Sunday, 20 May 2012

Boobing past infancy - what's all the fuss?!

On Friday afternoon I collected my 28 month old daughter from pre-school after attending a breastfeeding group with my 5 month old. 

I was meeting a friend at a garden centre for lunch and miraculously my toddler fell asleep in the car on the way there and stayed asleep when I lifted her into the buggy. I had a lovely lunch with my almost 5 month old mainly attached to my breast whilst my toddler snoozed and my friend and I chatted about life.

After lunch we had a walk around the garden centre whilst both my babies snoozed, 5 month old in the sling and toddler still in the buggy. Toddler started to wake up and within a few minutes I heard the unmistakable word that is guaranteed to provoke all sorts of reactions from onlookers...'boooobeees' [interspersed with crying type sound which I know to be her 'I am awake before I am ready noise and really not happy about it'] 'boooobeeeees, pleeeeeese Mummmy, booobeeeees' [more wailing] 'boooobeees!' and the crying, demanding and shouting got louder. I was softly saying to her 'not now darling, when we get home as Mummy has baby in the sling and there is no where to sit'. I can feel myself going redder, feeling hot flustered and I can tell people are looking (garden centre's mid week aren't generally toddler friendly and this is one is definitely not toddler tantrum friendly) so I tell my friend I am going to need to make a move and we walk back to my car. 

This is one of the days when I wish my toddler would wean. I am being honest here, breastfeeding an older child is not easy, not all of the time anyway. So I come home to see a friend had messaged me about a thread on Facebook about breastfeeding toddlers, the question was 'How old is too old to breastfeed' (from This Morning where they had a feature on a mother feeding her 3 year old) - here is a collection of the [negative] comments:

 I think it's very individual, but didn't see the debate! I think there is also a limit!! Once they get lots of teeth (for comfort reasons) or when they are too big or too aware.....

  i was disgusted at what i saw this morning, its for babies.. yes children will always be ur baby but once the child has teeth or reaches 12 months that should be it surely.. a child can drink normal milk from 12 months cant they or has that changed since my kids were little..?

 To be fair Ive never seen breastfeeding as natural so I chose not to do it. I don't knock anyone who does as its personal choice but I do think some women depend on it more than their children hence why they continue to do it beyond what a lof of people think is ’normal’.

The reasons midwives give for breast being best is 1. bonding and 2. nutrients n vitamins from the surely once youve bonded with your baby you dont need to breast feed anymore, you can express the milk. Thats what confusses me with some parents. By all means breast feed when ur child is a baby, its healthy to create that bond but once the baby is 6months-1year you dont need to have them sucking on your boob!

  ‎4 words... Express milk in CUP!! (Don't embarass ur poor child)

 I think it becomes a problem when the mother uses it as a comfort to herself. As a mother they should also consider the embarrassment and potential bullying from other children if they continue to breast feed upto school age.

  Its disgusting! This woman is still breastfeeding her child because shes trying to keep her as a baby it dont work like that. That child is much to big to be breastfeeding she didnt look comfortable if you cant cradle your baby so you are both comfortable logic tells you your child is to big! Shes not a baby! Shes a toddler anything over 6 months is to old to still be breastfeeding and its theres no need for it!

Reading through such negativity after having just had to deal with this tantrum about booby quite frankly made me feel pretty rubbish...but only for a short while...then I started feeling quite cross. There were 400+ comments on this thread, most of which were negative towards breastfeeding older children or even breastfeeding mothers in general. I couldn't find a single comment applauding mothers for not initiating early weaning, just comments like the following defending it:

  I wonder whether people would have a different opinion if they saw an image of a woman in a developing country feeding her child?. It is so sad that here in the west we feel we have the need or right to judge other people for doing something so natural that even the World Health Organisation recommend breastfeeding for atleast 2 years. There are so many benefits to breastfeeding aside from nutritional value and anyone that thinks it is for the mothers benefit only.. have you ever tried to force a toddler yo do something it doesnt want to do??!!

