on earth was she breastfeeding for? Surely it wasn't necessary anymore? Surely it was somehow an invasion of the mother's sense of self? Goodness, I remember that so clearly. A part of me fears being that woman, not because I would be breastfeeding a walking-talking-playing-eating toddler, but because of the reactions of people like me. And really, if even I had those reactions, what about the mass populous? I wish whole-heartedly that I was a person who was immune to the reactions of those around me, but I am not.
Such a big boy already! When did that happen?!
The World Health Organisation recommends that chilren are breastfed until two years of age. I worked very hard in the beginning to have no plan and no goal for my breastfeeding, to take it hour by hour, one feed at a time. And that is how I still function. He is still yet to have a bottle besides that one panicked time... I still fear early weaning and still lack confidence in my milk production, and I look forward to his first birthday (for only this reason!) so that I can relax about it a bit and know for sure that my milk is not such a vital part of his nutrition.

But right now, these times are moments where he and I can connect as just us, where I have to shut us away in a room alone and I give him all of me. My first boy had all of me all the time. This is the only chance I get, really, with my little one. I have no idea how long we will breastfeed, but I sure am loving it right now.

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