Bare-Faced Breast-Feeding! (A little bit Wordy Wednesday)

So I noticed a call out for a Wordless Wednesday post on Breastfeeding Around the World at Nursing Freedom and it piqued my interest enough to make the time (I was going to play a game of scrabble with Papamoon) to post again after this long period of blogging dormancy.. hopefully it’s the beginning of much more to come!

I’ve never been shy of breast feeding a young baby in public.
Over nine months and I start feeling a bit more self-conscious, but not to the point where it would ever stop me. I do find myself however doing a kind of ninja reflex upon my child’s departure from the boob, to try to keep my nipple out view as their head no longer serves as a modesty cover… which is absurd really as I think that the over-sexualisation of female nipples is continued only by perpetuating this silly taboo in such a way.. but hey, I’m not going to beat myself up about it too much.

I’ve breast fed in some interesting places. These days I even make a point of being visible when I feed in order to try to contribute to the normalization of nursing in public. I consciously put myself out of my comfort zone sometimes in the hopes that it might make one more person feel more confident about nursing publicly (I say ‘person’, rather than ‘mother’, because how comfortable fathers feel about NIP can have a huge impact on how his partner will feel about doing it). So I routinely sit in the most visible spot, in a busy place, across form a group of teenagers in the park, in a coffee shop window seat, etc and I nurse my hungry baby with all the gusto of a domestic Boadicea!

The most daring place I’ve breastfed was in the back of a large fabric store in the center of Birmingham. It was when my son was about 8 or 9 months old and I was on the hunt for the right material to make my own stretchy wrap carrier, and had been waiting for someone to come and advise me on the materials they stocked. There were only a few members of staff and they had been a long time talking to other customers and in the meantime Mooncub had gotten frantically hungry. I had hoped to hold out until we had left since we were in a very Muslim area and everyone in the shop other than me appeared to be an Asian Muslim. I had no way of feeding without exposing a little of my chest and I wasn’t sure how well that uncovered-ness would be received. Eventually I steeled my self, determined to put my child’s needs before my own worries. I settled down sat cross legged on the floor at the back of the store. He’d just moved onto the other boob when a youngish male member of staff finally came over to talk to me about the fabric for my wrap. He looked a bit bemused more than anything but said nothing. I muttered something about my baby getting so hungry during the looong wait and then moved onto asking the price of a rather vibrant purple jersey fabric –  of which I left the store with enough for three wraps and a satisfied and happy baby!

Here are a selection of photo’s of me publicly feeding Dawncub. Unfortunately I could find any with Mooncub though I know over the 2.5 years he nursed for, there were plenty of occasions, clearly I must have been less inviting of the camera!

Waiting for the Christmas steam train.

Don't worry I wasn't skating holding Dawncub.. This is on our street and  PapaMoon had just brought her out to me for a quick feed.

Don’t worry I wasn’t skating holding Dawncub.. This is on our street and PapaMoon had just brought her out to me for a quick feed.

Dawncub enjoying a real Babychino in the coffee shop window!

Dawncub enjoying a real Babychino in the coffee shop window!

‘Weaning Aversion!’

Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning – Your Stories

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.

Funny I should come across an invitation to write a post on weaning for the ‘Carnival of Weaning’ today of all days (which is May 13th as I begin writing this). This day came with a wonderful revelation for me, one that brought a great deal of relief and alleviated a fear that has hung over me for some time during this pregnancy.
This carnival is a great opportunity to share not only my story but what
I have also so recently learned! First though, let’s go back, way back!

I wasn’t a mother-to-be who ever said “I’ll try to breastfeed” or “I’ll see how it goes”. I knew I would breastfeed for at least 6 months come rain or shine, even if my nipples fell off as one ‘friend’ kept insisting they might (just as hers “nearly had”) and that I shouldn’t feel to bad if, like her, I decided to quite nursing at a few weeks.
Why 6 months though? Well, for two main reasons; the first being that I thought that was when you had to introduce solids so it seemed more inappropriate to me to give formula before then, and secondly I knew that my mother had breast-fed me for 6 months, possibly a little longer, and if she could do it, then surely I must also!
My Partner was clear from the beginning that he hoped I would nurse our son for AT LEAST a year. This is something I am deeply grateful for, as he has cheer-led me on through some really tough times when I may otherwise have given up – and deeply regretted it later!
It also helped knowing that his mother had breastfed both of his younger brothers to around their second years.

On the hospital ward (after an unfortunately unsuccessful home-birth) I was glad for the staff who came around to help get breastfeeding established. I found it tricky at first, especially on the one side as one of my nipples was a little inverted, Once my milk came in, it was better, though still rather sore. I persevered and after a few weeks all was well.

Some time around 5 months old, my son had what seemed a most-probably growth-spurt-induced, feeding frenzy; it was relentless! I was exhausted and felt taken hostage by the boobs. I would likely have given up then if it were not for my partners encouragement and insistence that I could get through it. Hurrah for Papa Moon!

Mooncub nursing at around 18 months old.

There were a few more times similar to this but my 6 month goal rolled by and 1 years old became the new arbitrary date to aim for. By the time that came around though, I felt like an old-hand. I’d lost almost any culturally conditioned hang-ups I held about feeding past infancy, some of my friends were still nursing their emerging toddlers and ultimately I just couldn’t imagine forcing the end of our breast feeding relationship for no good reason when it still held so many benefits to my son; extra nourishment, comfort, security, supported immunity and even help getting to sleep,

I didn’t ever find breast-feeding that easy though, as it always seemed to tax me more physically than it did some of my other ‘mum’ friends. I struggled hugely to keep enough weight on during Mooncub’s extra hungry periods and that in itself, besides the sleep deprivation, was exhausting. (we did, and still do co-sleep. which helped)
I Iooked forward to the day I hoped my little one would naturally lose interest in nursing, but by the time he turned 2 years old, that day still seemed very much out of sight.

