B is no longer breast-feeding.
As of today.
This is the first time in almost four years that I’m not either pregnant or feeding.
From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I just accepted that I would breast-feed. But as a mother-over-40, some people - shockingly - seemed to doubt that I could do it. Even before I gave birth to AJ there were signs that society in general believed that it would be a miracle if I managed it. Everything I read in books and magazines implied that being able to feed your child is the exception rather than the rule. And not being able to was just one of a raft of problems to be faced especially by older mothers. Even at the hospital, when I hadn’t swapped colostrum for full-cream by throwing-out time, I was advised to go straight out and buy formula and bottles and be prepared to go synthetic.
What utter rubbish.
Most women’s inability to feed comes from tiredness, poor diet or lack of support. AJ cried in the evenings for six weeks, and I almost caved in to the frequent suggestions that he was crying for hunger and I should change to formula. This despite the fact that he was putting on weight so quickly that at the neonatal clinic I was dubbed the latteria (the dairy).
M decided it for me. He told me I was too lazy to do what it took to bottle-feed. And he was right. Why buy the stuff, make it up, lug it around (up and down the hill I mentioned yesterday, for instance), then sterilise the bottles, when I was producing it myself, the right formula, the right temperature, anytime, anywhere and without fear of poisoning the little sucker with bacteria in the teat.
By the way, it is also possible to breast-feed while asleep…
In the event, the kids have both had 15 months of home-brew, and I think they’ve benefited in many ways. Neither of them ever wanted or had a soother. Neither of them was sick during the first year. Both expanded as they should in the first crucial months, and both went on to solids with no ill effects.
Here are my tips for successful breast-feeding :
Eat like a horse. Double portions of everything. Freshly cooked fresh produce, not diet food or processed rubbish. Don’t worry about your weight - you have the rest of your life to get back into shape if that’s important to you (especially if you have to walk up a hill like the one I mentioned yesterday).
Drink like a fish. Water. Drink until it’s coming out of your ears.
Observe the quarantina - 40 days’ home rest. Arrange for other people to do the cooking, the cleaning and taking the strain with other little ones. Forget going out. And if you’re feeling under par, don’t apologise for turning visitors away. Enjoy resting.
Latch ’em on as soon as possible after they take that first breath. The vast majority of them know how to do it, and, given half a chance, they also know where to find it. Besides, it keeps them quiet so they don’t disturb whoever’s wielding the needle down below.
Hold the baby close : belly to belly, nose to nipple. Position the head half way along your forearm, not in the crook of your elbow.
Feed on demand. Anywhere and everywhere. Let them suck as much or as little as they want. Listen to the baby, and not the baby-gurus.
I’ve loved being able to feed my children. But after 44 months of pregnancy and breast-feeding, while I can’t help feeling nostalgic for those tender, intimate moments that help to make it all worthwhile, I’m still glad it’s over.