Friday, 9 March 2012

While I Nurse You To Sleep...

While I nurse you to sleep... 
I...rest.  For the first time today, I am still.  I am not lifting, carrying, holding, bending, reaching, stretching, scrubbing, wiping, hauling, or lugging. Here in this dark room I lie beside you and allow my body and mind to come to stillness after the chaos of our day. You suck, and tug, you fiddle, and fuss...and slowly come to stillness too, until we both are still, and both are resting...I wait, momentarily, and then, I slowly slide away and leave you sleeping.

While I nurse you to sleep...
I...take stock. I turn over in my mind, the contents of the fridge, the washing on the floor, the money in the bank. I count up the years I've had so far and the years I might have left. I work out how old I will be when you are the age I am now - thirty seven - seventy two. I hope I make it. I count the eggs you already have in your body and those I have in mine and I wonder at the people they may become. I think about the person I was before I met you, the life I led, the things I've gained and the things I've lost, I count them all. I plan the contents of my other daughter's lunchbox.

While I nurse you to sleep...
I...make plans. In my mind I blog, facebook, tweet, reply to emails, get in touch with long lost friends. I make a list of all I have to do. I decide to spend less time on facebook. I stare at a blank screen. I write my novel, and receive the first edition in the post, it is wrapped in brown paper and looks crisp and fresh. I get a nomination, and pick out a beautiful dress. I wonder what to cook for dinner. I think of you, when you are old enough to judge, and wonder what you will think of me. How will you describe me to your friends? How will you define me? I plan - to be a better mother, to play less and get more organised, to organise less and play more, to be the same mother I am already, to improve myself, to accept myself.

While I nurse you to sleep...
I...time travel.  I visit long forgotton places and people I have known and loved. I run through school corridors in a kilt and read great authors for the first time and cross bridges on foot over several big city rivers. I spiral forwards into the future, imagining myself in various guises: rich, poor, old, broken, delighted. I spin back again into the past and revisit pivotal moments and say all the right things and make all the right choices. I realise that if I change one dot you might not be here, slowly falling asleep in my arms, and decide that all my choices were the right choices even the wrong ones if only because they led me to this moment, to your existence.

While I nurse you to sleep...
I...feel frustrated. I think of all the other things I could be doing with this hour. I watch every evening of my thirties melting away into a sea of nursing, nursing, nursing to sleep. Tiny teeth grate against my skin and I wish I could be somewhere else, anywhere, but here. I think of friends who tell me that their baby sleeps all night and I decide that I am mad or weird and wish I could be normal and 'put my baby down with a bottle' at seven pm and shut the door...and get dressed up, and go out dancing. You claw at me, and ask for more, and I try to hold my breath, hold my nerve, hold my patience. I hold you.

While I nurse you to sleep...
I...notice. Here, with all the lights switched off, I have time to see. I see how I am, how I was, how I will be, the darkness exposes me. I notice my thoughts, my plans, my dreams, from the trivial to the grand, and all the spaces in between. I notice who I am, with all my brilliant faults, lying beside you, a person fresh, not yet fully formed. I notice you...I feel the softness of your hair against my chest, I place my hand on your belly that distends like a puppy's, I hear your breath, rise and fall, and slow and slow, I struggle to comprehend the hugeness of my importance to you, and feel your sigh of satisfaction, and picture myself, like an oak tree next to an acorn, like an umbrella over a frog, like a leaf with a dangling raindrop, in this moment...while I nurse you to sleep.


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92 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this! I really appreciated the "I feel... Frustrated" part. I have these moments too but I always feel so guilty for them. It makes it a little easier to know I'm not alone in my feelings.

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  2. Thanks Megan! Perhaps this part deserves a whole post in itself? It is always so good to share the negative feelings, really healthy I think... and of course it can't ALL be positive! x

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  3. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words. From the age, the time, the frustration and the importance of what we are doing...you nailed it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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    1. Thank you Mom in the Making, I appreciate your lovely comment! I guess I have been writing this post in my head every evening for about four years now! ;-) x

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  4. Beautiful poetry! Feelings every nursing mother (and those of us who are ex-nursing mothers) can relate to. I miss those moments out of time - I remember being frustrated and impatient and now I wish I had taken more time just 'to be'. Cherish those moments - they fly by so fast.

