A while ago there was a programme on TV about “Extraordinary Breastfeeding Stories”, which created quite a stir in the mummy-fora I was involved with at the time.

One of the things that intrigued me was a comment made by mega-breastfeeder (as in mega-feeding, not mega-breasts, haha) and editor of The Mother Magazine, Veronika Robinson. She explained that children have a “natural weaning time”, when they lose the ability to nurse. She was committed to nursing her children until this natural weaning time, at which their need for breastmilk would fade simultaneously with their ability to extract it.

If this was so, then it was an interesting new idea, with the potential to explain a few things and to make Robinson a heroic getter-back-to-nature, rather than a-bit-of-an-oddball.

Now, without wishing to denigrate the heroism (heroinism?) or getting-back-to-nature-ness in general of Mother Robinson, I can report that this particular assertion of hers is Not So.

It may be that some children do lose the ability to remove milk at some point as they grow older. But not all of them do. And if not all of them do, then it seems likely that where it does occur it is just a Thing that happens, not a specially designed Mechanism that nature uses to tell us when to stop putting our boobs in our children’s mouths…

[Look away now, look away now, look away now.]

Time to reveal the context in which I make my own counter-assertions.

Today, at work, towards the end of the afternoon I was feeling particularly, painfully full on the right hand side. (I think I must have forgotten to give Ariel that one this morning…) Anyway, it was uncomfortable to the point where I decided to take myself off and see if I couldn’t express a little milk to relieve the pressure.

I couldn’t. Expressing has never been something I was much good at.

Hopping from one foot to the other (hopping gingerly, mind) wondering how on earth I was going to get my let-down going, I decided that I needed to try an experiment proposed by Erika and then by Sparkle*Matrix (well, sort of) a short while ago. I didn’t really have anything in mind beyond desperately trying to get some milk to let down.

Here are the results of my experiment:

  • I could reach. Easily, as it happens, although CAREFULLY given my tender state.
  • I, a 29-year-old woman – well past it on the needing-to-nurse front – can in fact still nurse, and had no problem removing milk.

Sadly (look away now, look away now) I couldn’t actually get my let-down going, the milk would only flow whilst I was actually sucking… and there was nothing for it but to keep going until my breast deflated enough that I could bear to get through the rest of the afternoon.

Picture it if you dare – me, standing in the cubicle, really trying not to fall over with how comical a situation I was in. (Yes, this is definitely one to add to my “strange breastfeeding experiences” list!) Fortunately it only took a very short time, otherwise I might have been completely unable to cope…

Well, here are some secondary results:

  • It tastes kind of unappetising, frankly. I can’t see the attraction. (I think my problem was that I couldn’t stop thinking about something even more unappetising. Ick, ick, ick. Oh!! Ick, ick, ick. And the more I tried not to think about it the worse it got. Ick!)
  • It was in no way sexy to do. Weird, yes. Comical, yes. Thank-the-Goddess-it’s-working, yes. But sexy? Not on your nelly. Too much of the aforementioned ick.
  • Finally, it cannot in my ‘umble opinion have been in any way sexy to watch either. I mean, if you were picturing this along with me, what was your reaction? “Cor, yes, kinky!”?? I bet you were mostly likely either (1) laughing hysterically or (2) curling up in horrified disgust or (3) a bit of both – depending on how icky you think breastfeeding is.

So not only have we disproved Mother Robinson’s small but interesting assertion, we have also seen that self-suckling is not necessarily all that appealing, either to do or to watch.

Here endeth the eighty-third lesson.

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