Holding my newborn daughter, Alexis, in my arms, she was ready for her first feed.
Let’s see how this goes, I thought. Alexis was thriving, and breastfeeding was really helping us bond. It was our special cuddle time.
Alexis had her first solids at six months, but she still loved her milk. By the time she was 18 months, my friends with bubs had stopped feeding. But I hadn’t really thought about an end date. My milk was still coming, and Alexis was enjoying it.
I’ll keep going until she doesn’t want it, I figured.
Then, when she was two, I had my son Danual.
When we were out and about, I’d feed the kids as they needed. One day, we were sitting at a table in a food court when Danual got hungry. Alexis wanted feeding too, so I discreetly fed them at the same time.
‘You should be doing that in the toilet!’ a woman tutted.
What? I thought, shocked.
There was no-one making her look at us! And breastfeeding has been the most natural thing in the world since time began. Feeling a little shaken, I didn’t let it stop me. As the kids grew and learned to talk, they’d ask for ‘Mummy milk.’ It didn’t feel right not giving them what they wanted, plus it was packed full of nutrients.
By the time my third child, Michael, came along, Alexis was getting on for five and starting to lose interest in my milk.
But for the first few months, I was feeding all three, with Alexis and Danual having it before and after kindy.
When Alexis finally stopped asking to feed, I didn’t force it.
It’s her choice, I thought. At around the same age, Danual and Michael weaned themselves too. When I had my son Chase, 10 years after Michael, I didn’t see any reason to do things differently. Diagnosed with autism when he was a toddler, Chase was amazingly smart but he struggled to communicate.
He didn’t like to make eye contact or to be held, but when I fed him he was happy to get close.
It’s like his comfort blanket, I realised. It made him feel secure. As he got older, he still wanted to be fed.
‘Can I have some milk please?’ he’d ask, pulling at my top. Chase was followed by my youngest son, Phoenix.
Knowing the signs, I wasn’t surprised when he was also found to be on the autism spectrum. And I soon noticed feeding brought him a sense of safety too.
Two years ago, I took the kids to the UK for a few months to visit family. Speaking to a social worker about the boys needs, she was horrified they were still feeding.
‘I don’t think that’s appropriate,’ she sniffed. ‘It could be considered child abuse.’
I was stunned.
Back in Australia, I just wanted to do what was best for my boys.
I’m not ashamed, I thought.
Now Chase is seven and Phoenix is four. If I do it while we’re out, I get some stares. Chase just glares back!
‘I’m allowed my milk!’ he says, firmly.
I shared my story to help other mums. They have questions about latching, mastitis and weaning, and I’m happy to help them.
After 20 years of breastfeeding, I know everything there is to know! Sadly, I still get some nasty comments. You’re sick! people have written to me. But I don’t care about their opinion. They don’t know me and my boys.
‘My kids come first,’ I say. ‘Their happiness is all that matters.’
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