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    1. Good advice Maddie. I have to be honest that sometimes the frustration is predominant, as it's easy to focus on all the other things you would like to be 'getting done'...but you are right, we really should all try to cherish each moment. My eldest daughter is fully weaned now and it felt like forever waiting for her to wean, I got frustrated about that, too - would she ever stop blinking well nursing?! Now she has stopped and I feel sad, especially as I can't remember the 'last boobie'. It just sort of fizzled out and now it is gone forever...oh yikes, I'm going to make myself cry now! x

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  5. Beautiful words that I literally read while nursing my baby to sleep.

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    1. Thanks Crystal, I've seen a few people comment today that they have read this while actually nursing to sleep, and that is such a lovely thought, so thank you! x

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  6. Absolutely one of the most beautiful posts I've ever read about the breastfeeding relationship. It asks so much and gives so much, and you capture that perfectly! ~Melissa

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    1. Thank you very much Melissa. I have had such lovely feedback such as yours today. It really means a lot, thank you so much x

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    2. So beautiful, made me cry and captures it all so perfectly. I especially love the "if i change one dot..."etc line, its so so true, nothing else matters, really :) xxx

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    3. Thank you so much samandjazzy x

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  7. This brought me to tears as I sit here nursing my toddler. You so perfectly captured how I feel about my own nursing relationships.

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    1. Thank you oobbles, that is lovely to hear! x

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  8. That was absolutely beautiful and true! How many nights have I spent laying in a darkened bedroom just thinking, sometimes falling asleep myself, sometimes impatient to get away and have adult time, sometimes enjoying the snuggles with my little ones. This expresses it perfectly. And no, you are not weird, there are a lot of us out there, we just generally don't write lovely blog posts about it, unfortunately. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you for your comment Elisa, it has been great today to hear the feedback on this post and remind myself, as you say, just how many people out there are doing the same thing for their children. Lovely. Thank you. x

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  9. Thank you! I love our evening nursing. My husband usually joins us, and we talk quietly while our son goes off to sleep.

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    1. That sounds lovely Clare. My youngest daughter is nearly 2 now, so all has to be quiet, or she just would never give up! x

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  10. I did a status update of my own on Facebook just the other day saying this "I've decided I don't mind Emily waking up at night to feed. It's the only time we don't get interrupted by other people or have to feed her while standing up walking around/cooking/wiping noses...night feeds are actually the very best!" Then I read your blog post and thought you managed to write what I was thinking but in greater detail, hitting every nail on the head so very aptly. This is for such a short time of their tiny lives in the whole scheme of things. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy x

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    1. That's lovely Suzie. I hope that status updates like yours and posts like mine help other people to feel that it is perfectly normal to respond to our babies as and when they need us. Thanks for reading x

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  11. Wow, it's so lovely to know I'm not the only one who puts their baby to bed this way, it's really made me smile :D

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    1. There has been so much great feedback on this post Frustrated Fairy! It seems like there are many many of us doing the same thing! Enjoy x

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  12. This made me cry! So beautifully written and so obviously heartfelt, I can relate to all of this but could never have articulated it so perfectly. Especially the part about choices and changing things, all the bad stuff we go through seems suddenly worthwhile when we have our perfect little treasures to show for it. Thank you for such a beautiful post I will be showing it to hubby later in the hopes of showing him some of the difficulties and internal conflicts being a mummy brings as you have expressed perfectly what I have been struggling to xxxx

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    1. Thank you so much Katie for your lovely comment. I wonder what your man will say, let me know perhaps?! Love for now x

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  13. Such beautiful words that have really touched me. You should write that book.

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    1. Thanks Gemini6, I would love to...maybe one day! x

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  14. What a great blog post. Actually got me a bit emotional!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading CR! x

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  15. A slow tear rolls down my cheek, for the joy of knowing what you feel, because I'm so lucky to have all those thoughts & feelings too - some slightly different of course, but that special nurse to sleep time is one of wonder, frustration, closeness & sometimes loneliness - your words capture it all in a way I never could, express it so eloquently, thank you for giving voice to this mother, it is clear you have given voice to many others too - bless you

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    1. Thank you yogatreelucy, i really appreciate your words so much x

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  16. Such a great post, beautifully written. While I nursed my daughter to sleep tonight, I wondered how much longer she'll take comfort from me and how much longer we will share this special time. Time passes and I remember her big sister stopped nursing to sleep when she was this age.

