Hello, my name is Eve. I still breastfeed my 19 year old son and do so because I want him to remain a baby forever. This is what I would be made to say if there was a group for mothers who breastfeed their child longer than what is considered the norm , to try and get over this ‘problem’. A ‘breastfeeders anonymous’ if you will. Joe isn’t really 19. He is four years old. But who cares eh?
Before I had Joe, I’d never really thought about breastfeeding. I wasn’t breastfed and all but one of my mates didn’t have babies so I’d never properly considered how I’d nourish my offspring. My friend with a baby mix fed so my assumption was that I would do the same . I had however always been proud of my boobs. They were my pride and joy.I wasn’t blessed with a flat stomach, I had child bearing hips since I was about 9 and a buck tooth that shone bright in photos. I hated all of these features. But I had great boobs. Women pay good money for a pair of lils like mine .
I’d read stories in those amazingly trashy women’s weeklies with headlines like ‘ my school son still suckles at my breasts’ and would think, what on earth? That child should be eating normal food by now. And John never ceases to remind me of the day when, 8 months pregnant at our antenatal class, we were shown breastfeeding pictures from all around the world. I did lots of oohh ahh, look at that lovely little cute newborn feeding from its mummy and then saw the pictures at the top of the table that showed toddlers and then , the shock horror of it, children of four and five feeding. Our antenatal teacher said ‘in Europe, it’s very in vogue to feed way past babyhood and in Outer Mongolia,even fathers nurse their older children’. I can remember saying to John, ‘I want to be in vogue but I’ll wear some Capri pants and cut my hair into a Pob to be so, there is no way in hell that I will be breastfeeding a walking, talking kid’. And then I gave birth. Went completely bananas, fed Joe through a haze of anti psychotics and have emerged nearly five years later,no longer with my head in narnia but still nursing my son who will be going to school in six weeks.
Sometimes, when people find out I still nurse Joe, there is usually a) a horrified look on their face c) a comment along the lines of ‘don’t you think it’s about time you stopped this Eve, I mean, he will never be independent’ and then 7) which is usually from strangers ‘ that is absolutely disgusting’. Some did did tell me once that it was akin to abuse. What a delightful thing to say to a mother. As you will know from my other blogs, breastfeeding became important to me almost overnight. I had assumed I would mix feed Joe so before he was even born, along with the 87 can of caffeine free diet coke and value strawberry angel delights I became obsessed with, I would order those ready made cartons of formula. I just assumed I would use them. And then I gave birth, went insane,became terrified of being near my son,refused to look at him or be in the same room as him but felt a desperate pang to feed him myself. I don’t know what it was. I found the very idea of being near him beyond comprehension. I remember the day that I ran out into the middle of the road with no pants on screaming ‘I’m trapped , take me away from this world,he has trapped me’. I felt no sense of shame that I had just bared my saggy arse to the nosey old lady over the road and as John brought me back into the house, I slumped myself on the floor, crying my eyes out. My mum was there and said ‘ Evelyn, what is it love, tell me how you feel, please’. I looked at her, angry and I can remember clear as day saying ‘ I hate it, I can’t bear it , I can’t.even.bear.to.look.at.him’. My mum started weeping and said ‘ but he is so precious Evelyn. Look at him love, please,cuddle him, please love’, and I just stared at the carpet. And then he started crying. And I did what I was later to realise I always did when he did this – I picked him up and nursed him. I found it hard to look at him but my boobs would tingle when he cried as if they ached to comfort him.
The feelings I experienced were so confusing and if I am frank, kind of terrified me. I had a massive desire to not be a mum. I was , what was later described in therapy, grieving deeply for my old life. I felt dead,void of positive feelings towards the future and scared of the life waiting for me ahead. But I found myself needing and wanting it nurse the child I didn’t think I wanted.
