Breastfeeding stre e e e e t c h e d out.

The next few posts are going to be about breastfeeding, so those of you who couldn’t care less can just skip a few days. Or you can read them anyway in the hope I slip in something funny, erotic or catastrophic, depending on what your reasons are for reading my blog.

Léonie is 17 months old. I am still breastfeeding her. And more frequently than a couple of months ago as she has realised how effective the combination of signing “milk” at me with big, pleading eyes can be. So she feeds when she wakes up, at coffee break (mine – hers is a milk break but less frothy), when she goes for a nap after lunch, when she goes to sleep in the evening, and more often than not sometime between midnight and 6 a.m. That’s a lot of breastfeeding for a 17 month old. I fed Tommy until he was 18 months old but it gradually tailed off naturally until he was just having a little feed in the mornings for the last couple of months and then nowt. This doesn’t look like it’s going to happen with Léonie. I can’t imagine her being weaned a month from now at this rate. She enjoys it too much, and so do I. She is my last baby and I have always loved breastfeeding my kids. The idea that it is all coming to an end makes me feel quite sad. Which is why I give in to her milk signing clenchy fists so easily.

There isn’t really a problem with her still feeding, I mean it’s not a problem for me or for her. Or for L’Homme, Tommy or the dog in fact. It seems to sometimes be a problem for total strangers when they ask me “but how old is she?” and I tell them she’s coming up for a year and a half, and they raise their eyebrows so high that they come off their head. More often than not they immediately ask the bloody stupid question “Does she eat proper food yet?” and I choose between replying “of course she does, she is as I just TOLD YOU, nearly 18 months old” and simply smashing them across the face with a rough plank. Why does the fact I am still breastfeeding my baby trouble them so much? Do they lose sleep at night over this fact? Couldn’t they worry about other, more pressing issues, such as child poverty, the euro turning into dried peas, developing nations kitting themselves out with functional nuclear weapons? Does Léonie breastfeeding make an ounce of difference to their lives? No.

Another friend said, “you fed Tommy for 18 months, you’ve got to do the same with Léonie, otherwise when they’re older and ask you how long you breastfed them, they’ll accuse you of favouritism.” I sincerely hope I manage to raise my children so that they can understand why I might feed my last baby for a marginally longer period than my first. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe my friend is right. But I don’t think Tommy will bawl himself to sleep at the age of 15 when he discovers I breastfed Léonie for a few months more than I breastfed him. He will be far too busy restringing his guitar and finding a surefire hiding place for his porn magazines.

But there is a slight hitch. I am going to Paris at the end of the month for two days recording work. I leave on a Tuesday afternoon and get back late Thursday night. Without Léonie. L’Homme will have finished touring and will be home ready to get a taste of what it’s like to be a single parent (although 2 days doesn’t really count as you can let the household turn into a pigsty and just concentrate on feeding and clothing the small ones which is easy but I digress), so I’m going to Paris ON MY OWN.

So yesterday I dug out my old breast pump, an Avent manual one which I used for a short while when Tommy was 3 months old and I was performing at the Odéon National Theatre in Paris (yes, I’m showing off). It worked really well back then, although Tommy didn’t like my milk being in a bottle so he ended up coming with me and living in my dressing room with L’Homme playing finger-puppets for hours on end while I dashed back in the intervals to feed him (Tommy, not L’Homme, poor bloke – he soon learned that my breasts now belonged to my baby). Well, yesterday I tried and tried and tried again, taking the thing apart and putting it back together, leaning forward, leaning back … but not a drop did flow. Or even drop. Whereas when I used my fingers milk came squirting out. So instead I sat there with a bottle on my breast and squirted milk into it but that takes absolutely ages so after ten minutes and 20ml of milk I gave up. I don’t think it will be such a catastrophe for Léonie not to have breastmilk for 2 days. She eats well, she can have some goat’s milk if she wants something milky, and before she knows it I’ll be back. So I don’t need to express milk for her before I go. But I do need to find a solution to milk-laden breasts which will swell and eventually pop, drenching a confused Paris in the stuff of life.

I’m taking my milk pump with me. And my fingers too. I’m hoping these will be enough to relieve my breasts when they get too full and start going “Oi! Where’s the baby? We’re ready down here, we’re ram-packed to bursting point! WHERE’S THE BABY?” And if my methods don’t work, then I shall have to find a baby. Just like I did last time I went away for a night…

TUNE IN to tomorrow’s exciting episode : “Wet Nurse For A Lunchtime”

(PS: 12/05/21012 Pure coincidence, but today’s Time magazine’s cover story* is about a mother still breastfeeding her nearly 4 year old. America is up in arms about it and other mothers still breastfeeding older children are all of a sudden getting attacked. Here’s another mother’s experience of long-term breastfeeding stre e e e e e e e t c h e d out.)


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