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extended

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Featured, Parenting

Until they are done (Breastfeeding a four year old & an 18 month old)

30 October, 2014

Ah, breastfeeding. Just me and my little one… and my big one… and a small pink babushka doll… half a chewed orange… an awkward pair of fairy wings… and a small bunch of wild flowers.

I never expected such a crowd.

Yet here we are!

*smiles brightly*

It’s not often we all squeeze up together like this. Early on in my tandem breastfeeding experience I decided that three of us at once was too tricky for me to handle. (In one sense “tandem” is a good word- it brings to mind the gargantuan effort of tandem parachuting – a wild enough thing without another person tangled around you. But in another sense, it doesn’t quite do, as there are more than two involved. There are three of us trying to get our heads/ lips around this. I think “triptych breastfeeding” better captures the ungainly mechanisms of it all!)

Natural Term Breastfeeding Extended Tandem

Natural Term Breastfeeding Extended Tandem

18 month old Juno is in the stage of breastfeeding that makes me think that the whole “grass is greener” part of human nature begins early. She takes a few gulps on one side, then pats the other as if to test the waters, then moves over to the other one.
She isn’t quite at the inanimate objects sharing her milk stage (that began with Ramona at two, nursing a micromachine…) but she will often bring some kind of contribution. The marmite toast she is halfway through or a bit of lego she can’t leave behind.
Juno is restless… always on the go, climbing and discovering… when she snuggles in for Mummy Milk it is one of the few moments of stillness in her day. Her eyes flicker vacantly at the sky or our ceiling, I can almost see her processing all that has gone before. I watch her watching her own little show reel. And then the eye lids droop and sleep stills her body.

Ramona will be four in two weeks… and as we approach her birthday I wonder if we are approaching her weaning. Some weeks she doesn’t have a drop of my milk. Most nights she will fall asleep during a story, or just snuggled against my side while I give Juno milk. I guess we have been on the world’s slowest weaning journey over the last year… creeping down at Ramona’s pace, soon to be done.

When I bring the topic up she vehemently declares she isn’t finished with it… “I’m going to have Mummy Milk ‘till I am FIFTEEN!” (Ah.. . the internet’s worst nightmare.) She still sees breastfeeding as her greatest comfort.

People say that mothers breastfeed for a long time for their own sakes… because they can’t let go of their children. You only need to breastfeed through a pregnancy to realise this isn’t the case… I never quite got over the weird physical feeling of breastfeeding Ramona while I was pregnant.

We are touched out, have things to do, no time to sit and watch eye lids flicker, no room on our laps for a babushka…

Natural Term Breastfeeding Extended Tandem

Natural Term Breastfeeding Extended Tandem

And yet.

I never imagined to still be nursing Ramona at four. But there are one million things I never imagined I’d do as a parent… yet have found myself embracing them when it appears apparent that this road is for us. (Every family has their own paths to take… and it is often the children who grab your hand and reveal it, don’t you reckon?) If you detect any lactating smuggery in this post… please don’t. I understand that for all sorts of reasons this path isn’t for all…. and it has been a rocky one for us at times. (*clumsily inserts all the journey metaphors*

It is pretty special to be meeting Ramona and Juno in a place that mothers in ancient and modern cultures across the world have met for millennia.

(On a rocking chair set in long grass. Hehe.)

Tim took three snaps and at first I didn’t like them one bit. I was so stern in the first! Like a Victorian teacher! But… I’m growing to like the fierceness. My expression is the courage of every parent to walk the way their children beckon.

And the second one…. it seems so immodest, with my spilling breasts. And then, I remembered that that is the accusation pointed at nursing mothers constantly. I’m not going to point it at myself. Breastfeeding can be a bit messy and gaping and vulnerable… but pfft, so is love. That is the world’s sexualisation issues. Not mine or my child’s.

So, there we are. The three of us… and the rest. Just breastfeeding until they aren’t any more.

Attachment parenting, Parenting

Attachment Daddy: Supporting Breastfeeding

10 June, 2013

I am handing over my blog today once again to my husband, Tim- or Tim Pop as Ramona calls him. (She also calls him Tim AitkenRead or Uncle Tim- very rarely Daddy! Hehehoohoo.) He wrote about general attachment fatherhood things quite a while ago now, and I’d like him to write about cosleeping and babywearing, but today he is writing about breastfeeding.

Of course, what men think about breastfeeding should be irrelevent – who cares what they think?! Babies need to be nursed by women and we will do it regardless! But, in actual fact, I think it is pretty vital. Husbands and partners can provide much needed support during those early tricky days, or wearying night feeds, or when people criticise the choice to breastfeed a toddler. Tim was the one who bought me endless drinks when that extreme thirst hit everytime I sat down to nurse, the one made me healthy meals and snacks, the one who gave important support to my decision to keep nursing Ramona even when Juno came along. But men are also critical in re-adjusting society’s perspective on breasts- they are the ones who have sexualised them, they now play an enormous role in reframing them as nutritous nursers of children. Only when men on the street and male media moguls/ policy makers/ shop owners make an effort in this will breastfeeding become mainstream.

So here he is…Attachment Daddy on Breastfeeding

Lucy would like me to write about her breasts.  This seems an interesting prospect really considering my mother in law will no doubt read this.  I vividly remember meeting them for the first time.  It was fairly meteoritic.  Since then they have, for the most part, become a normal part of life.

Growing up with two brothers the particulars of breasts were something quite foreign.  The sort of thing you tried not to accidentally elbow when wrestling with our peers or try not to hit with a misjudged pass in touch rugby.  The repercussions of these sort of indiscretions were often quite violent and embarrassing.