The day I was hospitalised is when I had a sense of realisation that I wanted to not only be my sons mother and carer but I also wanted to be his life giver. After John had found me wandering around in a daze, I had ran into his parents room and began crawling round the bed on all fours. I was screaming for someone to help me. John was talking on the phone to a psychiatrist and I was walking up and down the stairs over and over,talking to myself. I suddenly heard another voice. My mother in law was on the phone to the doctors surgery and was asking for the GP to prescribe some tablets for me to dry my milk up so she could bottle feed Joe. And this was when my brain bolted. I knew I was ill. I knew I was terrified of my role as a mum and god, the terror of this being a job I would have forever like it or not, filled me with a fear that I had never ever experienced. I was confused,scared and lost in my own terrifying thoughts but I knew something. I knew I wanted to feed my son. I knew I could do that. It was the one thing that I could do for him that no one else could and a rage went through me. I had grown used to feeling angry over those first six weeks but this was a different sort. I stood there and shouted ‘ that is not happening. I’m not talking those tablets.he is my son, and I am feeding him and no one else I is.No one’. I knew that I wasn’t going to have that role taken from me. It was as if some mother force from deep within me roared out of me. I think my heart knew if I stopped feeding him , I would lose any connection I had with him forever. And I could not let that happen. I was his mother and there was no way in hell anyone else was going to take the feeding from me. My milk was yearning to feed him and my heart and head both knew that’s what I needed to carry on doing. I in no way wanted him being fed by someone else.
When he got to six months , the oh so you’ll be weaning him comments started coming. And I thought, oh, erm I dunno. I’d never even thought about stopping. At this point, I’d never even heard of ‘extended/natural term’ breastfeeding, I simply just didn’t see any reason to stop. And then we just carried on. A few times I would say, oh I reckon when he is a year and then that changed to 18 months and then one day I said , I think I’ll just keep going until he wants to stop. I’ve had the ‘ when he goes to school Eve, you can’t slip your nip through the school gates to feed him’ comments. I thought, well speak for yourself as I have amazing boobs that can stretch in all different directions so wind your neck in. Of course, I jest. I mean, imagine having stretchy boobs ? But comments like this show how people don’t understand how feeding a child older than a baby or even a toddler doesn’t mean they walk around the shopping mall all day with a boob in their mouth. It simply means they feed milk from their mother when they want it. It’s quite simple really – once a day Joe says can I have a yogurt please mummy and then at another point of the day usually before he goes to bed, he says can I have boobie please mummy. I don’t offer, I don’t refuse.
I have no shame in my child making the decision to continue nursing and I absolutely will not allow him to be made to feel ashamed of this choice in any way shape or form. Some people might not like it and that’s fine, I felt like that once too. I don’t want to change their mind. Their opinion is as valid as mine but I will not let them make my son feel ashamed.
I remember at Joe’s two year check, the health visitor gushed about how independent he seemed and confident and oohh, look at his lovely teeth and how he must take such good care of them. When she asked about his diet and I said, yep, all good in that front and mentioned he still nursed,it was as if I had just told her I breastfeed the neighbours dog. She looked at me in such horror and put on a little baby voice and said ” you have the let him go at some mum and think of his little teeth decaying” and then stroked his head and said ‘you’re a big boy now joe,no more Milkies from mummy ok?’. Joe put his hands on hips and shouted ‘ no no no.you are not taking boobie away from me, you are an idiot lady’ and burst into tears. I told her to jog on in a more colourful way and flounced out in dramatic fashion.
Another comment I see all the time is ‘you just want to keep him as a baby’. I won’t spend much time on this, but for those of you who have met my child, you will know there is no way he can be forced to do anything. I might conduct a public demonstration at some point to demonstrate the fact that you can’t force a four year old to nurse. I might run around with my boob out in the local park shouting feed feed feed Joe ,nowwwwww. He would stare at me and say, mummy, you’re acting crazy, and I don’t want boobie now. I’ll tell you when I do. I have no desires to keep Joe as a baby. I was too terrified to even look at him for nearly two months after he’s was born and until he was one, he woke up 17 times a night. I found looking after a baby frightening, terrifying and exhausting so I can assure you, I definitely don’t nurse him to keep him a baby. Very simply, I nurse him because he wants me to and I’m not bothered about it.
There seems to be some bizarre idea, aided, that if you feed your child past six months, you have pubes down to your knees, braided and beaded and wear handmade shoes made out of tofu. Not that there is anything wrong with this. Not at all. Tofu is a very versatile foodstuff. And for those that know me well, I practise attachment parenting, make my own air freshener and wrap Joes feet in freshly brewed lemon socks when he has a cold. However, I do also favour a Brazilian wax. Shock horror though , I have friends who don’t own a TV and make their own blusher out of turmeric who haven’t nursed their child into toddlerhood. My point here is to not make assumptions about people just because they have a different lifestyle to yourself and don’t think that mothers who feed their children past babyhood have some sort of wild political agenda. This point has been made to me by someone. Someone who doesn’t understand politics.
