My breastfeeding journey has taken its strangest turn so far. It feels like the second my boy blew out the candles on his first birthday cake he became a toddler and I was suddenly a social leper if I dared to feed him in public.
Up until this point we lived a care free life, boobing along wherever and whenever we felt like it. But now I find myself feeling nervous and twitchy if he ever wants a feed while we're out and, generally, I scurry off to the quietest corner (or nearest closet) to do so. Nobody has ever said anything, of course, people are far too polite to say anything. They just stare, in open mouthed horror at the one woman, Little Britain, freak show with her boob out - they usually choose to ignore the tiny person attached to it.
Despite advice from the World Health Organisation, recommending children should be breastfed until the age of 2, most people think it's strange to feed past 6 months, and practically certifiable to carry on past the year mark. Even my most well-meaning of friends can't help raising an eyebrow when my toddler tugs at my top.
Not since the newborn days (I was all fingers and thumbs trying to latch him on) have I felt so self-conscious about my feeding choices. My mother is my most vocal critic, 'I think it's about time you stopped feeding that kid!' she roars, rolling her eyes when I pull out the dreaded boob. But she is by no means alone in her thinking. 'Oh! You're still breastfeeding him?' Cue false smile and head tilt as colleagues back away from me before it gets awkward. Anyone would think I was going to offer to feed them too.
It's suddenly taboo to feed my boy. Now that he has front teeth and shoes on his chubby little feet I'm considered a bit of a hippie for my decision and the general consensus is that I should turn it in. The point has been made.
In all honesty, I didn't expect to still be feeding at this point. I had planned to wean at 12 months, upon my return to work, but when my milk supply coped well with the transition and the little man didn't mind the change in routine, I thought why not carry on?
I'm hoping he'll self-wean at around 18 months and if he doesn't we can cross that bridge when we come to it. It's our choice and our journey either was way. Just as it's a mother's choice to bottle feed or to give her child a dummy. There's no parenting manual, no one size fits all style to bringing up children and it would be a whole lot easier if we had a society that shows respect and understanding towards mothers rather than judgment and criticism. Until that time you can direct me to the nearest closet.