22/02/2016 07:02 GMT | Updated 21/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Single and Still Breastfeeding

One of my son's favourite phrases is 'I need milk'. After a particularly hard day I want to reply, 'I need sleep'! But I don't. I give him his milk, from my breast. I've been doing this for two years (and counting). It's been agony, annoying, boring, enjoyable, exhausting, peaceful and many things beside.

I've faced questions, and criticisms, for breastfeeding for "sooo long". It feels like everyone wants to police our breasts: if we don't breastfeed we are vilified, if we do it for 'too long' we're shamed and criticised. Why do people have so many opinions on something so personal? I avoid mentioning it to prevent the raised eyebrows and comments. This doesn't mean I don't feed my son in public, but I am wary of the reactions.

I've been asked if I'm sure I'm not (still) ONLY doing it for myself. I find this the oddest of questions. Firstly, why would it matter if I did enjoy it - breastfeeding isn't supposed to be a sacrifice surely, or we would never have made it past the first generation of (wo)man. Even if I was only motivated by personal benefit (even writing this sounds ridiculous) it is undisputedly good for my son, so that's surely pretty cool, right? Secondly, although it's not a sacrifice it is bloody hard work. Yes sometimes I enjoy the moment. Mostly though, it's a non-event, just something we do, regularly. But on the bad days, it's more than hard. When I've been feeding him on and off for two hours and there's no one to pass him over to, no one to tell I've had enough, then I want to scream, 'I want my body back'. In those moments it's pretty grating to think some people out there think I'm only doing it for myself.

I've faced comments suggesting I'm "just" doing it for my little ones comfort - and that's a bad thing? All babies/ toddlers (hell, all people) need comforting, if my son gets it from breastfeeding whilst also getting lots of fab nutrients then that's great, isn't it? Or am I missing something? My son gets comfort in many ways. From me, and from others. If I'm around then yes, he sometimes gets comfort from breastfeeding, but it's not the only way he gains comfort and that's not all he gets from it.

Why are people so uncomfortable with breastfeeding past a year? It's not like that everywhere. Why women can't be left to choose what to do with their bodies and how to feed their off spring without others wading in with negative vibes?

As a single mum I have very little support with breastfeeding, either practical (like passing me a glass of water), or emotional (telling me I'm doing a worthwhile job). So it hurts extra hard when I hear these questions and criticisms and makes me feel even more alone in my quest to do my best for my son.

Instead of all the negativity why don't people ask what really matters. Like, do I want to breastfeed? Am I struggling? I'm very open to advice and reassurance. But I'm not such a fan of all the criticism. Like every mother, I'm just trying to do my best and follow what works for me and my son. Parenting is hard, as is supporting friends who are parents. But all the questions and pointed comments about feeding choices are as absurd as each other.

As a single mum I'm nervous of stopping breastfeeding. My son quite clearly wants to continue and some days I'm happy to do so, other days it becomes too much. The mere thought of gathering the strength to stop breastfeeding a toddler that doesn't want to give it up, especially when you're on your own, is exhausting. I haven't got someone reassuring me it's OK, or agreeing to do bedtime for a week so my son can get out of the habit. And perhaps at the crux of it is, I feel guilty. I feel guilty day in, day out, that my son is missing out on having a dad, so the thought of taking away something that he is so clearly attached to is upsetting. So no, I'm not doing it for me, and I'm not doing it 'just' to comfort him. I'm doing it because he wants it and I believe that it's good for him emotionally and physically. And I'm doing it because, although it's bloody hard work, it would be even harder not to.

Originally published on my blog, Ellamental Mama as Single and Still Breastfeeding

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Support

Laleche and Breastfeeding Network can provide support and advice for breastfeeding.