The World Health Organisation recommends women breast feed for two years as a minimum. I am sure this is because they are talking to the whole world, and the UK is only a small part of the whole world. In fact, according to just over half of the people who voted, the UK wants to be on its own entirely and not even part of Europe, even though that is geographically impossible.
Anyway my theory is that the two years must be aimed at developing countries who can’t feed their kids proper nutritious solids. I mean if you start weaning at six months and all you can give them is rice or potatoes then breast milk is probably better, right? I could be wrong and I could look into it more, but I don’t have time because I have a baby to look after. I convince myself I am right about this but I then read the UK is not great at breastfeeding their kids. I don’t mean we are bad at it like we spray people in the face, but we do it for the shortest time in the ‘developed’ world, or not at all.
I breast fed mine for a year but around seven months it got really tricky. I remember when Milk got a couple of teeth. As much as I rejoiced in those tiny little white bumps, I was soon cursing the day teething was successful. He started to test out his teeth on my nipple. Some people might enjoy being bitten on the nipple, but when a baby decides to bite your nipple as you are gently feeding him, it is a monumental shock – and it hurts a lot. It’s a pain which grows as the seconds pass. It’s like when you stub your toe on the corner of a chest of drawers and you yell out, but then the pain swells and you wonder if you have actually lost your foot.
Anyway, Milk was testing out his teeth, giving the odd nip here and there and I am wondering if I should take this as a sign to stop breast feeding. I live in fear of feeding him and every time I get my boob out his eyes gleam with recognition. It’s a little stressful, like if you gave your older kid cereal, and every day you wondered if they were going to head butt you as you passed them the bowl.
Gradually though I realise that maybe Milk just likes eating more than drinking.
“I think Milk is stopping breastfeeding I tell a Health Visitor at a children’s play group. “He’s been doing it for seven months and I think he has finished.”
“Well that’s up to you” she says and turns to face me, her eyes penetrating mine.
“Er, no I am saying I think he is stopping.” I speak clearly but my eyes are filling with tears.
The HV sees she has a bit of a wobbler on her hands. “Well it can happen naturally but have you changed your diet, or are you stressed? Sometimes these things can affect the milk supply.”
How would I know about my milk supply? It’s not like I can see a milkman delivering four pints and only two being drunk.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I mean maybe I’m a bit stressed.”
“With your husband?”
I think about my husband and how at the moment he is the only person I want to be around. It’s a strange assumption the HV is making, but maybe other blokes are arseholes to their tired, cranky emotional wives.
“No, with my baby”
As soon as the words leave my mouth I realise I shouldn’t have said them. I didn’t even really mean it, I just meant I was stressed with my baby biting my nipples. But the HV is onto me. She is looking at me more closely. She looks at Milk who is chewing a wooden brick on the floor.
She takes me by the elbow and turns me away from the rest of the bustle of the group.
“Do you feel close to tears or think harmful thoughts towards your baby at all?”
“No I don’t, I’m just trying to tell you he is biting me during breastfeeding and I think it may be because he wants to eat rather than drink.”
The HV looks almost disappointed and steps back. “Perfectly normal I’m afraid.”
“But painful none the less…” I add, hoping there may be some kind words coming.
“Yes but normal. Push on through I would, you’ve done well so far and the WHO…”
“…Yes I know all about that and the UK is very bad at breastfeeding, while the USA has a great record, but they also have a higher rate of toddlers shooting their mums dead.”
This completely stumps her. It takes her a while to compose herself. She manages a tight smile. “That’s because they have guns in America, and if you have guns you will use them.”
“Exactly,” I say “And if you have teeth…?”