By about 25 months, the last of Mooncub’s 2 year molars were coming through and giving us all grief. He was waking 2, 3 sometimes even 4 times every morning to nurse and by the time we finally woke, I was deplete of all energy before the day had even begun! So I decided then that once his molars were finished coming through, I would night wean him.
It was a tough call but it felt right. I didn’t want to let resentment build around our nursing relationship and I knew I would have more energy to enjoy time with him during the day.

I’d read a great post by Kaitlin of Bring Birth Home about how she had night-weaned her daughter using the gentlest methods she could, and I took inspiration.
For instance I spent a good week explaining daily to Mooncub that soon Mama wouldn’t have milk, or ‘beeboo’ as he calls it, to give to him at night anymore, but that we would do lots of cuddling instead.
The first couple of nights were restless and a little fraught, but I stayed consistent and the whole process went much more quickly than I’d expected. By the end of the week he was still waking around midnight but was fairly happy to have some water instead of ‘beeboo’.
The timing had felt just right.

While I had still been night-nursing, my partner and I had attempted for a number of months to conceive a second child, but had been unsuccessful. Shortly after night-weaning we actually got pregnant without even purposefully trying!
It was as if my body knew I didn’t have the physical resources to carry a child whilst nursing a toddler night and day.

Around 8 weeks pregnant my nipples became very sore during nursing. I was not happy about it but I had expected it to happen as my boobs had become very tender around the same time when I had been carrying Mooncub.
At 12 weeks my son started to seem frustrated at the breast, he sucked really hard and clenched his jaw which was unbearable as I was already very sore! I realised that my supply was dropping already (which came as a bit of a surprise) when he started trying to stimulate my let-down of milk all the time, by doing that fluttering thing which I always found set my nerves on edge but now felt beyond awful.
I started to dread nursing and soon (by about 14 weeks) each time he tried to feed on what were now fairly empty breasts, aside from the terrible soreness, I felt almost as though I were being violated. My skin crawled and I couldn’t help but keep urging him to stop almost as soon as he had began. There were a lot of tears on both our parts. I felt so guilty but also powerless. I tried my best to explain to him that I couldn’t make the milk come and that I was so sore – which in no way was his fault, and I was very conscious to try not to give him reason to resent the pregnancy.

At first I managed to get the feeds down to three a day, then to just nap-time and bed-time.
A part of me wanted so badly to continue to nurse Mooncub. I didn’t want it to end this way – it felt messy and not gentle at all for either of us. Mooncub was stressed and unhappy at this point, and I wished so much that it could have happened on his terms or at least at a time of my choosing so I could have been prepared.
By the time I was 18 weeks, I could no longer bear to nurse at all.

I became really quite depressed and carried so much guilt as well as a terrible anxiety that I may still feel unable to nurse when the new baby would arrive. I planned to contact La Leche League for advice as I was so worried.

My son was still asking for ‘beeboo’ before bed and if he needed comforting but I could see he was getting resigned to the situation. At 19 weeks Mooncub and I flew to Sweden to visit my cousin and meet her new baby. It couldn’t have been better timing as aside from cheering me up immensely, I was gratefully surprised that my son did not ask for ‘beeboo’ even once while we were there and he and I felt closer than ever! The tension that had built just seemed to melt while we were away.

Rocked, rather than nursed to sleep at our friends wedding a couple of weeks ago.

I am now 21 weeks pregnant and haven’t nursed for 3 weeks.
I was feeling much better about the situation already but I still had this worry hanging over me that I would not be able to bear to feed my new-born when they arrived, and then came the revelation..via Facebook!

I was looking through my news-feed when a question appeared that was posted on the page of The Analytical Armadillo, by a 38 week pregnant mama.
She described having the same ‘skin-crawling’ sensation when nursing her toddler that I had felt. and was even experiencing the same fear that she might still feel this loathing of nursing when the new baby arrives. She asked if anyone else had experienced this and if so, what had happened?
I was amazed to see so many women comment saying that they had felt just the same and some said that they had read that this was actually very common, normal even! What’s more, it even has a name.. ‘Feeding Aversion’!

I breathed a massive sigh of relief to hear also that it would not affect my ability to feed my new baby, and that the ‘aversion’ would disappear, if not immediately after the birth, then at least shortly after. I gleefully shared this knew knowledge with my partner earlier and I’m delighted to be able to share it with you!

‘Feeding Aversion’ – it’s not fair but at least it’s normal. I developed it pretty early, for most women it often comes in late pregnancy. Some women even experience it anyway, without pregnancy, when their children become a little older.
Many women manage to nurse through it (big kudos to them!) and many others, like myself, do not.

I now feel for the first time, that I can say with acceptance, that Mooncub has weaned.
It was not led by him as I had hoped but it’s a ‘natural’ ending of sorts, and I am now able to feel the gratitude I should, that we were able to nurse for nearly 2 and a half years – that’s pretty good going!

…and should Mooncub decide that he wants to nurse again once his sibling arrives and I have milk again, then I feel that I will be willing to tandem feed him just the one feed before bedtime until HE decides he doesn’t need it.

Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 21 with all the carnival links.)