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.

Mothers stories of breastfeeding past infancy

Here I have a collection of stories from mothers breastfeeding their children who are past what the majority of western society considers 'normal'.  

I really hope, if you are a mother who is feeding an older child and feels alone then you will be able to find comfort in the below stories.

Some had planned it this way, some it has come as shock they are still feeding their older children and others haven't given it much thought. I would love to add your story so please get in contact with me at and I will add your story to this blog piece xx

For information on where else to find out more about breastfeeding past infancy please click here.

Elanor's story...
''I am currently feeding my nearly 3 year old. He had tongue tie, and still has lip tie. The last 8 months have been the worse. Somehow I guess getting all his teeth made the lip tie make feeding uncomfortable. But I would rather he wean naturally. I weaned my eldest at 19 months (social bullying I guess) I feel he would be far more secure if he weaned naturally.''

Kendra says...
''Nursing an older child is so rewarding. Knowing they are getting such great nutrition in spite of not eating well sometimes is a big part of it but the emotional bond and knowledge that they are emotionally connected is pivotal!''

Sarah Sparkles Story...
''ok I hadn't planned to BF for this long it just sort of happened each year each stages has evolved his needs have changed as a newborn he neeeded to be nourished and he needed the closeness
as he got older his needs of course were there for nourishment but the emotional bond was strong
I assumed he'd wean when I was pregnant but he carried on and I quite enjoyed it sometimes I felt tired but feeding him to sleep and joining him was awesome!
the first time he met his brother and realised he was sharing the boobies he was REALLY happy to be sharing and often propped a boob up bnecause his brother was so small''

Tracey's story...
 ''I hadn't planned tandem feeding or extended bf or in fact bf at all... But my babies need me & my milk and it feels normal to feed them this way. My first son was born in very stressful conditions: we moved house the day I went into labour. I was in a new area without a phone line or Internet connection for the first several months. We had hot water & heating problems and so everyday was a challenge. I bf through for several practical reasons - none on the list of healthy intentional reasons that AP parents state. It was just instinctual and once bonded to my babe, unbonding just isn't an option. He (now they) will grow up and leave me soon enough!''

Monica says...
 ''We didn't plan on it. But then I started hanging out with more moms that were nursing longer. And then as the 12 month mark approached, my son still wasn't interested in food. At 15 months, we figured out that he has a tongue tie (but had no problems nursing!) and so he couldn't swallow food correctly. Had it clipped and then he started eating solids. But by then we were big believers in nursing longer more for the emotional needs than nutrition. It's still the answer to tantrums, over-tiredness and ouchies at 2.5 years. I would like him to wean in the next 4 months before baby #2 arrives but we're letting him go at his own pace. I think I have come to terms with tandem nursing.''

Harmoni says...
 ''I had planned on going to 2 years, sadly I got pregnant when my son was 17 months and he weaned at 22 months. Almost immediately after he weaned he caught strep and was really sick for the first time in his life. That completely proved ot me the benefit of bfing against illness.''

Alice's story...
''I had planned to feed my daughter until she wanted to wean, hopefully reaching the minimum recommended age of 2 years. Unfortunately she weaned at 10.5 months when I fell pregnant. She became very sick not long after and then caught every little bug that was going around! When my son was born I expressed milk for 6 months and gave it to my daughter in a cup. I really believe it helped her immunity as she stopped getting sick and is such a healthy little girl! My son was a completely different feeder (total booby addict!) I am now 39 weeks pregnant with my 3rd child. He has fed the entire way thru this pregnancy and I will soon be tandem feeding. He is such a healthy kid, has hardly ever been sick in his life, despite being born with fluid in his middle ear. His ENT specialist is amazed he has never had an ear infection. I feel breastfeeding for this length of time (my son is now 2) has created an extremely strong bond between us. My son is very emotionally secure. Both my kids are determined little individuals but my son is so much easier to manage largely due to breastfeeding I believe!''

