I knew this moment would come. I’ve had my head in the sand, my fingers in my ears, singing “LA LA LA LA LALAAAAAA” and trying to block it out but really, as a blogger, writing about babies, even if in an absurdly messy and convoluted sort of way, there was no way on earth I was going to be able to swerve it. So here it is. THE BREASTFEEDING POST.
I don’t want to write it because, in essence, I don’t have a position on it. If pushed, it boils down to this: your baby, your boobs, your call. It’s really that basic to me. I know breast is better, I believe a happy mama is best of all, and most of all I understand that other people’s family lives are utterly unfathomable from the outside and that 99.99999999999% of mothers do what, in their assessment, is best for their kid, in their situation, to the best of their knowledge. So whatever their choice, who am I to judge? Or, to be brutally honest, care?
I fed Johnny for five months. And I was so, so happy to move over to bottles after that. Three years on, he’s a brilliant, bright, buoyant little boy. I mean, yeah, he’s also a total menace at times, but much as I’d like to shift the blame, I don’t think I can lay it on the formula.
Now, here we are a second time. Frida’s seven months, and I’m still breastfeeding. But this isn’t a trumpet blowing post. I don’t feel remotely self congratulatory about it. I’m still breastfeeding because:
1) I’m happy with the status quo. It suits us as the moment, in our current situation, just as it suited us when I switched to bottles with J. Unlike last time, I’m working from home these days and only periodically. It’s not uncomfortable or irritating for either of us yet, so why change things?
2) I’m too disorganised and (honestly) lazy to bottle feed at the moment. I find it hard enough to make sure Johnny’s wearing both shoes and the baby’s partially clothed by the time we leave the house. I’m honestly not sure what would become of us if I had to remember bottle parts, boiled water and formula too.
I have been wondering, though, whether I’d feel the same way if I hadn’t set off on this weird, eighteen month journey of no spending. Obviously, breastfeeding is free and formula is not. Has that played into my decision to keep feeding her? I don’t think so. I’ve always been totally cool with coming clean if and when it looks like spending money on something is the right decision for us. You lot are pretty well versed in my failures, messes and blips by now.
But I do think, perhaps, the change of pace in our lives has played into it. Things are a bit slower and more relaxed round here than they were during my first maternity leave. I’m not rushing from baby yoga class to infant sign language session. We spend more time at home, at friends houses, in the woods… Places where breastfeeding is easy and at a pace that makes lounging around feeding a baby an easy fit.
There’s another thing too. I’ve become a little (and I mean a little) bit better at being a little (and I mean a little) bit ‘different’. Not spending money on the kids hasn’t turned us into social pariahs as I’d feared. In fact, we’ve become more instead of less connected with out community. But I have had to do quite a bit of toe-curling explaining of myself, in a way that would have made me shrivel with embarrassment or dive into the nearest bin eighteen months ago.
Try telling people that you can’t go to soft play, actually, because the thing is… the thing is, well, you’ve embarked on this project, you see, about, ermm, not spending money on kids, because, well, I dunno, it’s just an experiment, It’s just we were really broke and also, I guess, I just have this sense that possibly… And God, not that I’m judging or anything, God, not at all, I’m the last person who’d… I mean, have you SEEN how bad I am at parenting? Honestly, it’s a miracle my kids make it through the day….
For someone so British, so anxious not to cause a scene that she apologised for making a fuss as she was being wheeled at great speed into surgery for a crash c-section… well, it hasn’t been easy. But I have, gradually, over the months, got a bit better at it.
So now, when everyone else seems to have made the swap to formula, I’m a little less bothered about being the one still getting her boobs out. Because here’s a funny thing. I hear a lot, from women around the country, about anti-breastfeeding prejudice. I feel for them, horribly. But round where I live, it works the other way round. Whip out a bottle, place it in the happily chomping lips of your baby, and should she look a week or two shy of six months, you risk raising the eyebrows of passing strangers. No matter that these people know nothing of your motivations, your medical history, your family life, your work commitments… It’s just not the done thing.
And then miraculously, overnight, your baby turns six months. And everyone breathes a sigh of relief, retrieves their lacy lingerie from the attic, and gets the steriliser out. Suddenly, it’s the mothers still unclipping their stained nursing bras who look odd. Not very odd, you understand, just a bit… curious. Why is she still feeding? Doesn’t she want to get her life back? Her independence?
I’ve noticed it. Not in a dramatic way. Not in a prejudiced sort way. But still. I’ve noticed it, and I’m more okay with just carrying on regardless than I would have been eighteen months ago. It’s this I feel good about, more than the fact of still breastfeeding.
But there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there? And this ‘but’ is… Jesus F Christ, TEETH. How do you cope with the TEETH?! Because over the last week it’s become an issue. A high pitched, squealing, sweary problem. And she’s only got two. How do mothers of kids with full sets of sharp gnashers do it?!