SOPHIE MEI: Breastfeeding my two kids shouldn't have to be a secret
I'm a professional dancer, I sometimes perform in very little clothing. I blog about my life, I make films. But there's something else that gets me far more attention, although I wish it didn't.
I breastfeed my two babies; I ‘tandem feed’ my four-year-old and my one-year-old, and it shouldn’t embarrass me, but it does.
It makes me feel really uncomfortable when my eldest pulls at my top wanting to feed in public. It’s not her that makes me feel uneasy, after all, a lot of kids her age still have pacifiers. But I can’t bare all the stares, I’ve not got the confidence to not feel bothered about other peoples horrified looks or tuts at me. And yet, my happy, lively and go-getting four-year-old would prefer ‘mama milk’ to sweets, she even sometimes wants my milk instead of a McFlurry ice-cream! It is accepted that kids eat ‘Happy Meals,’ made up of deep’fried food and sugary drinks, but when an older infant wants breast milk, this is deemed wrong. And yet, breast milk continues to nourish a baby/child even after they turn one. Breast milk does not discriminate when a child turns a certain age. We readily drink other mammals’ breast-milk (cows/goats), so why do people struggle when they see us human mammals drink our own mum’s milk?
I don’t feed my children to make a point, but I’m always justifying why I feed them as I have stumbled across so much criticism, so I have decided to use this National Breastfeeding Week to talk openly about the fact that I still breastfeed my kids. Not because this makes me special. I’m just doing my best at this parenting thing, and I find that breastfeeding soothes and nourishes my kids. To me, breast milk is the most magical thing I’ve ever created. It’s not always been easy due to the stigma around breastfeeding older babies from people I know, including, health professionals. I’ve been told I’m selfish. I’ve been been told I’m a bad mum. “It’s got to stop.”
But believe me, breastfeeding isn’t like what you see on the posters where a gently suckling baby is being cradled by its mother. It’s like an Olympic sport trying to get a one-year-old to feed sat down. And there’s the sibling rivalry, as they kick each other, pull each other’s hair and fight - all whilst attached to my breasts.
I never planned to breastfeed this long. Sometimes I try to hide the fact that I still feed them both, but it’s not wrong and it shouldn’t be a secret.
I value breast milk. At the end of the day, it is the choice of the mother and child. That’s what’s natural, not what you think parents should or shouldn’t do.