My son could very happily spend entire days holding on to one - or both - of my breasts, and he has started trying to get his hand down my top at every opportune moment. Carrying him is now far more difficult as it leaves me only one free hand with which to carry shopping/unlock doors/switch on lights/grab snacks and swat away his searching fingers. If there was ever going to be a signal to let me know that our breastfeeding days are over, this, most certainly, is it.
I found myself arguing with a pregnant friend recently when she mentioned the convenience of breastfeeding - ‘convenient’ is not a word I've ever associated with it - and my negative reaction forced me to consider how I chose to feed my son, and whether I'd repeat that choice for future children, should God bless us with more. Despite having no problems early on with supply or my son’s latching on, I couldn’t help but feel as though I’d been cruelly tricked by the whole “breast-is-best” spiel. I still think it needs disclaimers:
Breast is best*
*except for night times, when you’re the only one who can get up with the baby.
Breast is best*
* except for weddings, when all of your breastfeeding-friendly tops look drab and match none of your skirts - NOT ONE.
Breast is best*
*only after you work out how to feed discreetly, because, as much of a feminist as you fancy yourself, the thought of your father-in-law seeing you partially naked makes you feel slightly ill.
I realised not long after my son’s birth that the posters all over the walls in the birth centre were just as misleading as the ads I saw on TV: “If you breastfeed, you too can look this happy and at peace and bonded with your baby!” Those posters never showed the mother wincing in pain while feeding her newborn, as her nipples, after so many years of unemployment, adjusted to their sudden full-time load. She didn’t look exhausted. She didn’t appear to feel as though the food she was continually shovelling into her body was being immediately converted into “liquid gold” for her child to suck out, leaving nothing to energise and nourish her. She didn’t look like she wanted to rebel against the perpetual 3-hour curfews, the neediness of the small creature she’d recently given birth to. Instead, those posters portrayed a scene of utter serenity.
Of course, time has helped my feelings about feeding, as it usually does. These days I don’t question God’s decision to keep men boob-free, and I swapped my bras with trapdoors for normal ones months ago (it was liberating, you should have been there). These days our bedtime feeds are just another part of the routine; I neither look forward to nor dread them.
I’ll celebrate a little after our last feed; my boobs will be all mine again, for the first time in 17 months! But right now I’m remembering the many, many times I’ve spent gazing at my gorgeous boy and playing with his teeny feet and praying for him and imagining him with a monobrow and a gruff voice and feeling my heart overflow with love each time he smiles at me as he sucks, and a part of me wishes that he could stay this young a little while longer so that I could postpone having to let go of these close moments.
There will be tears. Oh, will there be tears.