Breastfeeding through anorexia

In a matter of days I will no longer be breastfeeding a two year old, because she’ll be three.

Did I ever intend to be breastfeeding at three years of age? Honestly, no. But I wouldn’t change it for the world and I’m proud that my daughter will have the opportunity to wean when she’s ready, that I am still able to nurture her in this way, against all odds. 

I am proud of my body. The body I’ve abused for over a decade. The body I’ve fought so hard against. The body I’ve wanted to destroy. It’s not given up. It’s given me the most amazing gifts – my lovely girls.

It’s carried two perfect little girls to term, birthed at healthy weights. It’s produced milk, milk designed just for them, milk that’s nurtured them, helped them to grow, provided them comfort, allowed us that precious bonding time.

I suffered with PND following the birth of my youngest. It got bad quickly. There were moments I didn’t want to even be around my children. I needed space, wanted to disappear, or failing that, stay in bed and never have to face the world again. 

On one particularly bad turn I handed my baby to my husband and said ‘please take her, just take her.’ He took her downstairs, gave me a break, but before too long was at the door again….

‘I said take her, I need to be left alone’

‘But babe, she needs feeding, she’s hungry’

‘I can’t’

‘You have to’

‘No. I don’t. You feed her’

There was a pause while we both took this in. He knows how important breastfeeding was to me. He also knew how she thrived on it.

‘You really want me to feed her? Ok, so I’ll need to go and get formula. But do you really want her to have formula now?’

I didn’t. We both knew this. I suspect he also knew that breastfeeding was actually keeping me from breaking down entirely. This was the one thing I could do for my daughter that no one else could. 

‘Give her here. I’ll feed her.’

And that feed saved me. As she nursed, I gained perspective. I needed help. I saw the doctor the very next day.

It’s a common misconception that in order to breastfeed you must have a good diet. Actually, only a tiny percentage of what you eat reaches the milk produced. Your body puts milk production first and your needs second. I was never encouraged to stop breastfeeding, but was encouraged to increase my intake for my benefit, and put on various supplements to limit the damage I was doing to myself. 

I carry a huge weight of guilt for how my eating disorder has affected me as a mother. My children are loved, so loved, and they know this. They have a nice house, they are nourished, nurtured, they are happy, but for a lot of their childhood I’ve been there but not present. Weighed down by the eating disorder, anxiety and depression. We’ve had many, many days at home when we should have been out, because I couldn’t face leaving the house. Letting them breastfeed until they decided they were ready to wean is something I could give them. 

So as I breastfeed my three year old, I treasure the moment as I know that, someday soon, we won’t have this anymore. She’ll have moved on, at her own pace. I’ll be left with memories of how I was able to nourish my little girls when I couldn’t nourish myself. I feel proud, I feel love, I feel grateful. 

Grateful to the body that’s given me and my children so much, against all odds. 

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