When it comes to pregnancy and parenting, breastfeeding is one of the most controversial subjects.I am not sure why, as it is the most natural thing to do, the body was built for it after all. It all starts during pregnancy with the ‘will you?’, which turns to a ‘are you?’ once you have given birth, which turns again to ‘are you still?’ at various stages through the first few months. These questions come from professionals, colleagues, friends and even strangers.
There is masses of advice, guidance and opinions on breastfeeding, how to start, how to continue, why it is good, public or not – but there is one question that is rarely answered. When is the right time to stop?
I am a mum to two bundles of joy and I have been very lucky to have been able to breastfeed them both successfully, I consider myself lucky because some women can’t.
With my first (a boy), he didn’t feed for the first 36 hours after birth, but once he got it, boy did he get it! We had a happy time breastfeeding until the teeth appeared. When he got his bottom two at 5 months old it wasn’t too bad, but when he got the top two as well, it seemed that I became his chew toy and that wasn’t great. I ended up going to mixed feeding at six months and stopping breastfeeding completely at seven months, in a mix of emotion.
With my second (a girl) it was a different start. She was born at one minute past nine at night and started to feed at about 10.30pm, feeding constantly for six hours through the night, like I wasn’t shattered enough! It has been wonderful feeding her, and has meant that in the chaos of being a family with a two and a half year old and a baby, I still get some time just me and her. I am still feeding her now at nearly eight months but am starting to consider the question – when is the right time to stop?
I’m not sure many people realise there are two sides of the brain dealing with this question; there is the normal side that thinks about the physical/time/sensible aspects and then there is the side that deals with Mummy guilt and produces questions like, what will people think if I stop now? Am I being selfish? Will the world come to an end if I stop? You know the type of thing!
So here are some of the reasons I am thinking of stopping:
Baby Girl is getting her teeth, she has had her bottom two for a while, but the top two are cutting through as I speak…I have already had an encounter or two of the unpleasant kind with them!
At the minute Baby girl will only sleep after a breastfeed.
Baby girl finds it difficult to use a bottle or beaker, so getting her to drink fluid any other way (such as expressed breast milk or water) is hard, meaning I am the only one who can do the drinks and night time feeds.
The government guidance is that you should breastfeed exclusively until your baby is six months old. So where is my support from the health service in deciding whether to stop? Nowhere it seems. This is a decision that I have to make with Hubby - there are no leaflets, no health visitor, just us and my mummy guilt!
The truth is, like many family related situations, it is different for everyone, you have to do what’s best for you and baby (and try and ignore anyone else). In the circle of people I know there are people who stopped before six months, those who stopped dead on six months and those who continued (one is still going with her nearly three year old), so I know I have to look at what’s right for me and baby girl. The time is close for me to stop - we will probably introduce formula alongside breastmilk first and then I will stop completely, it is not a time I look forward to, but our relationship will move on the the next stage and we will be happy with it!
What do you think? When did you stop breastfeeding? Was it the right time for you?
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