A very important part of feeding the family over the last eighteen months included breastfeeding my daughter. There are many good reasons for breastfeeding, and most women can breastfeed when provided with the right support to do so. For me the right support has included: great friends, Facebook groups, proactive midwives, sheer determination and the quiet, ongoing support of my husband. I'm lucky also to live in New Zealand where many people have worked hard to implement the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative - reducing the amount of formula advertising and making hospitals work hard to promote breastfeeding.
I am incredibly happy that I managed to get this far, and that my second daughter has never had a bottle of formula. In the beginning I hoped to get to six months, then one year, then leave my daughter to wean herself. I have loved breastfeeding, hated breastfeeding and resented breastfeeding. I have never been away from my daughter for longer than six hours. Breastfeeding is hard work, and it has definitely impacted on my family's daily routine. My oldest daughter became used to entertaining herself for the last half hour of the day while I fed her sister.
I didn't think that the last feed would drop so soon, but recently, while sleeping off a migraine, my husband just tried putting the baby down at her usual bedtime without milk. It worked.
A few nights later we had the last feed. I'm not surprised it was a middle of the night feed. I hauled the much-used tripillow onto my lap, latched and commenced feeding. It was quiet (as it should be at 3.45am) and I was very aware that this was likely the last feed. The Poppet patted me a few times as she fed - one of her ways of showing affection. She grabbed my breast gently and tried to rub it between her thumb and forefinger (like babies do when rubbing blankets or labels). We changed sides and all I could hear was her occasional swallow. Too soon she came off and I held her upright against me. Her little head dropped sleepily onto my shoulder, and her arms became dead weights. In a couple of minutes I could tell by her breathing that she was asleep. I put her carefully back down in her cot and quietly shut her door as I left the room.
For eighteen months she has either received all, most or some of her nutrition from me while being held closely. I've heard people say that food equals love. Often when I put a lot of effort into making good meals for my family to eat I think this is true. However, it is no more true than when breastfeeding your baby. The food your body produces transfers to the baby while being held. Just beautiful, and over too soon.
PS: I write this knowing that just about any blog post a mother writes on any aspect of parenting, and in particular breast/ bottle feeding will generate a lot of comments. These comments are usually salvos in the 'Mummy wars' where there are no winners, only hurt feelings. I'm not criticising different feeding decisions, just writing about my experience :)