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"I am about to breastfeed for the last time."

I hear her little voice growing louder from her cot while everyone else lays peacefully in their warm beds.

We find each other in the dark room in the quiet hours of the early morning while the rest of the world sleeps.

She snuggles into me, finds her security, and starts to drink.

It is nourishment, it is comfort, it is a sleep aid. It is survival.

Through countless nights of total exhaustion, too many days of trying to stay awake, and all the ups and downs that come with it, it’s now come time for me to stop breastfeeding.

To stop, once and for good, after four children.

Fi sugden breastfeeding her fourth child
Fiona with her fourth child – always with a boob out. Image: Supplied.

It has been a long journey. And now it is ending I have started to feel reminiscent, sad even.

I know the baby is ready to take the bottle more and I have less milk.

I wanted this and I have been working towards it for some time. To put it simply – my baby was a boob addict. The bottle was poison to her. This is an achievement.

Yet, now every time I feed her I cannot stop wondering, “is this IT?”

Are we nearly over this ritual? When are you going to stop once and for all? Will it be today? Or tomorrow?

I have the lyrics of Adele playing over and over in my head, making me crazier: “Let me photograph you in this light in case this is the last time, that we might be exactly as we were before we realised…” 

That we realised it was over.

As you can see…it is possible I am over thinking it.

I started to wonder why I was feeling so despondent and then I worked out that over of the last six and a half years I have been breastfeeding for 40 months and pregnant for 36 months.  Therefore in total, for 76 months out of the last 80 months, my life has been a complete baby feeding or growing haze.

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I am finally coming up for air. And the air up here is grand, it is sweet, it smells of freedom, nights out,  travelling, no morning sickness, no feeding bras, no expressing, no baby leached on to you – relying on you for sustenance.

It is great… right? Isn’t it?

What is it exactly that I am so worried about giving up?

Because let’s face it. Nobody tells you the truth. Breastfeeding is bloody hard work.

For all its well-publicised and reported benefits it effectively creates the equivalent of a steel chain between you and your baby.

Watch: Alyssa Milano discusses breastfeeding. Post continues below.

Video via Fox

It is a connection that means no one else can provide the nourishment or comfort your baby needs to thrive.

Yet we willingly set up this situation. We create the monster.

It is easier we are told. Well yes… but for all the easy times where you can just throw a boob out there to satisfy a screaming baby, there are the equally challenging times of burning and cracked nipples, skin torn apart from the baby scratching while feeding, and then of course the horrid mastitis.

FiFamilyFeatFB
Fi with three of her four kids. Image: Supplied.

Why does no one speak of the mastitis?!  The crippling, agony that will completely debilitate you and leave you writhing in full body anguish as you still will yourself to physically squeeze that milk out to solve the pain.

And for all the talk of the “special bond” it creates, the reality is that a lot of the time for many women that “bond” is with an express machine on a dirty work bathroom floor.

Pumping milk and deep breathing to get a let down while men work outside the thin door is not one of the most dignifying experiences I’ve ever had.

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We so desperately advocate for equality between men and women yet the reality is breastfeeding at its physiological core sets women back so far.

Clearly there is downside here so why is it so hard for me to say goodbye to it?

Because my baby….

She so sweetly nestles in to me rooting for the milk. Her strawberry hair glistens against my tangled mop. Her tiny fingers holding on to mine.

The way they feed changes as they grow.

As a newborn they are so tiny, their little mouths often cannot even find the right spot of the nipple to hit the milk jackpot so you have to jam it in for them.

Then as a four or five month old they wiggle and squirm and learn to smash the breast to make the milk come faster.  They pop off the boob constantly to have a good gander about at what else is happening in the coffee shop or park leaving you basically naked and exposed.

And then now as a 12 month old (or let’s be real she is nearly 14 months) my little darling sits up, looks at me and laughs as I feed her and says “wha” (what?) when I pull her hands away from tugging at my hair.

I have to remind myself of the journey we have been on and why I am ready for this.

I think back to all the work meetings I have stressed through in case my milk leaks through my shirt.

I think back to all the parties or dinners I have left early, or not attended, because I knew the baby would need to be fed and a bottle would simply not cut it.

I think back to travelling overseas for work and pumping a freezer full of milk for a seven month old – searching desperately for foreign power adaptors and power points so I could “empty the tank”.

I think back to the utter devastation I felt with my first child when I got an infection from labour after he was born and the heavy drugs they had to give me meant I could not feed him and my milk supply died…and I thought for a while there I was not going to be able to feed him ever.

I think back to my first born girl who point blank refused to suck for a let down so I had to manually squeeze my own boobs until the milk rushed out every time she needed to drink.

I think about how my whole life these past six years has been focused on when I will next need to feed a baby.

So she won’t need me anymore. I suppose that is it.

Not like that anyway. But she will need me in other ways. And for that I am very grateful. I am grateful for our tomorrow.

With tears, love and a lot of Adele I will make it through that last let down.

Breastfeeding, at times you’ve have been a bitch and at times you’ve have been good to me – but the truth is I will miss you. Real hard.

Goodbye.

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