Breasts did take on a different dimension later in life, but I won’t dwell on this too much for everyone’s sake.  Then along came Ramona.  Things changed quite dramatically after that.  Baby’s are often quite hungry, and if anyone as ever seen any pictures of Ramona (and now Juno) between 0 and 6 months you’ll understand that feeding time was pretty important.

Attachment Daddy on breastfeeing

I’d like to say that as a mature adult I have developed an amazing level of impulse control, for the most part I actually have.  I have a good level of bowel control.  I manage to not say too many awkward things to the extent that my friends at least think I’m reasonably normal.  But as far as food goes though I can’t resist chocolate.  It’s the answer to most of my problems ranging from hunger through to emotional upheaval.  Ramona takes after me on this one.  Though her focus seems to be “Mummy’s Milk” as she calls it.

Obviously with this in mind, meal times/comfort eating never really followed a set pattern or predictable routine.  So whether we found ourselves walking to the shops, sitting on the bus, playing in the park, or even sitting in the privacy of our lounge Ramona’s desire to be close and eating became the expected norm.  Arguably, for the most part I’m a reasonably modest character when it comes to skin showing.  But the experience of becoming a parent has changed me.  Hunger is hunger.  Needs are needs.  Ramona and Juno need to eat.

Last week I found myself sitting in a circle with 11 other students, and the coordinator of our experiential session of my weekly counseling skills course.  In a lull in the conversation (there are loads of these) I stated that recently I have been struggling with a message that a friend sent to Lucy about her ”tits” being inappropriately all over facebook.  I thought that it was perhaps a misjudged joke, but nonetheless, like Lucy, found it difficult to take.

What came next took a while to process.  According to half the members of the group breastfeeding should be done away from others, if breasts are on show you should expect people to stare at them because they are essentially sexual objects, breastfeeding mums should not go round upsetting people basically;  breasts should not run the risk of being spotted by a guy.

I don’t remember being massively surprised really.  I sort of became sad and quiet initially as the conversation bouncing around the room became irrelevant to my initial statement, later on I may have said a few carefully chosen words. When was the last time you felt the need to go eat your dinner in a room away from your friends and family?

Breastmilk gives life to hundreds of millions of children everyday.  Breastmilk has sustained and continues to sustain both of my children, even the 2 and a half year old sausage.  Breastmilk is amazing stuff that has ensured the health and vitality of Ramona and now Juno.  From pus leaking eyeballs, to blocked noses, basic infections to comforting a toddler with a broken leg Lucy’s breastmilk has been the answer!

I believe that breastfeeding should be normalized in our western, sadly male dominated culture.  In New Zealand where I grew up we didn’t actually have the Sun’s page 3 (it’s not only the architecture of this country that is mainly Victorian), but the prevailing sexualisation of these amazing things still shaped our view of breasts.  I support Lucy entirely in the pursuit of changing this, in fact more than that, I think that it’s an essential chorus that will enable all of us to grow up a bit.

Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding

But there’s nothing in there! Breastfeeding at 11 months.

10 October, 2011

I was at the park this week and had the following conversation:

Lady: “You’re still breastfeeding?”

Me: “Yep, you know, every 2-3 hours, day and night.” (Ah, so innocent and forthcoming!)

Lady: “And she is how old?”

Me: “Nearly eleven months”

Lady: “Ummm. You know there’s nothing in there right?”

Me: Chokes on a Wotsit.  “They are full, bursting with milk!  I could actually take your eye out with a stream of this cream or clear up your conjunctivitus from the other side of this swing if you got it one day!” (Okay, not that last bit.)

Lady: “Well, nutritionally. Nothing. Nothing from 6 months.”

Me: “Actually, it is packed with protein, all the vitamins…”

Lady: “But they need IRON!”

I gave in at this point and feebly said “Well, she does eat solids too” (although no doubt she would be appalled at the little amount Ramona does consume.) I truly wish I was armed with the fact that breastmilk is high in iron too AND one of the easiest ways for babes to absorb it.

I was just completely baffled. I had heard some of the myths surrounding breastfeeding but I didn’t actually think anyone believed them- let alone professed them in the playground.

I’d have been embaressed if I wasn’t so stoked with it all. I am so happy breastfeeding Ramona at eleven months, I absoutely LOVE it. Before having Ramona I assumed I would get to 6 months then wean, but as they say that just made an ass out of Umed.

Now I am pretty sure I will keep going until she doesn’t need it anymore, nutritionally or emotionally. And that could be some time…

Here’s why I love it:

I still get a HUGE rush of endorphins from nursing, they flood through me making me feel super relaxed and happy.

It provides a lovely rest as we snuggle down together at various points through the day.

It eases her off into dreamland calmly and consistently.

If we are out and about and late for tea I can feed her something a gazillion times more nutritous than a breadstick (though God love ‘em.)

Some days she just doesn’t fancy her olives, pasta and brocoli, I don’t have to fret as I know she’ll just nurse more to make it up.

And, I’m not obsessed with weight, but it is pretty cool eating anything and still losing weight.

I am sure it makes her less fractious, a quick nurse seems to fill her love cup right up and give her a contented little peaceful glow.

Plus it provides endless giggles as she nurses and claps, nurses and sings, nurses and sucks her toes, nurses and Nipple Gripples the other (this last one- not so funny.)

There are loads of benefits to breastfeeding, for mum and baby, and it is bizarre that people seem to think these just stop at 6 months. In lots of countries, like Mongolia (this article completely rocks) and Sweden (yeah, I saw the video at the NHS breastfeeding workshop with all those nakey Swedes and their big chubby, latched on toddlers) extended nursing is the norm. Now that Ramona is getting so big I am beginning to see how abnormal it is here in the UK and how different it is feeding an older one. I really better start reading up so I can bust some myths in the playground.

On a boat on green water.