Thursday, 21 June 2012

Why stopping is, now, right for my baby (even if it doesn't always feel right for me)

M is one.

And I have stopped feeding him.

And, in the end, the two are not related.

I'm not really ready to stop.  But the thing is, that this isn't about me, it's about him.

I don't want to stop because I don't want to lose that moment of closeness.  I don't want to lose that little face smiling up at me. I don't want to lose that hand, stroking my face.

But there is no reason to continue.  I read, a couple of weeks ago, a post over at The Mule in response to the Time article showing a mother breastfeeding her three year old.  In it, the Mule asked women who were still breastfeeding past one to post their pictures and say why they were still doing it.

And many of them said "There was no reason to stop". 

I commented on that post, because I said that for me there was no reason to continue.    I had spent time trying to find independent, peer-reviewed research to show health benefits for mother and baby in feeding past one.  But I couldn't.  The WHO recommends breast-feeding for two years, but as far as I can gather that's because they are advising the world, and have to take into account water supplies and adequate nutrition, neither of which are, I hope, going to be a problem for M.

I intend no criticism of those who do feed past one, or two, or more.  But I knew, for me, continuing wasn't about M, who really wasn't very bothered at all, but for me, who was.

So I said I'd stop.  But a week, two weeks, later, I was still going.  Still with no reason to carry on other that that I wanted to hang on to that baby closeness for one day more.

And then I read an article in Saturday's Guardian.  It was one of those articles that had me nodding smugly as it went on about the amazingness that is breastmilk - the perfectly designed cocktail of healthy bacteria it contains, the miracle of oligosaccarides, the fact that no-one really knows how it works - look at me, I thought, I'm such a great mother that I am still giving this to my baby.

Until my smug smile was summarily removed.  Because apparently, as well as this wonderful cocktail of perfection, I'm also feeding him all the toxins I'm exposed to.  All the pesticides, the fire-retardants, the plastics and polymer residues.  And more than that, I'm actually using him as a dustbin for them, off-loading them from the fatty tissues in which they are stored into him as fast as I can.

I have no idea how accurate this research is. I don't know if it has been independently funded (by SMA, anyone?!), or if it has been peer reviewed.  But I do know that this is what happens in the food chain, and I find the logic that it is also happening in me sufficiently compelling that I have stopped.

I can find no reason to continue, and now I have a reason to stop.

Just like that.  I gave M his last feed on Tuesday.  And I took its picture for posterity.

And guess what? He's fine with it.  And so will I be.


  1. You know what, I am a firm believer in doing what is right for your family at a certain time.

    But I can not believe that M is a year old already!

    1. Even if that stops being right three days later....

      Because oh, yes, I am feeding again.

      M has been vomiting since Friday and breast milk seems to be the only thing that will stay down.

      I'll give up again soon. I promise!

  2. I had a little cry when I stopped feeding Sam - only came about because I had a reason to stop (was going away for a week). He didn't really notice, I miss that closeness, that loveliness - same as you. I miss knowing that I'm not going to feed any more. But now I've stopped, I'm ok with it. And so will you be. Little M - can't believe he's one either! xx

    1. I didn't cry, but I did feel rather mournful.

      Interestingly, although he completely wasn't fussed about it for at least two months before I actually stopped, now that he's ill and I've started again (that's me, Mrs Make a Decision and Stick to it), he clearly also wants the closeness. Where this time last week he'd have been off in about thirty seconds, now he'd stay on for hours if I'd let him. I don't think he's getting anything, but he's clearly needing the closeness and the cuddle just to take his mind off feeling rotten.

      Poor wee thing. I hate it when they're ill.

  3. lovely picture. Wish I had a picture to look back and remember, but no picture could really show how it feels, as you say, the way they look up at you, the little hands...

    I too stopped with all three of mine at around one, it just felt right - for them.

    It was a special time and I think it's something I'll always miss, the baby times and all that it means.

    1. You're so right. I think sometimes I spend too much time taking pictures and not enough actually experiencing the moment, but I did want to mark the moment in some way.

      Although of course, as I say, I'm back to feeding again, so there's going to be another last feed in due course...

      Will I photograph that one, I wonder?!

  4. I understand now the link between plastic and stop breastfeeding and then does M has milk in a plastic beaker or a glass one???
    Me & The Boys

    1. Good point! Plastic, obviously - although given that baby bottles have to be BPA free, I wonder if other plastics used by the same companies also are?

      That aside, to be honest the plastics point is a small one - it was more the accumulation of all industrial toxins that the article was commenting on, not merely plastics. As I said over at yours, I do wonder about these things, but I also think you have to be realistic. Life is full of risks, and you have to accept that, for you and your children.

  5. I think that it is an interesting idea, but one that needs to be considered carefully. The article is based on a book, and having not read the book I hope that the author of the book has based the contents on their book on peer reviewed and published data, rather than relying on opinion.
    It is very easy for something to become quoted as fact on the internet, when in fact it bears no resemblance to the original data presented. The Guardian article could be considered to be the second passage of the data, possibly amplifying any errors or misinterpretations of the original data. Sometimes ideas are kept going when they aren't factually true as they can guarantee to grab peoples attention and cause a strong emotive response.
    I hope that this all makes sense!
    It is something to think about and hopefully it will be researched further, but personally, deep down, without any scientific data to back me up, I feel that breastfeeding my son has definite benefits for him compared to any perceived risks to his health.
    (We don't heat plastics in this house and use glass or metal where possible).

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      I absolutely agree with everything you say, particularly in view of the lack of veracity of much that you read online, and I was aware of that when I read the article (although in fact I read it in print, although I don't think that makes much difference!)

      I'm also not, in any way, putting down the importance of breast-feeding. The benefits it gives in the first six months to a year, and in certain circumstances beyond that, far outweigh any risks, in my opinion. That's why I've started again now, while M is ill. It is the best thing I can do for him (and, as it happens, the only thing he can keep down, plastic content or no).

      The bigger idea, and one I still believe, is that other than in exceptional circumstances (which may be physical (such as M now being ill) or emotional, for either mother or baby), there aren't really any additional benefits for either mother or child of breastfeeding past, say, 1 (in fact, as the article says, and I have no idea, as you say, if it's true, the Norwegian government is considering revising its advice to " you should breastfeed for 6 months but you shouldn't breastfeed for more than that".)

      That being the case, I was struggling to find a reason that wasn't selfish (aka I liked it and I wanted to keep my baby a baby for a bit longer) to continue breastfeeding, and this article, whether peer reviewed or not (and like you I haven't read the book), gave me a sufficiently convincing reason to stop.

      It wasn't a comment on breastfeeding as a whole, or any one else's choices - I realise there are as many reasons for the choices people make as there are people - but just that for me, looking for a reason to continue, instead I found a reason to stop.

      And then to start again...!

  6. Hope you can still access the full text of this review. I found it a very useful read.

    1. Thank you. Got to do some work now (36 mins late!) but will have a read at lunchtime.

  7. Thanks for referring to my post.
    I've just shared your post on my FB page to see what others might have to say...
    Best wishes for now
    M x


I know. I'm sorry. I hate these word recognition, are you a robot, guff things too, but having just got rid of a large number of ungrammatical and poorly spelt adverts for all sorts of things I don't want, and especially don't want on my blog, I'm hoping that this will mean that only lovely people, of the actually a person variety, will comment.

So please do. Comments are great...