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    1. Thanks cartside, enjoy this special time. i miss nursing my eldest now that she has stopped, even though i sometimes felt fed up with it at the time! x

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  17. I read this with tears in my eyes, my sleeping baby lying next to me on the bed, his belly full after nursing and FINALLY succumbing to sleep. Beautifully written and sums up the wonderfulness of nursing your baby to sleep. I find it so sad that there are mothers who miss out on precious moments like this in favour of putting their baby down and walking away. Give me nursing my baby to sleep anytime :)

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    1. Thank you tracey j, yes, i understand why some women get talked out of nursing to sleep, as it IS a 'tie', but really, i can't think of anyone else i'd rather be 'tied' to! and as discussed above, it is over all too soon...plenty of time for nights out and 'me' time later in our lives... x

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    2. I agree Tracey.Give me a baby who wakes several times each night and teaches me the depths of my love. When she grows to be a teenager and is stranded somewhere, I hope she knows its ok to cry for help and her mum will come get her and talk to her until she falls asleep.

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  18. Ahh you are speaking my thoughts exactly, almost word for word. It proves what a universal experience motherhood is. Only last night was I to thinking about if I had changed one thing I would not have my 2 beautiful children. :-)

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    1. Thank you Kas. Yes, that always puts a stop to my gallop when I start down the road of regrets, what-ifs, should-i-haves, etc! Thanks for your comment x

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  19. Like all the other Mums here, this post has REALLY struck a chord with me. Thank you for writing such beautiful, moving and reassuring words. Every word could equally have come from me (if I was that eloquent!). (Even down to the fact that I am 37). Breastfeeding my babies to sleep is one of the most beautiful and nourishing things I have ever had the pleasure of doing. BUT sometimes I can't help but think of all of the other things I could be doing. And even when I am just reflecting/ day dreaming/ thinking about all the different choices I could made in my life, I kick myself that I'm not just gazing at my little girl because before I know it she'll be big. Oh, how I love the way fidgeting, fiddling, pushing, pulling, turning eventually gives way to stillness and deep, calm breaths............

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    1. Thank you so much Jenbobuck, i have had so much lovely feedback about this post, it has really meant a lot to me, in particular to think that in some way it is helping people to feel more at ease with a decision that we often get a lot of 'flack' for. It is a wonderful, brief moment in time, and we should feel free to enjoy it, and know that we are doing something fundamentally valuable, and of the utmost importance! x

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  20. Thank you so much! I just finished nursing my little one to sleep then crept downstairs and read this.... feeling so attached at the moment... to my emotions, to my own precious 'burden', to you - the writer and to all of these other Mothers who are feeling the same.
    I know I just wanted her to stop fussing and settle but now, having read your words, part of me wants to run up the stairs again and climb back into our bed with her. I'm so glad she's not in a cot :-)
    Thank you again x

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    1. Thank you WombatNo1 - i love your idea that the attachment can spread out beyond the mother and child relationship, that's lovely!
      We find our cot a very useful place to store all the laundry that needs putting away! ;-) x

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  21. Hi, just another person saying what a gorgeous, true post. It seems to me that there is so much surrender involved in the relationship with a baby, so many times when you just have to go with the situation as it is. It's very comforting to know the thought-drifts are the same across so many women in the same position, though. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you Helen. Yes I am over 4 years into motherhood now and it's taken me a long to 'surrender', to accept that things are not ever going to go back to 'normal', and that this is a good thing not a problem!!! Thank you for your comment x

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  22. Thank you for this - came across it from a friend. I hope you don't mind if I link it on my Facebook page :)

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    1. Thank you Nadia, no, not at all, please share it as much as you like! Thank you for reading x

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  23. Wow this is one of the most beautiful pieces I have every read on the breastfeeding relationship and captures my evenings completely at the minute. So so poignant and beautiful and great to read. I am sharing it with everyone I know who is a breastfeeding mother and who feeds their little one to sleep

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    1. Thank you so much Maire. The positive reaction to this piece really means a great deal to me. Today I've been thinking how this piece has taught me that validation for women doesn't always have to come from a 'rant' or even a piece jammed with statistics and evidence. It is lovely to be reminded how much 'just words' can make a difference! x

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  24. Hi,
    Katie's hubby here, see Mar 10 above. Just reading this as (hopefully) both my perfect little treasure, and my perfect and slightly bigger treasure, are asleep. It brought a tear to my eye too. I remember the days of giving him a bottle of EBM at 3 in the morning, and whilst that's nothing compared to what a mother does for her baby, I was thinking all of these same thoughts. Wishing I could be asleep, and at the same time wishing I could just carry on cuddling our little bundle of joy for the rest of the night !

