right from the get-go, i decided i wasn’t going to be too hard on myself with regards to breastfeeding. all that media hype about how “breast is best” wasn’t gonna faze me. if i could do it, i will. if not, then i had some avent and tommee tippee newborn bottles sterilized and ready in my hospital bag. i bought two different brands just in case she (or he, as we didn’t know what the gender of our baby was) preferred one over the other. for the formula, i chose S26. my mom said that was the milk she gave me during infancy that’s why i’m smart.
the milk eventually expired and all the bottles sat there, unused. i was a milking cow, literally and figuratively. for the first few weeks, my boobs were as hard as a rock and even through the pain, i loved it. mainly because for the first time in my life, they finally met. my sternum bore witness to that happy reunion. i remember looking down at my chest and liking what i saw. dayum!
but as they say, some good things never last. the milk was still there but the bountiful cleavage was nowhere in sight. that was alright with me. as long as i still have milk, that’s all that matters. but no pressure, i always said.
i enjoyed breastfeeding my baby. sure, the first few weeks was tough but they were learning curves i had to maneuver around. as soon as i got the hang of it, everything was pretty smooth-sailing.
without me realizing it, i started a friendly competition with myself. i began to set goals on how long i would nurse raven. 6 months was the initial target. she started eating solids roundabout that time when my mom suggested i wean her already. never did. 6 months turned to 1 year and by then i was kind of excited to be done with it so i can finally wear clothes that didn’t necessarily have buttons down the front. nope, never happened.
fast forward and here we are now at 2 years. she still asks for it. sometimes. but those times are few and far between. maybe once every other day, if that. sticking to the general advice of “don’t offer, don’t refuse,” i’m happy to take her lead. it’s her call. always has been. and besides, we have had a good run. no regrets.
well, except maybe for that time we were on a holiday in cebu. 2 days in and she suddenly didn’t wanna nurse. i went for a swim in the beach and was already dry when i came back inside the room to feed her so i thought it wouldn’t be a problem. i don’t know if it was the smell or the taste of salt on my skin or the fact that i left her for more than 3 hours to chase sardines on the other side of the island but either way, she refused to feed for 5 days straight.
i know i said i wouldn’t put too much pressure on breastfeeding her and since she was already more than a year old then, it shouldn’t have been that big of a deal. but to me, it was. something was telling me we both weren’t ready. it was just too… sudden. it was like going on a date with somebody you had a real chemistry with and then without warning, they stop all forms of communication with you cold turkey. you know what i mean? that’s not normal. i was stressed and she was cranky. and she never was a cranky baby.
that’s when i learned about the term nursing strike — when a perfectly happily nursing baby refuses to latch onto the breast for more than two nursing sessions in a row. never heard of that before but it ticked all my boxes. for 5 days i persevered in getting her back into the flow of things again. almost gave up but on the fifth night, voila! we were back in the game!
i guess one of the biggest challenges i had to face as far as breastfeeding is concerned was doing it in public. with all the debate about its appropriateness and how much boobs you can expose without inciting scandalous stares from the people around you made me highly self-conscious. i was never without the nursing cover my older sister gave me. it took a bit of getting used to but raven and i managed. and for a long time, that was how we rolled.
but lately i don’t carry that piece of cloth around anymore. i don’t even know where it is. with raven sporadically breastfeeding, i have learned to make use of whatever is at hand that would pass as a suitable alternative to a cover. like that time we went to st. kilda and she suddenly wanted to breastfeed. i wasn’t prepared for that. neither was my dress, with its zipper at the back. had to practically strip myself down to accommodate her. thank god for that denim jacket otherwise, i would’ve just let it all hang loose. as if there’s a lot of it, to begin with.
but you know what, i realized that at some point in one’s breastfeeding journey, you realize that your baby’s needs matter more than other people’s opinions. breastfeeding is a purely natural thing. nothing sexual about it. i would probably still cover myself up because that’s just me but it’s not fair hating on those who don’t feel the need to do it either. sure, it could get a bit awkward but there’s a very simple remedy to that: don’t look. respect the sacredness of that moment’s bond between mother and child.
as to when she will stop breastfeeding for good, only time knows when. for now, i plan to treasure these precious moments she’s in my arms and marvel at how her feet can now touch the surface where before they extended only slightly past my thighs.
my mom still keeps telling me to wean her already and i will. i’m ready when she is. and i mean it this time.
*raven at 7 months old; 1 year and 10 months old