Breastfeeding Unicorn (Not)
Walking past a playground of children with a crying 14 month old, pushing the pram with my right hand and holding the dog’s leash with my left, is uncomfortable. Everything in me wanted to pick my upset little girl up and cuddle her, but it was just not doable with the dog.
I made the decision about a month ago to drop her daytime feeds because it was becoming too painful for me, with the arrival of her teeth. It was normal for her to fall asleep as she fed but the problem was that as she drifted off, her latch would weaken and down came the teeth. Ouch!
Generally, she doesn’t ask to feed during the day anymore, as she loves solid food and is a busy bee, exploring the world. So my partner and I have been taking her for walks before her naps and she usually falls asleep in her pram. But yesterday, she was not happy about sitting in her pram.
It took a lot of brainpower and conscious effort to process my emotions as she cried. We kept walking but we were quite far from home at this point. I had to fight the guilt that tried to creep in. This wouldn’t be a problem if you just fed her rather than continuing to walk.
I’m ashamed of it now but I used to be judgemental of other mums who would talk about how they wished they could breastfeed for longer but ‘couldn’t’, for whatever reason. I’d think, ‘If you really wanted to, you would make it happen.’ I related to Julie Tenner’s mentality in this Nourishing the Mother podcast episode (The Boob Angst).
As we walked, I was worried that my baby was feeling unloved as she cried and I refused to pick her up. I felt like I wasn’t being a good enough RIE/Positive/Conscious/Gentle parent! Then I thought about how calm and easy going she generally is. She knows she is loved and even though she gets upset (and shows it) like every other child, she is very contented on a deep level.
This moment of clarity enabled me to keep walking without guilt as she cried. I acknowledged her and let her know that she was heard and that I could see that she didn’t want to be in the pram at that moment. I was sorry that she felt upset but it not safe to pick her up and still get the pram and the dog home.
Had I let the guilt overcome me, I would have picked her up and cuddled her, only to have to return her to the pram, which would make her upset all over again and lengthened the process of getting home. And look, if she was having a full on meltdown cry, I would have done that but it wasn’t that severe so we kept going.
It would have been great to persevere with breastfeeding up until the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 2 years of age. But I’m not a breastfeeding unicorn. I don’t want to become resentful about breastfeeding and I don’t want to keep putting myself through the pain that it’s been causing lately.
The guilt came from wanting to ‘perfectly’ follow the recommendations around breastfeeding. I’d read so many parenting books and articles that resonated with me and I’d get so obsessive about upholding certain practices or principles and would beat myself up when I didn’t.
Well, I didn’t beat myself up yesterday on our walk and I’m pleased about that. My daughter eventually calmed down, fell asleep and woke up an hour later with a massive smile on her face, happy to see me.
Who knew that perfectionism could permeate through so many facets of life, including breastfeeding?