Andrea's story...
 ''I didn't plan to feed past one year. I read lots of info on breastfeeding while I was pregnant (although now I know I didn't read enough!). The Recommendation I heard over and over again was to breastfeed for a year. I never read of any advantages of going past a year, so I assumed I would wean at a year. I didn't know self weaning was an option- I thought weaning always occurred after the parent forced it on a child. My son never really took to solid food though. It seemed to bother his tummy. So when he was 1, I started weaning him on to goats milk (since I heard it was gentler on their tummies). I gave him goats milk in a sippy cup once a day for a couple of days, and he was not interested. I started looking into how to wean children on the internet. This is when, by luck, I happened to click on a Christian breastfeeding article. Since I'm Christian, it really hit home for me. This article talked about breastfeeding in the Bible, and quoted a few different passages that refer to older nurslings. One of them in particular is 2 Maccabees 7:27, in which nursing a three year old is mentioned. I finished the article and then started doing a search on breastfeeding past a year. To my amazement I found a lot of women were doing it, that there were a lot of advantages, and I also discovered nursing on demand. Now, when my son was little I nursed him on demand (didn't know that's what it was called) but as time went on the hand outs the pediatrician gave me that said my child so be down to "x" amount of feedings per day, made me doubt myself and I had started to make my child wait to nurse. This article helped me to understand what God would want me to do, so I stopped the goats milk and started feeding on demand again. My child was 1 and had started pointing to indicate he wanted to nurse too. As soon as I started nursing on demand, he stopped sucking his thumb. After a couple days I realized how my son had been forced to find a substitute (his thumb) for myself. I felt really bad about what I had done, about not being there for him. My attitude also started to change. I understood how comforting and irreplaceable I was. No cuddle, hug, embrace, kiss, toy, person, food, object- etc, could replace nursing in its entirety. I stopped looking at nursing as a duty that must be performed to feed my child, but rather as an honor! It was an honor for my son to need and want me. It taught me that love isn't all about what YOU feel and what satisfaction YOU get, but giving yourself completely to another, even when it's a sacrifice. But giving is more rewarding than getting. What do I get from nursing my toddler? Lots of laughs, for one. Once I tried the "my nurses are going to sleep" act try to get him to go to sleep without nursing. His response? "Nurses can't sleep. They don't have eyes to close." Lol. Nursing helps calm him when he's upset, so I can talk to him and reason with him. Letting him self wean helps him to learn trust and to value people over security objects. It helps us maintain a close relationship that evolves slowly- on his terms instead of forcing him to do something he's not ready for. Most people now days wouldn't force a toddler to potty train until he was ready, yet so many don't apply this logic to nursing. Now I'm tandem nursing him and the baby and there have been times I couldnt stand him nursing, but that was my problem for not being charitable. I was excited when he was 18 months because he stopped nursing during the day after his growth spurt. But it was just a nursing strike- and just long enough for my fertility to return and get me pregnant with #2. I wasn't planning on tandem nursing but I didn't force him to wean. Tandem nursing is hard and I don't think it's really how things are normally supposed to happen so I hope both kids are weaned before conceiving again. But even through the hard times I wouldn't trade it for anything. I remember in the hospital with #1 my husband and I said "It would be weird for a child to talk and ask to nurse. I don't think I'll do it that long." Now I'm nursing a 3 yr old AND a 8 month old. Crazy where life takes you. Final note: I can say with 100% certainty that breastfeeding has made me a better mom and a better person. It set off a chain of events that led to a major conversion, and if I bottle-fed that would not have happened. Thanks to my children for making me better, everyday.''

Sally says...
 ''I am still feeding my 15mth old little girl. It was never something I planned on doing its just kinda continued as a natural progression. Now don't get me wrong she only feeds off me once a day, but that feed means so much to myself and I'm sure it does to her too. For me it's the easier way to give her the milk she still needs. No need to boil the kettle sterilise a bottle etc and make a hungry baby wait!! I must admit I think I would feel self conscious feeding her out in public now just for the fact that she doesn't feed as discretely as she used to :-/ x''

J'Nel says...
 ''I never thought I'd bf past 6 months. I thought it was gross and that once they had solids they didn't need boob so it was just purely for the mothers benefit.

I am now tandem nursing my 2.5 year old and 4 month old!!!! If I could've seen myself now! ;)

As a mother you never really see your baby growing. Or, it's not to any staggering affect. One day you just realise your baby has grown, but they are still very much your baby and they need you. x

Ceri's story...
''I fed my dd2 til she was 4. She started weaning then and I gently encouraged it as I wanted to ttc. I had never planned to feed for that long, it just seemed the natural thing to do. I hadn't managed to bf my first child for more than 4 days and my 2nd for more than 6 months and I was determined to get it right this time. I had more support around me the third time, friends who were long term breastfeeders and it helped me through the tough times. Dd2 was a milk monster right up until she turned 4 and I fed her everywhere. She recently developed Type 1 diabetes and I wonder if feeding her for so long helped protect her until now. At the very least, the confidence and independence she developed has helped through this difficult time, as has the bond we formed. I'm now feeding her brother, who is 13 months and will keep bf him until he self weans.''