I’ve never really understood the issue people have with women feeding their kids in public. It’s.a.boob. It’s a body part. John put it right last year when he said ‘ if milk came out of your fingers and your kid sucked on them in public,no one would care but because it’s a boob, the world, it’s mother and it’s wife start having a panic attack at the sight of some skin’. And he is right. If you want to nurse in public discreetly, then of course , do that as that’s what you want to do. But ladies, if you want to feed your kid in public without covering yourself in a mobile tent, then just flip le bobbie out and do it. I always find those tweets about public breastfeeding that go ‘ oh my effing god, there is a women with her tit out feeding her baby in McDonald’s.put it away lady,I’m trying to eat my lunch here’ hilarious. Erm, well, your in a ‘restaurant’ having your lunch and so is this child. What would you prefer the mother do ? Blitz up a happy meal and feed it to her 3 week old child? It’s a boob.
I have a friend who once explained in a way I’d never heard before but she put it in such an eloquent way I must share it with you ‘Saying it should be covered up because it also has a sexual use is pretty fucking dim as this means surely we should all be walking around with our hand over our mouths because you know, not only are mouths used for eating and speaking, but they also perform blow jobs’ . She has a valid point.
I had to laugh at that TV programme Loose Women a few months ago. The issue of feeding in public came up and everyone said ooh yes, we have to ‘allow’ women to do this and there was lots of nodding and then an audience member said ‘of course it’s fine, as long as it happens like it does in France , where you cover the baby with a blanket’ and there was applause. So babies can be fed their food source, but must do while enduring a man made heat wave made of wool. My suggestion is if you are offended by the sight of a piece of skin being sucked on by a child to ensure it stays fed and alive is to wrap yourself in a duvet, sit in the corner and stare at the floor. If you think it’s ok for a child to have to do that so your feelings aren’t hurt, then I’m sure it’s more than fine for you to take your own advice.
There are those clever minded bods who say ‘pump your milk and feed your baby in public with a bottle’ so you don’t nurse outside the four walls of your home. As the mother of a child who refused point blank to take to any of 914 bottles we purchased in order for me to get some kind of break as I began to climb the walls of insanity, I can tell you it ain’t always as simple as , ohhhh, I’ll just quickly express some milk and pop it in this very expensive bottle that promises to be the exact shape of my nipple. I found myself with pots of expressed milk sitting all over the house as our mission to attempt to get joe to take a bottle failed abysmally. We tried everything. All the usual bottles that adorn the shelves of the supermarket, even blow up travel bottles. We even had a mould made of my nipple and sent it off to a company somewhere near the moon which came back resembling an elephants trunk. I’d like to say at this point that my nipples are not in real life akin to that of an elephant,hence whys the bottle was hurtled across the room by my very angry child. And why should my child have to feed out of a bottle just because people can’t get their head out of the gutter?
And for the mummies who formula feed after being ill like I was.I wasn’t treated with lithium so I was very lucky I was able to nurse.I feel lucky and blessed that though very hard at the start,our breastfeeding relationship has been so lovely. I chose to continue feeding and it was the right choice for our family. I don’t like being judged for nursing my four year old so I don’t judge mums who were in my position who chose/needed to feed in a different way. Breastfeeding for Joe and I is wonderful and I love that my son cherishes it and finds it such a comfort as it really is so much more than a source of nutrition, particularly now.
We are all mothers. I’ve endured nearly five years of negative comments about the nursing relationship I have with my son and this has made me realise even more that mums have such a hard job. My friend put it so well when she said of breastfeeding and the length of time it goes on for -‘ it’s what you are comfortable with isn’t it?’ – and she is right. Feeding longer than the six months ‘norm’ may not be for everyone but all I ask is for people to not make hurtful comments about the children and mothers who do nurse for longer. I’ve had people day ‘you don’t look like one of those mums Eve’ when they find out we still breastfeed and I wonder what I’m supposed to look like? I’m just a mum surely ? Let’s all be supportive of each other and let’s all be nice. Let’s not judge when we haven’t walked in others shoes. Bonjour.