I’ve stopped breastfeeding - after five long years ...

Lifestyle

I’ve stopped breastfeeding - after five long years ...

... why oh why would I do that to myself?

Journalist

Actually, five-and-a-half years, but who’s counting?
I did. So did my one husband and two kids (the second started when the first one stopped, nearing age three).
That’s 2,000 days of physical attachment, in three countries, countless cities, several times a day.
On planes, boats, while walking, in cars, overnight flights to the UK and back, once too many times in a bathroom and numerous places that offended people.
Don’t congratulate me, as some do, for the “persistence”.
It was never intentional.
It was never planned.
Sure, we signed up for the early months of exclusive feeding, with some five-month bottle supplementing.
Lo and behold, both girls hated formula and bovine milk (can’t blame them, I have never had either for much of my life and quite possibly put them off it with my own upturned nose from the smell).
What I did not sign up for was the comforting snuggles that introduced children to the adult bed for far too long, for us, not long enough for them.
It helped with teething, fevers, getting over tummy bugs when nothing else would do.
But it was absolutely not the plan to stay up half the night for two years (our first baby/toddler was needy), operating in the daytime like a manic zombie, so highly strung that the slightest provocation would end in tears or tantrums, and this was the adult involved.
It was not the plan to get muscle strain and colds in winter from exposure, nor to have a work schedule centred around my chest and its availability.I did not want to stretch the neckline of some of my favourite tops, or buy feeding-friendly clothing for these years (dresses are difficult, especially in public).
Certainly no plan in my fulfilled life included ripping off nipple skin with heavy-duty plasters which we first tried as a deterrent. (Aloe powder and their own readiness to stop are the winner, FYI.)
And while I loved the side effect of weight loss and the freedom of binge-eating that had little effect on my always voracious appetite, I missed red wine in winter, chardonnay at lunch. Girls’ nights out or date nights that didn’t end in a guilt trip and calculations of alcohol metabolisation by weight.
Of course, more than a few times I broke the two-hour, one-unit rule.
No guilt — medical experts assured me they would survive, particularly once they were walking and talking.
Even the alcohol-free time off meant heaviness, milk fever from missing an afternoon session.
Was it worth the travel opportunities missed because my child wanted the boob even if she didn’t want me ... the New Year's parties ... the wedding parties that ended late … salons and fashion events (they stopped inviting me in Year 2) and thoroughly rewarding work that required long hours away?
Sure, they were significant sacrifices for kids who didn’t get sick that much and who bonded in a way that is beyond measure in career or compensation.
Bonus, I got so much reading done, particularly online.
It even made up for the occasional bump on the head from a cellphone which, incidentally, I hear is an common emergency room complaint in the US, where there phones must be heavier or dropped from greater heights.
But now it's time to detach, literally.
I am done with undoing my blouses and lifting T-shirts.
I will miss the cuddling closeness, the happy smile, eyes rolling from pleasure once they latched and got a trickle of their elixir (strawberry-flavoured I’m told).
The bum of a toddler waving around in the air while they happily suckled what was made for them, for longer than they needed it physically but would probably still ask for psychologically, was worth my five years and a few months.
It's time to stop and say goodbye.
And tomorrow, I will go shopping for nice bras.

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