I had no intention or expectation of breastfeeding my younger daughter for two and a half years. And I still have no intention or expectation of how long I will continue to breastfeed her, other than I doubt it will be for 16, 18 or 21 years no matter what the internet or somebody else's mum says.
Breastfeeding has always been more than just a method of dispensing nutrition to Violet and me. This in itself has caused me guilt because with Cherry, it very much was about nutrition dispensation. I wasn't interested in the bonding aspects of breastfeeding and thought it lazy and weak to use it as a parenting tool - although I frequently shoved a boob at Cherry to stop her crying, I always felt there was an element of weakness and failure in doing so.
Having radically changed my views and embraced breastfeeding as an essential and in some ways my only parenting 'technique', I do feel anxious that I deprived Cherry. I weaned her easily and happily at nine months but I have since then almost wanted to disassociate myself from this decision, telling myself I was a different person 'back then' and almost writing myself off as having been a completely horrible mother until Violet was born and I changed my views.
But none of this is actually true. The only reason I continue to breastfeed Violet is the exact same reason I weaned her sister so early. It felt like the right thing to do.
Breastfeeding Violet is as natural and automatic part of our relationship as comforting her when she cries, cuddling her when she is on my knee, and helping her brush her teeth in the morning. It is something that my instinct tells me to do for my child, and I have never once regretted going with my instinct.
It's just another one of the routines and rituals that make up our life together. She calls it 'eat-de-deat' which I adore, and whenever she plays mummies and babies with any toys, or items (most recently forks) the mummy will always eat-de-deat the baby. Sometimes she tells me she dreamed that a bumblebee came into her bed and eat-de-deat her. She says when she has a baby of her own the baby will eat-de-deat. I should think so too.
At one point I was convinced I would allow Violet to self-wean. Recently however I have scaled back feeding to mornings and evenings (and nights, of course) only. Although I never felt uncomfortable feeding Violet in public and continued to do so until she was well over two years old, I was struggling with her constant requests to feed when she began to get tired.
Me being trapped under a constantly breastfeeding two-year-old from 4pm onwards wasn't working out in the best interests of the whole family.
At some point I assume Violet will become less interested in breastfeeding. At the moment I could not say whether that will be allowed to happen on her timetable or not. In cutting back feeds I have already begun to set limits and boundaries around breastfeeding, so I would not rule out her weaning being mother-led. It would be nice to feel it was mutual but I accept this may not happen.
But as long as there continues to be no reason to wean Violet, I doubt that I will be in a hurry to make her wean.
On a regular day you wouldn't know Violet was a breastfed almost-preschooler. She still feeds to sleep, but on the rare occasions I am not there for bedtime or she wakes and I am not in, Noel always manages to settle her. And judging by the lack of recent breastfeeding photos to illustrate this post (the one above was taken last October) I'm no longer recording our journey through 'brelfies'.
Although I have always wanted at some point a beautifully shot photo of Violet breastfeeding - not an iPhone snap - just to remind me of what my body was once capable of. So I guess if I ever get round to that it'll be an older child at my breast.
I do wonder if I am clinging a little to her babyhood in continuing to breastfeed her, but on the whole I think not. I don't think of Violet as a baby any more, I don't even think of her as a toddler. She has been out of nappies for some time, she has a proper bed, I don't carry her in a sling any more and she is rarely in a buggy. We have no 'baby stuff' around the house.
She is very much a child, not a baby or toddler, and I am very much aware that I am breastfeeding a child, not a baby or toddler.
Breastfeeding a child, something I once would have shuddered in horror at, actually feels entirely natural to me. In other cultures and countries it's entirely acceptable and normal to feed children to term and allow them to self-wean. This is of course largely how the human race has survived! It's just in modern Western societies that it's considered weird or abnormal.
Not long after I had weaned Cherry THAT infamous Time magazine cover came out, with a picture of a glamorous blonde woman breastfeeding her three-year-old son next to the caption 'ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH?' It amuses me now that I am one of THOSE mums - that something I do that feels so ordinary and normal to me is global headline-worthy.
Does that make me 'mom enough'? God, who knows? Who's to say what is and isn't mum enough? Only my children, I guess, and when they are grown whether and for how long I breastfed will be a mere drop in the ocean to them and to me. Still, I know I will never regret it.