No More Shame in Breastfeeding My Way
Between my two children, I’ve a total of about four and a half years of breastfeeding. Those years were challenging, educational and fulfilling. I was fortunate to be one of those mothers whose milk came in easily and in good supply. With my first child, my milk did gradually lessen when I went back to work. I took malunggay capsules and expressed milk while at work to keep a good supply. Eventually, I had to start mix feeding with formula milk. Despite these challenges, I was able to breastfeed my eldest child for 18 months.
The greater challenge came when I breastfed my second child. It wasn’t a challenge in milk supply, biting (of course, my baby did bite but I was able to handle it) or any other physical difficulties that can happen to a breastfeeding mother. It was the emotional part of breastfeeding that got to me. Unlike with my first child whom I breastfed mostly at home, my second child was basically attached to me and breastfeeding whenever and wherever. By then, I wasn’t working in an office anymore, so I was almost always available to him. Because of that, I didn’t see the need to express milk and to teach him to take milk from a bottle. (He learned to drink water from a sippy cup.)
We moved to Singapore when my second child was months old. The challenge was when my baby would cry in public. It was easy when we were in one of those malls with peaceful and well-appointed nursing rooms. While hubby and daughter went around the mall, baby and I would have a proper nursing session. However, when we were in the train or bus or in a park and he would start crying loudly, I had no choice. Despite getting disapproving looks or curious stares from strangers around me, I pulled out my nursing bib and let my baby latch on right then and there.
During the first few times I did this, I felt ashamed. I thought that I was being inconsiderate by making other people uncomfortable. I thought that even though my breasts were covered, I was still being improper. I didn’t stop breastfeeding in public, but I secretly felt ashamed.
I read about breastfeeding, and I remember someone saying that I shouldn’t be ashamed to breastfeed in public, that I shouldn’t worry about the people around me and instead put my child first and think about comforting him.
I chose to breastfeed my second child until his toddler years. When he was a year old, he only wanted to nurse to help him fall asleep or to comfort him when distressed, so nursing happened mostly in the privacy of our home. I didn’t get any stares, but what I received were bits and pieces of unsolicited advice from some people who knew that my son was still breastfeeding. “Maybe you should stop breastfeeding him because he isn’t a baby anymore….Aren’t you making him too dependent on you?” Sometimes, my resolve wavered and I felt that shame again. And I did try several times to prematurely wean him. It didn’t work, and I believe it was because the timing wasn’t right. He wasn’t mature enough emotionally, and he needed me to continue to be there for him through breastfeeding.
I remembered that I needed to put my child first and to stop worrying about what other people around me were saying and thinking. I wanted to breastfeed him until he was ready to wean. I stopped listening to the naysaying voices outside and focused on the inner voice that helped me push away the shame and embrace the joy of breastfeeding. One day, my toddler son just didn’t want to latch on anymore. After a bedtime read, he hugged me good night, lay down beside me and fell asleep. No more struggles, no more tears, and no more shame.
And the chapter of breastfeeding in my life ended for good, with joy and gratitude and without shame.