My Breastfeeding Journey - From Beginning To End

I have 3 children, I have breastfed all 3 and they have all self weaned at similar times for different reasons. This is the ups, downs and goodbyes to breastfeeding as these chapters of my life are over.

A newborn baby breastfeeding in mothers arms
My breastfeeding journey from newborn to toddler

Getting Started With Breastfeeding 

When I first started to breastfeed 10 years ago it was a difficult and emotional time. I spent feeds in tears as the pain was incredible. Before M was born I hoped to breastfeed, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I had a breast augmentation 10 years before so I didn’t know if I would be able to breastfeed, when I discovered my milk ducts were still intact and I could lactate I was disappointed that something seemed to be going wrong. My nipples cracked and bled as my daughter cluster fed to up my supply in those first few weeks, but breastfeeding counsellors couldn’t see any big problems with her latch or positioning. 

With the help of breast shields to give me a chance to heal, a huge amount of support from other mums on Twitter and a decline in frequency we eventually moved past the problems and M breastfed until she self weaned around 3 years old. 

A small baby discretely breastfeeding on a sofa next to a remote control
I spent a lot of time on the sofa. watching TV in the early days

Breastfeeding My Second Child

When Little was born I again experienced pain initially, but it wasn’t so bad and with the occasional use of breast shields we got established without too much hassle. Little kept breastfeeding until I was about 6 months pregnant with her brother. By this point, she was around 2 1/2, she was generally only breastfeeding at bedtime. I was feeling a huge amount of sensitivity in my nipples due to pregnancy and when she fed it felt like a 1000 miniature knives stabbing me. Being a sensitive child, and me not so good at hiding my yelps, she realised how much pain it was causing me and she chose to just cuddle to sleep instead. This was more of a relief than anything else and I knew I would be breastfeeding again soon.

Breastfeeding a baby on a sofa propped up by a cushion

Breastfeeding My Last Child

BB was diagnosed with a tongue tie by the midwife at his newborn check. Luckily, due to only stopping breastfeeding a few months before, my supply was really good straight away and despite problems with his latch he was able to get plenty of milk. It did start to hurt as the cluster feeds kicked in though and I could see signs of damage developing so we called a private midwife who treated the tongue tie the next day (I had been referred to the NHS for this straight away, but after nearly a week I still hadn’t heard anything).

As a permanently grumpy baby BB was on my boob all the time. As he got older we introduced bottle of soya milk (he is dairy intolerant), but he still breastfed a lot. Since he turned 2 the bottled milk have gradually increased and breastfeeds cut down. I realised this month that he was barely feeding and knew our days were numbered.

I had been looking at Milk Diamonds for a momento of breastfeeding for many years. I decided it was now or never so I made my purchase and got a breast pump out to get the 30ml of milk to send to them to be encased in resin. I got barely 1ml. I know pumping is not necessarily a reflection of how much milk there is and a baby (or child) is far more effective, but I knew that it was too late. Luckily for the jewellery I have some very old milk in the freezer which should hopefully be good enough and that has been sent off. 

BB is my last child and the end of my breastfeeding journey when it came was sooner that I expected. Every so often he tries latching on, realises there is nothing there and stops. I am no longer breastfeeding. After a total of around 8 years of my life spent breastfeeding this is quite something to get my head round. I still had a drawer full of breastfeeding bras and various breastfeeding tops in my wardrobe and I have only just cleared them out. 

Breastfeeding a toddler the journey to self weaning
Breastfeeding an easily distracted toddler

Dairy Intolerance, Breastfeeding and My Identity

For the last 6 and a bit years I have been breastfeeding or pregnant (or both). I have had to think about what I put into my body and whether it would pass through the placenta or breastmilk. I have been dairy free for 5 years because my mild intolerance caused big problems for my children. And now it’s over. 

It’s been a few weeks now and I am still feeling a bit wow about it. I’m still feeling odd that I could drink a lemsip and have migraine medication that the doctor couldn’t prescribe before. I am deciding whether I want to start the milk ladder and see how much dairy I can tolerate. 

The hardest thing is that breastfeeding and being dairy free has essentially formed part of my self identify for a long time now. I have had to inform doctors and dentists about breastfeeding, and I have to tell every waitress and friend who makes me a cup of coffee about the dairy. I have to check every label and food before I eat it. And now everything is changing.

I couldn’t restart dairy before because even in those few months between Little and BB I couldn’t risk having a big reaction to dairy while heavily pregnant, but now? What next? I’m used to not having dairy in my every day life and find it pretty easy, but then I go out it gets harder. Eating in most restaurants isn’t a case of choosing what I want to eat, but choosing what I actually can it. Suddenly having a whole world of food opening up to me again is exciting, but there is a part of me that then thinks “what will be special about me then?’. As someone who is average in pretty much every way (weight, height, shoe size, looks) having something about me that was different, even though it was difficult at times, was good and it gave me some identity. There is no identity to being average.

Whatever happens next I will keep you posted. 

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