Ashley says...
 ''I currently have three nurslings. My nearly 4 yr old twins and my 17 month old singleton. I always knew I'd nurse my babies, alway just assumed one year we'd be done as that is the duration of the nursing relationships I knew of. But a year came and went with my twins. Then a yr and a half, then I twenty months I found out I was pregnant. I wasn't readyto wean and nor were they. I assumed they would wean toward the end of my pregnancy. They did not. Once baby was born he spent 6 days in the nicu. He wasn't allowed to nurse for several days. I was so grateful for two willing toddlers to help my milk come in (along with pumping every 2 hours). I guess I've just sort of "forgot" to wean my kids. They all are happy, healthy, smart and independent. They will wean some day, but right now it's what works for us. Baby brother will nurse for as long as we wants as well. I have hopes that they will remember nursing and know that it is normal and natural. I hope they will grow up and support future wives or friends or family in their nursing journeys.''

Tamara's story...
  ''I had always hoped to nurse till 2 years and we have made it. Tough start, poor latch but we made it. 32 months and still going. I get lots of negative comments from friends and family but that's their issue not mine''

Sarah says...
'' conversely i have never understood people who bf for a year then stop dead just like that. Poor babies!''

Missy's story...
''My goal was 12 months. She is 20 months now. She mainly nurses at night. The acrobatics are frustrating sometimes, but everyone talks about happy she is. Hoping to let her decide when to quit.''

Lisa says...
''We aimed for 12m but after reading some articles on Sausage Mama and the Sausagettes, long term feeding just felt right. Birdy is 20m now and feeds usually once or twice a day and two times (or more if ill or whatever) overnight. For me, it just works as it is SO good for her, so easy and having read about that anthropological study comparing other mammals gestational period, how long young spend with their parents, age of sexual maturity etc, and it suggesting weaning age for human babies should be between 3 and 7 (we will go with 3-4) just makes so much sense in that context. We are currently interstate for my nans funeral and birdy is out of her comfort zone, so breastfeeding has been so useful; she has been feeding 4-6 times each day which is a bit tiring but it does make her feel better amongst all of the sadness and anxiety in the air.'' 

Lydia's story...
''I planned to allow baby led weaning. Unfortunately I developed severe breastfeeding aversion during my subsequent pregnancy when the eldest was around 18 months and had to reduce feeds. By the time baby was born (eldest 25m) he was only having a few sucks once or twice a week, then he refused to feed when my milk came in after baby was born. He did have a night feed for about a week when bub was 4 months old-a pleasant end as I was very upset and felt he had weaned before he was really ready. It's absolutely true that you can't force a child to breastfeed! This bub is now 2 and 1/2 years and going strong. I very much dislike the comments I sometimes see that full term breastfeeding is done for the mother's sake. As I said, you can't force a child to feed, and as someone who doesn't really like breastfeeding (and my first had suck problems and it was constantly painful) I would willingly stop any day. However I have chosen to follow my baby's lead as research and my own beliefs indicate this is in everyone's best interests.''  

Katherine's story... 
''Before my daughter was born I believed all the guff about breastfeeding for a year being normal but after that a bit weird. As time has gone by and I have done my research I have come to know better. Anyway, she has just turned 1 and the idea that I might wean her is laughable. We are doing BLW and her solids intake is negligible. I now see that if you follow baby's lead everything will happen in its own time. I don't know how long we will feed for, but I do know that I never want to deliberately take away her source of comfort and health, even when it's no longer nutritionally important.''

Ashley's story...
''My daughter just turned a year on the 12th and I plan to let her self wean. When I was pregnant with her I was just aiming for 6 months then a year (because I had failed to nurse her brother successfully at all, I didn't want to get my hopes up). Now that we've made it this far I cannot imagine just weaning her, she is still such a baby to me and benefits SO much from it. This journey over the year has taught me so much about myself, and I have learned a lot about not only how beneficial and helpful extended nursing can be but that it is also our biological norm. How can anyone argue with that? :)''

Danielle says...
''I am currently nursing my 20 month old and my 3.5 year old (I am also 17 weeks pregnant with baby #5). It was not really planned, but I decided after my oldest was born that I would nurse until the baby was ready to stop. I just wish people would stop referring to it as "extended" or "extreme" because I don't think of it as either.''