 Who am I to judge other women on how long they want to breast feed their babies??? It is personal preference. The problem with this country is over sexualisation of the breast..... We have them to feed our babies!!! If you don't want to breast feed then that is fine! If you want to breast feed then that is fine! I don't get why breast feeding after 1 year old is denying them of their independence? They are still BABIES! What about comfort cuddles, when they are in pain, before they go to sleep? Nah put something artificial in their mouths, cos it doesn't matter what's right for mum or baby but only what other people think!! 

  I have only read a handful of comments and that's been enough. Unreal! I still BF my 15 month old daughter and intend to continue until SHE decides to stop. When that day comes I won't have any issues with wanting to "hold her back" (besides, I am 17 weeks pregnant and fully intend to BF my next one too) I will be happy she has decided she doesn't need it. She BFs just first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. No one else sees that. It doesn't affect anyone else. Some of you state that it's fact that babies should be weaned at 6 months (whilst also stating that baby has a dummy (it's called that for a reason) and slept in their own room from one month) you make your choices, let other people make theirs. The reason there is such a strong BF movement is because ignorant people want to make BF mothers feel like the odd ones, and a huge effort is being made to reverse this idiocy. If people choose to feed their baby milk that nature intended for a calf, that's their choice. Personally, I prefer the idea that babies require human milk. Bit of a no brainer really.

So, I put the laptop down and started to feed my 5 month old and 28 month old at the same time if you have ever tandem fed you will know that sometimes this is easier said than done. However, both are pacified and content. The 28 month old comes off the breast pretty quickly and her mood she woke up in is replaced by her normally giggly happy self and she starts to tell me about 'school' whilst my 5 month old carries on suckling. I can't help but think what women do if they don't breastfeed, do they have to ride the tantrum out or does breastfeeding get replaced with another comfort? A dummy? Bottle? Toy? Food? A cuddle? I also started thinking about how I had got to be a tandem feeding Mummy of a toddler and I can quite honestly say it wasn't planned, I just took each day at a time. 

When I was pregnant with my first I was a typical 'I'll give breastfeeding a go and if it doesn't work out I'll bottle feed' but when my baby was born and poorly in SCBU expressing my milk for her to be tube fed was all I could do and I decided I would make breastfeeding work. I decided I didn't want to give her formula so fed until a year then someone told me that it's good to breastfeed when they have their MMR so I thought I would carry on. When my daughter was 15 months I found out I was expecting another baby so decided to carry on feeding as I was pretty sure she would wean during my pregnancy. Throughout my pregnancy she did practically stop breastfeeding in the day and just fed through the night and first thing, she was waking a lot so at 7 months pregnant I respectfully night weaned her so I didn't feel too touched out/shattered when baby arrived. Feeding went down to once in the morning and I assumed she would drop it. She didn't. Baby was born and she wanted milk more one day I actually breastfed a total of 32 times, my newborn 13 and my toddler a whopping 19 within 24 hours. It was hard work but by the time my newborn was a month, both had settled down. 

One thing that strikes me about mothers who do not breastfeed at all or past infancy is that an overwhelming message comes through about their perceptions of the reasons some mothers do not wean their 'babies' and this message seems to be that they perceive women do it for themselves and not for their babies. So many people seem to think their is no reason to breastfeed into toddlerhood and beyond when in fact this is so untrue. I think many Mum's get to a stage where if their toddler weaned, they may even be relieved and I must admit, because of societal pressure I often wish my child would wean so I don't have to deal with situations like I did in the garden centre. 

I breastfeed my daughter because she wants to breastfeed not because I am unable to let go of babyhood.

There are many reasons why breastfeeding past infancy is a really positive thing and I particularly like this fact sheet from Kellymom that sums up the positives in breastfeeding past infancy:

So to sum 'my reasons' not to wean up, I have just taken each day as it comes and see no reason to wean however, it is hard work at times, it can be embarassing because of other people's perceptions and I am certainly not doing this for myself, I breastfeed her because she still needs to be breastfed. I have tried giving her expressed milk in a cup but she still wants me and does not understand why she shouldn't be able to breastfeed.


Here are stories of feeding past the baby stage - it is far more common than I think we believe and we should celebrate and applaud each other for doing what we feel is best for our children not tear strips from each other just because you do or do not breastfeed regardless of the age of the child.