I wrote about the first ten months of breastfeeding my son in March 2011. My closing comments were: ‘I am looking forward to continuing to breastfeed Ewan as he grows into a toddler [... ] Like all journeys I am not aiming for the destination but the experience along the way. This journey so far has taught me more than I ever imagined, about myself, my baby, our amazing bodies, our culture, and opened me up to new ways of seeing’.
I am now a little further along this remarkable journey. As I write these words my eighteen month old son toddles happily into the room, tugs on my sleeve, says ‘na na’ in his adorable little voice, thoroughly expecting to be picked up and nursed. So I do, as his face beams with pleasure, delighted chuckles as he waits in anticipation. I type with one hand as he grips onto my hair, making contented little humming noises as he suckles. I glance adoringly down at his bright blonde mop of hair and shining blue eyes, as we begin what is now second nature to us both. He then unlatches, lowers himself to the floor and wanders off into his mesmerising new world; I know he’ll return when he needs to. I like to think of our breastfeeding relationship as a sophisticated dance of joining and parting, which varies in length and intensity from the short but intense feeds in the day to the long, lazy dream feeds in the evening and early morning.
For me there are two words which stand out in this relationship; confidence and communication. Ewan is confident his mother will provide him with the nursing he expects, as long as he desires it. Why would it be any different? He is unaware of the complex, multiple reasons why most mothers in the UK stop breastfeeding before their children are biologically ready. He is also increasingly confident in latching on quickly and adeptly in the most interesting of positions, including standing up and feeding upside down in what can only be described as breastfeeding gymnastics! He happily feeds at any time in almost any situation. I have developed the confidence to read his emotions and his needs, to trust him to communicate to me those needs, in effect allowing our instincts to rule. I have also developed confidence in my body and its ability to provide such a huge amount to my son through breastfeeding, far beyond its nutritional properties to the countless other benefits of this ‘magic’ milk. So too am I feeling empowered enough to step out of the box, to cease practising ‘closeted nursing’ hidden from view. Instead I nurse my toddler with pride and awareness of its benefits, confident to nurse almost anywhere, anytime, until my son communicates to me he is ready to wean.