Mama muse Maxine Stokes shares her breastfeeding journey – from latching on, to letting go.
By Maxine Stokes
I had no expectations, but I was always so inquisitive and excited to experience the whole breastfeeding journey. I guess I was just up for anything and had a really open mind. That’s been my approach to motherhood – just take each day as it comes.
I think the challenging journey that we had trying to have Zuri really made me resilient and feel ready for whatever came my way.
And breastfeeding whilst living on the road in our Kombi was the most amazing thing. I loved feeding Zuri in so many different and beautiful environments. And when I learnt how to feed Zu whilst she was in the carrier. It was the best thing ever, especially when we were on long hikes or out and about somewhere.
Writing this is bringing back all the feels and is preparing me for my second feeding journey which is only around the corner. I am going into it feeling open and aware that every journey is different but very much looking forward to bonding with my new babe.
“I KNOW BREASTFEEDING ISN’T EASY FOR EVERYONE, AND NOT ALL WOMEN ARE ABLE TO BREASTFEED. FROM DAY ONE WE JUST FED ON DEMAND, THIS WORKED FOR US AND MADE US FEEL AT EASE.”
Zuri latched on from the get go and it just felt so natural and like we’d been doing it forever. It was an indescribable feeling. That first moment between us was extremely special, and I remember Zu had her hand wrapped around Karstan’s finger whilst she connected with me on the boob.
I was so grateful for this experience as I know breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone, and not all women are able to breastfeed. From day one we just fed on demand, this worked for us and made us feel at ease.
Overall, breastfeeding for me was very positive, except for when Zuri went through a biting stage – and I was like, ‘What the f*ck, if this continues I cannot do it’. It hurt so much! I kept getting scared every time she latched on. It was during a time when she was teething and didn’t last long.
Then I remember she got a little sick and then I was reminded just how powerful and amazing breastfeeding is for keeping our babies healthy and for soothing. And we continued to feed for a long time after that.
Feeding an older baby
What I do find interesting, is when you first have a newborn baby the majority of people are so supportive and say things like, ‘Gosh breastfeeding is so beautiful,’ and then there is a switch. You notice once your babies get bigger, maybe start to walk and communicate more, that different comments start to come out. Things like…
When are you going to stop?
Wow, are you still breastfeeding?
How old is she?
I take my hat off to you, I couldn’t do it for that long!
Those comments are just pure judgement – if you don’t have anything supportive to say, then don’t say it. As if comments like those are going to make the mother or father feel good. That is something that has stuck with me with all parenting scenarios / topics. It is fine to ask questions, but it is important to be mindful of how we ask a question.
We are all doing our best and what works for one may not work for another. So it is very important to keep conversations positive and supportive, and one of the best things you can do is listen and show your support.
Parents will always ask you if they would like your opinion.
Our journey lasted around two-and-a-half years. I never had any intentions of when we would finish feeding together, but I did feel that it would just happen naturally over time, and it did. As she started solids, she fed a lot less and then towards the end we were only doing night feeds to go to sleep.
We started having conversations with Zuri about slowly stopping breastfeeding, I think just before she was two, but she wasn’t really interested, so instead we introduced what we called ‘bedtime food’ and then after a while Zu started falling asleep with food instead of on the boob.
It just became part of our nightly routine. She’d have yoghurt, all different types of fruit, cheese, all healthy snacks and she’d often go through multiple items saying, ‘More, more, more bedtime food.’ It was hilarious, the food just put her in a coma. Often she’d only get a few bites in and then she would be out cold.
Weaning advice for other mamas
Back yourself, do it when you are ready not when other people say it is time. Go with your gut, and don’t be too hard on yourself – transition takes time.
And remember that every day is a new day and every kid and every family is different. What works for one may not work for another.
It was a long process for us, but interestingly I remember when I spoke to my mum about her weaning experience with me, she said when I went in for the booby, she basically said, ‘No more big girl,’ and gave me a yummy juice in a special cup and I was happy with that.
This was in the early ’90s and she said whilst she was ready, she could have gone longer – part of the decision was based on society at the time. This just shows that all experiences are different.
My mother’s experience was very quick and simple, whereas my weaning experience was over a much longer period. It was a slow transition and took time, and that worked for us as a family, as we weren’t setting a time limit. We were just going with it and knew over time it would naturally happen.
Photos by Alex Warden. Follow @karstanandmaxine on Insta.
Sign up to our newsletter for weekly mama goodness delivered straight to your inbox, like the VIP that you are.