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    1. That is so lovely Brian to have a male perspective! Thank you so much for commenting, and for clearly being such a loving husband and dad...My turn to have a tear in my eye now! x

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  25. such a lovely post, i read it a few days ago and have thought about it a few times since, and since liked you on FB i've had the occasional reminder too.
    I really miss those days, my youngest is 19 months, but she refused the breast completely at 9 months, i stopped at 6 months with my son as i went on medication (later discovered i shouldn't have had to stop) so really wanted to feed my daughter for a lot longer, until she was ready to stop, i just didn't realise it would be so soon. she wouldn't even take expressed milk, formula or even cows milk, she just didn't like milk, and i was gutted, as much as i had those frustrating times, i loved the bond and the closeness we had, we still have lovely snuggles but nothing can replace that feeling of actually providing food for your baby, i guess the oxytocin has something to do with that! but it was amazing to do that for my babies, and i'm sad i won't have anymore now.
    oh and BTW, i'm in somerset too :)

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    1. Thanks Lynsey. I'm sorry your breastfeeding journey was a bit rocky :-(
      But glad you have those memories and that this post meant something to you.
      And nice to hear from another Somerset mum! x

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  26. Beautifully written. Thank you. I didn't manage to breast feed for very long really, but I have always and still do stay with my little boy (3) while he falls asleep in the evening, until recently lying next to him while he nods off. I too recognise so much of what you say.

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    1. Thank you Claire.
      It's nice to think of you staying with your little boy while he falls asleep, of course we don't have to breastfeed to offer this level of nurture and care to our children, and I'm really glad that this post had something for you in it, rather than making you feel excluded, as some stuff about breastfeeding can do, (deliberately or accidentally)...anyway, I am glad that it spoke to you and thank you very much for your comment x

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  27. beautiful. Brought a tear to my eye as I'm sat here nursing my fussing toddler who can't decide if she wants to feed and sleep or watch Peppa Pig :)

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    1. Thank you so much Smithy. Yes, I find I can't compete with Mr Tumble these days! x

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  28. Oh, my goodness... this is simply beautiful. I love the line "I struggle to comprehend the hugeness of my importance to you".

    I got happy tears in my eyes by the end. I just finished nursing my two year old twins to sleep tonight.

    Love this.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment Mama Mo. And hats off to you for nursing twins to sleep! Wow! x

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  29. I relate to every single word in this amazing post. Thank you!!!! We think we are alone, but we are not.

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    1. Thank you Shira. Yes, there is that lovely quote, 'We read to know we are not alone'. I am so pleased that this post has made so many feel reassured in this way. Lovely! x

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  30. Thank you so much, I particularly struggle with my peers' expectations of nights out and their disbelief that I am still being woken through the night by my 28 month old and I often feel alone in my inability to explain to others how important our nursing relationship is as it was with my older child. Your words are so eloquent and explain it perfectly. I read this crying as I nursed my toddler to sleep

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    1. Ah that's lovely Anon!
      I'm sure some of the folk who say their babies sleep all night are telling porkies, you know!
      Good luck and love to you x

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  31. Thank you for this post. My son is 9 months old and still wakes twice for a feed. Sometimes he only nurses for two minutes before pulling away and snuggling. Some nights I feel like I'm doing it all wrong, that if I didn't nurse him he would sleep through, that everyone else with properly sleeping babies are better than me. But some nights we lie in our own little coocoon, the house snoring around us, and I can give him the personal mummy time I'm so busy filling up in the waking hours. You've inspired me to write a blog about these hours too, as this has pointed out how precious and fleeting these nights are, and what I'll lose when they finish. Thank you again.

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    1. That's lovely Mrs Mummy! When you have written it, please do send it to me via my Facebook page www.facebook.com/themulesmouth and I will share it, love for now x

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  32. Thank you for touching in my memories past when I too lay for so many long hours nursing, one, two three then four babies who for hours and hours sucked to sleep while I lay and thought and fought with myself accepted, loved then missed those nights, those times of stillness stroking

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  33. This is so beautiful, it made me cry. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am a new mother with my 4-week old son and I struggled with nursing and even dreaded when he gets hungry because it hurt like hell (sorry for the word) that i almost gave up. I believe that practice makes perfect so I kept nursing even i was in so much pain and also praying that my son would finally latch properly and that I get used to the feeling of breastfeeding. Your post touched me in every way and made me look at breastfeeding in a new refreshing view. Again, thank you!

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    1. That is so lovely Vimella! Breastfeeding WILL get easier for you and I really hope that you come to enjoy it and remember this post when you are nursing your little one year old to sleep one day! Thank you for your lovely comment and good luck x

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  34. Just discovered your blog! Beautiful and love this post.

    I love our last feed of the day, quietly together in my sons room, rocking on our nursing chair, together and quiet. Its my favourite half hour of the day, nursing him and rocking him to sleep. I love that he goes to sleep wrapped in my arms, feeling warm and secure and loved.

