Thursday, March 02, 2017

1 in 200

I am still breastfeeding Jamie at 18 months old. First thing in the morning, last thing at night, during the day if he requests it.

This shocks some people, because in the UK it's a very unusual thing to do. Which is odd, because it's exactly the recommended path according to the NHS and the World Health Organisation. Exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months, then breastfeeding alongside other foods and drinks, ideally until at least 2 years, longer if mother and child both want to.

And yet.

The trouble with being 1 in 200 this way is that there's 199 mums who believe you're criticising their choices. So I get all English about it and make sure to validate their choices. I nod and smile and agree that whatever difficulties they faced were insurmountable, to the point where it was barely a choice at all. I imply that in their situation I would have likely made the same choice. I make cracks about how I'm only breastfeeding because I'm too lazy to sterilise bottles.

But a bit of me rages inside. I, too, had some difficulty getting started (I recommend the NCT Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 330 0771, and remember to use a phone that you can put on loudspeaker). I, too, would like to have a day off. I'd like my partner to be able to do the bedtime routine once in a while. I've made medication choices based on breastfeeding compatibility to the detriment of my own health. I've ridden out two bouts of mastitis during which, obviously, I had to look after Jamie even while hallucinating with fever. I've been bitten, basically once per tooth. Breastfeeding might be natural but it's not the soft option. I've worked hard at it and committed to sustaining it because every resource not sponsored by a formula company says it's the best and right and correct and most beneficial thing to do for my child.

It really upsets me that I then end up having to defend that choice, that effort. I've had people suggest that I do it because I want to delay Jamie's development. Or because I'm too possessive of him and don't want to let anyone else care for him. Or because it makes me feel important. Or because I don't know any other way to calm him down. Or because I'm an exhibitionist. Then we have the people who aren't so explicit about it, the double-takes, the "you're still breastfeeding him?!?" remarks, the queries about when I'm going to stop. It all grinds me down.

I'm not expecting a cookie - the cookie is knowing I'm doing my best for Jamie, and Steve gives me a lot of encouragement too - but less criticism and incredulity would be so nice.

1 comment:

Sweet Camden Lass said...

When I see anyone breastfeeding beyond 6 months: I cheer internally. And I smile at them.

Because it's not easy. And no one should have to feel like they've got to defend their decision (whichever decision that is: the only factor that matters is that your child is getting enough food, however that goes in!).