Well, I did it. I reached 12 months of breastfeeding. Or we did, I should say. Jacob has been an enthusiastic partner in this—some might say too enthusiastic lately—so it’s unfair to take all the credit.
So will I carry on? I’m not sure. Past 12 months is in the realm of ‘extended breastfeeding’. You know, that thing people like to write articles about with case studies of women breastfeeding an 8-year-old. When we talk about taboos in infant feeding, breastfeeding past baby’s first birthday is up there with giving solids at 3 months and fizzy drinks in a bottle. The reaction I’ve seen when I mention I’m still feeding is pretty much universally one of shock and/or horror.
To be honest, I’d like to carry on for at least a month or two. Jacob’s been through a lot of changes recently with me going back to work, starting nursery and moving house. I think if I took away his favourite thing he’d have a complete meltdown. I’d like to settle him in to his new routine before I think about stopping. But actually, do I even want to stop? Or is it just because I think I should? Because that’s what society expects?
Reading Wild Atlantic Mum’s guest post last week on breastfeeding her daughter for 2 years has given me something to think about. She’s definitely right when she talks about the need to realise the problem is in other people’s reactions.
I read an article a couple of weeks ago that said only 0.5% of British women are still breastfeeding at 12 months, which kind of made me sad. If women don’t want to breastfeed, that’s fine with me. If they can’t breastfeed, obviously that’s fine. But if they are stopping because they don’t have support or there’s social stigma, then that is upsetting.
I remember one conversation I had when I was pregnant vividly. Someone said “Oh you must breastfeed. But not for longer than 6 months.” with a little shudder thrown in at the thought of breastfeeding an older baby. And therein lies the problem. We all get the pressure to breastfeed, but woe betide anyone who does it for too long.
Maybe I should just stop blogging about it and talking about it in real life. Then I could keep it secret, and no one would judge, and we’d all be happy. But if we don’t talk about it, and women don’t see others feeding their babies, how will we change attitudes? I want to stop breastfeeding because I want to stop. Or because Jacob does—I’ll let him have a say in it. Not because of anyone else.