Updated: Jan 29
Even before Mia, my eldest daughter, was born I knew I was going to breastfeed her. There was simply no other way for me in my head.
It wasn’t an easy start. Not by a long shot. With lack of real support around I really struggled through mastitis, thrush, bad latch, cracked nipples...
But we persevered and I truly believe it was the best thing I could have done for both of us. Mentally and physically.
But why did it make me a better person? No, it’s not because I think I’m better than other mums for breastfeeding her. I truly believe that every mother is doing the very best she can for her child/ children.
It’s because it was the first time I did something that was different from everybody else around me.
And it is not just the breastfeeding, it’s the extended breastfeeding.
My best friend also breastfed her daughter and stopped when she turned one. When Mia turned one she asked me when am I going to stop breastfeeding her?
“I am not going to stop” I told her, before I could think or even make any conscious decision, this answer came out.
“But look around you” she said, “everybody else is moving to bottle feeding at one”.
But I just could not handle the thought of stopping and I couldn’t care less about what everybody else was doing. And just like that, I continued doing what was best for me and for my baby.
Why was this such a big deal for me you would wonder?
Well the way I grew up, I was always checking around, comparing myself to everyone around me.
My life was not very stable and I never felt grounded. For me, giving such long lasting stability and connection to my child was growing up as a person, not just as her mama.
Doing what felt right for us turned out to be a saving grace for both of us: Mia, having enormous tonsils (which I didn't know at the time) and a constant snotty nose, almost never had any ear infections thanks to her continuous feeding (it's not just the antibodies and all that jazz, it's also the sucking action that helps move fluids around the ear). She grew up to be independent, healthy and with an amazing sense of self. And still aged 9 she is the most loving, kissing and hugging girl.
For me, breastfeeding ended up being a great tool for parenting, comforting and above all control on my own body's autonomy. Throughout miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy that followed, it was the one constant thing that was mine to control and to give. It felt awesome.
Mia breastfed up until she was 3 years and 4 months and stopped when I was pregnant with her little sister and couldn't handle the nipple sensitivity anymore (women who feed through pregnancy I salute you!).
My breastfeeding journey with her sister, Annabelle, was very different. It started much easier and ended a bit sooner, for various reasons (2 years and 9 months). I am so proud to also have found my limits with her.
Breastfeeding journeys are many and varied as we all are, and a mother should continue feeding as long as she and her child want to. It is nobody else's business.
*I am well aware of the irony of not having any decent breastfeeding photographs myself, but alas, capturing breastfeeding is another journey which started for me a bit later in life...
More about me and more breastfeeding art you can find here