Feeding Friday: One Year of Breastfeeding Rory Fitz

Holy hell we’ve made it. I can barely believe it, but somehow it’s happened. ONE YEAR OF BREASTFEEDING.

Before you read any further, if you don’t know the rest of our story, you can catch up
Here and
Here and
Here

And be entirely assured- My only agenda when it comes to sharing my breastfeeding journey is to promote informed choice. My first baby was breastfed for a week, combi fed for a week, then fully formula fed. I am not judging anyone. But I do believe that many of us who don’t meet our own breastfeeding goals are sabotaged by unrealistic expectations and poor support.

The reality amongst the women I work with is that most breastfeeding journeys are somewhere in the grey area of the spectrum from exclusive breastfeeding to formula feeding. Knowing we are not alone in our difficulties serves us.

So on with the update….

Once again, it’s hardly been fuss free. Simpler, for sure, but still with its ups and downs. The biting at every teething episode. Eeeeeeeeek. Luckily I’ve not lost any chunks of nip, but the grating and pinching and clamping. Ugh.

Then came the nursing strike. I think he was around 8.5 months. It seemed to coincide with another teething episode, a bit of a cold making feeding and breathing tricky. It went on for about 5 days. He always fed at night, so I just needed to make it through the daylight hours. Sounds ok, right? Except that it’s the only way I really had to get him to nap.

So it went like this. He got tired. I put him to boob. He latched and sucked about twice. Then clamped his teeth down and pulled off. So I put it away. So he cried for boob. And repeat times a thousand until we were both crying in a heap on the floor.

I thought I’d got it figured out by slotting in a couple of pumping sessions for comfort- you can rely on a double electric not to bite you or reject you. But. One of those days we took a drive to meet my parents in Cambridge. We were stuck in the car for a LONG time. I found myself, on the way home, with a sippy cup wedged under each boob, hand expressing for survival whilst he looked on from his car seat in amusement. He promptly downed the expressed milk from the cup and I didn’t know whether to be happy about that or to resent his victory in controlling the situation.

But somehow, it passed, as everything seems to, THANK ALL THE GODS.

From then until about 10.5 months I found feeding him quite unpleasant most of the time. Pulling on and off, the aforementioned tooth action, any minor distraction interrupting proceedings. Many many many nights of being latched on more than being off, leaving my hips and shoulders sore each morning from contorting myself around him. At that time I was looking ahead and seeking out tips to stop feeding around his birthday- I’d had enough.

When he was 11 months, I went away for 2 nights, to a retreat I’d booked when he was newborn- at that time I’d never imagined I would still be feeding him. I was anxious about how he would manage- he’s always had some time away from me whilst I’m working, and has drunk milk from bottles, and later cups with no fuss, but I was worried that this wouldn’t transfer into the dark hours.

I was also hopeful- part of me wondering if he would sleep better knowing I wasn’t there to comfort suck from. Maybe this would be a turning point where the nights would improve.

It turned out to be absolutely fine, but not the revolution I was after. He woke every couple of hours for Daddy and we returned immediately to our normal waking rigmarole.

In a way, I think I was looking for a reason to stop feeding him. Now that the feeding has settled again (I mean less problematic, not less frequent…) I’m glad I didn’t go down that road.
Because when he’s grumpy, frustrated, overwhelmed, just been jabbed, cutting massive back teeth, tired, thirsty, hungry, bored, breastfeeding is the answer as much for my now 1 year old as it was for my newborn.
Don’t get me wrong, there are downsides. He still feeds SO MUCH during the night that I find myself exhausted, dehydrated and HUNGRY bright and early each day. But the day time feeds are simple and easy, calming for us both. And there’s a new level of cute to be enjoyed now he’s able to communicate that he wants to feed in a new way.
I have no idea how long we will continue for. I never really thought I would be feeding a one year old. My mum had breast cancer in her 30s, and is undergoing genetic testing, which will throw up some questions for me about whether to get tested. I I feed Rory until he is 2, that will cut my risk of developing breast cancer in half, so that’s something else to throw into my pot of considerations.
When I look back to those early weeks, I wish I could put my arms around that near broken woman and tell her that she and her baby would come to enjoy it. On and off, obvs.
I’m so grateful to have experienced this relationship with my second baby, and it does bring new twinges of guilt about not having it the first time round. I don’t judge myself, because at the time I didn’t know how to move forwards with it, but it’s still sad for me. But when I look at my gorgeous boys playing together (very, VERY briefly), I know that neither will remember those early months of their lives, and that they’ll both just know how much they’ve been loved.
I feel like having these 2 different experiences has given me a balanced perspective. I don’t subscribe to the ‘fed is best’ rhetoric. Fed is the minimum, right? We can’t disregard everything we know about nutrition etc once we move onto solids and say it doesn’t matter what they eat as long as they are fed. Breastfeeding is normal and optimal, and we are lucky to have formula as an adequate substitute if we make an informed decision to use it. I believe informed, truly independent choices to make that switch in the early weeks are few and far between, and I see women struggling with this all the time.
I will always encourage my clients to share honest accounts of their feeding journeys, because if I had had more realistic expectations the first time, I’d have been better set to achieve my goals (which by the way, were around 6-12 weeks- I would’ve thought a woman feeding her one year old was borderline off her rocker. Soz to my best pal who was doing just that at the time…).
So if you’re still pregnant, and would like to breastfeed, seek info and support in advance, find supportive resources and people.
As well as some amazing family and friends, I credit my continuation of feeding to my postnatal doula, Lynsey Calvert, my IBCLC and tongue tie division hero, Carole Goddard, and www.kellymom.com
So to sum up- I’ve done it both ways. They both have their ups and downs, pros and cons. The reason this experience has been better for me is because it’s what I wanted. And that’s what I want for you. Get properly informed and supported, then do what you like.
#doitlikeamother

Leave a Reply