    I had a rocky relationship with breastfeeding in those early day. I initially hated it, persevered and then realised one day around 4 months I loved it now. X is now 8 months old and its really precious to me. I'm not sure how long we will feed for, I'm aiming for 12 months at the moment and know I will really miss it once its gone.

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    1. That's lovely Caz! Thanks for reading and I hope you keep going for as long as it makes you both happy and feels right.
      x

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  35. I just found your blog this morning..and love it already! This is just beautiful...and so true! I am a single mom to four children under 9, and am nursing my 21 month old. By the end of the day I am so exhausted that there are days I wish I could just lay her down in her crib and leave her to sleep on her own...but then she falls asleep on me and I seem to forget how tired/frustrated/bitter I am and just sit in the moment. Thank you for this beautiful, honest post :)

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    1. Thank you so much Emma, for your lovely comment.
      I'm so in awe of your achievement to be single mother to 4 and still find the time and energy to nurse your 21 month old.
      Good luck with it and I am thrilled to hear that my post meant something to you x

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  36. Like so many others, I read this whilst nursing my 8 month old to sleep. I have tears streaming down my face at the beauty of your words that describe whats in my heart. I am grateful I have recently discovered your blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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    1. That is lovely Anon!
      I continue to be amazed and thrilled at the way this post touches people. Do you know I sat down one night to write a gritty piece about Gina Ford and I just couldn't manage it and I'd had the outline idea for this on the back burner for MONTHS and suddenly it just poured out of me! I never imagined anyone would read it, let alone like it!
      I'm so glad I wrote it when I read comments like yours!
      x

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  37. A friend passed this on to me and all I can say is Thank You. It's like you've read my feelings an put them in words. It's brought tears to my eyes after a rough night feeding to sleep.

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    1. thanks so much Shelly that is lovely to know x

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  38. It's been a while since my son nursed but I remember so many of these feelings! Thanks you for writing them so I can re-live it a bit :-)

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    1. That's lovely Justine, thank you x

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  39. Rebecca Walker4 July 2012 at 17:09

    It's been almost 12 years since I last nursed, but what I remember now is how wonderful it was. That feeling of the let-down that, in its way, is better than sex. The tiny little hand resting on my breast. The feel of the silky hair as I caress with my other hand. The adoring milky smile when he remembered I was actually part of the process. And the "nothing else is more beautiful" lingering after he had fallen asleep against me. Those are among the moments of my life that I will NEVER regret.

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    1. Thanks Rebecca, I like the idea of moments we will never regret, as I imagine regret might be a difficult part of old age, so nice to think of the things we will look back on and feel nothing but positivity about! x

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  40. What a beautiful, truthful an moving post!! I loved evey
    Minute of reading it an smiled at evey line and it rang true for how I feel! From the joys to the moments of frustration and the calm found in between! I am enjoying the journey of breastfeeding so much and am aware that every feed is precious for us both as one day she will decide that's enough thanks mummy!
    On another note I am blessed with a wonderful partner who shares a similar bond and time with our 4 year old son. They lye together to read books and talk as he falls asleep every night. He sleeps in his room often if asked to and I often find them all cosy asleep together. He rushes back from business trips so as not to miss out on story time with our little man and only ever goes out once he is in bed! They have such a wonderful bond because of this quiet, precious time together.
    For all the times the constant needing of me frustrates me I am reminded how quickly it passes and hold on just that bit tighter!
    Thank you for another lovely breastfeeding post!

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    1. Thank you so much Faye for your lovely comment x

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  41. Agh...! So many posts, I wonder if you read mine... Anyway, greetings from Poland from Just-Another-Breastfeeder!:)

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    1. Yes, yes, I do read them all and am always thrilled with the response to this post! Hello and thank you for reading! x

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  42. What an amazing post. Of course I'm crying, not only because of your beautiful words but because of all the wonderful comments. My third daughter Charlotte is 19 months and I love our feeding relationship (most of the time) I know that it will soon be coming to an end which makes me very sad. I cherish our booby cuddles, love it when she falls asleep feeding as I get what we call a free cuddle! I volunteer at a local bf support group and will post your words on our Facebook page, it's so nice to know that we are not alone in our fears hopes and random thoughts! When feeding my babies in the night I often thought about the millions of other mum's around the world doing the same thing. Your words have brought some of us together, thank you xxx

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    1. Sorry for not replying sooner Cathy, thank you so much for your lovely comment x

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  43. Thank you! You have no idea how much I needed that!

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