Dawn says...
 ''I'm currently breast feeding my 18 month old son. I plan on doing so until he self weans. I don't like saying he "still" breast feeds as that word has negative implications to me. I'm not impressed by medical staff's reaction to breast feeding a toddler. When I decided to have kids I knew I wanted to breast feed. I love that whenever he's upset I have an instant way of soothing him. I love nursing my little boy! :)''

Dawn says...
''I am currently feeding my 16 month old, I hadn't thought about how long I would feed her. But now I always think as long as she wants to feed then she can. Its a really comfort for her when she is ill/teething etc and it always "on tap". I find it a great comfort to me as well. I absolutely love looking down at her while she is feeding. It feels like the right thing to do. I hope that people will become "wiser" and realise that there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding and providing the best you can for your child/children. I've always thought it is the most natural thing in the world''

Elizabeth's story...
''My baby just turned 1 and she is still VERY much a booby baby. Originally i had only planned for bf for 6 months because any longer would be "weird". Now I wonder where I ever got that idea. I dont recall any specific episodes in my life of anyone looking down on bf. But I guess it comes from movies, always making fun of bf. I've found a lot of support online, so I have no plans to stop anytime soon. I honestly cant imagine what we would do WITHOUT it. With all the bumps and bruises, it's such a quick fix to get her feeling better right away. She has never really been sick either. They say toddlers need milk, but what sense does it really make to give milk from a different species? I have fresh custom made milk RIGHT THERE. ALL the time! What could possibly be wrong about that?''

Heidi's story...
''I have nursed all of mine until they were ready to move on, with my first I had appalling advice from my health visitors (they job shared and I would see them alternatively) one would say one thing, the other something else, in the end I was combination feeding with breast and bottle, my baby was on the bottle completely by 6 months, with my second I had the most wonderful health visitor who told me to listen to my baby and my instincts, promising to give me advice if I needed it, I fed him until he was 2 when he didn't want me anymore, I was pregnant with my third and tandem feeding both boys once the baby arrived, it was wonderful to have them bonding together this way. Number 3 bf until he was 3. Now I have another who is 21 months and still feeding, she will wean when she is ready too. I feel pressure from some family who don't understand ( I was bottle fed and most of my family bottle feed) but I don't take any notice of them, it is not their choice it is my babies'. Those people who find breast feeding unnatural (yes this has been said to me even when they were new borns) are the ones who are unnatural. I had a conversation with my dad who thought bottle was better, I asked him why milk made by my body for my baby was not as good as milk made by a cow for her calf, then dried and had other things added to it, then to be made up with water put in a bottle with a rubber teat. I asked him what would be the most natural, he admitted he had never thought about it. I find it really sad that the marketing of years ago has had such an impact that families today really don't understand the differences and what really is best for baby, and for the family when you weigh up ALL the benefits - which are more than just health ones, financial, time, convenience.... My 7 year old son asked me today why so many mummies give their babies bottles instead of mummy milk, I said I don't really know. He asked me if they don't know how good it is for their baby. I said I think thats probably it. Both my sons now 7 and 6 discussed boobs making milk and then I agreed that I love mine, they are part of what makes me mummy. :) I hope I have shown my children how easy, natural and brilliant breast feeding is. Maybe we can eventually break the cycle of years of pressure to bottle feed :)''

Sarah's story...
''I am currently feeding my 22 month old. I have a vague plan to go until 2 years but then i didn't have a plan to go more than one day, one week, etc. One day at a time was my only real plan and here I am. I love it. I generally only feed once a day unless ill, growth spurt, etc. I love it. It's a lovely way to end my daughters day and I feel great about solely supporting her growth and development for the first 7 months and then co-supporting it up to this point. I don't really think about the money I've saved by doing so but I've read a lot about the properties of breast milk since becoming a breastfeeder and I am so confident that I've done the right thing nutritionally and physiologically for my daughter. I love to see how strong and confident she is. She is so brave and such an explorer. I am in awe of her. I do sometime feel tired of breastfeeding and think every now and then about giving it up but then I don't. I don't know why, I guess because it's so easy and works so well then why not?!
I have had great support from my husband, family and friends in general but there are some friends I don't really have much to do with any more, partly because of becoming a mum and partly I think because if breastfeeding. One of my friends was a mum of two before I had mine and she formula fed and I she was always surprised about me breastfeeding so long. I don't really talk about it any more but if anyone asks then i do say that I am still feeding. I know that it's best for her and that it is much more than just comfort or a pacifier (and really, what is so wrong with that?).
I do think that having only one and having so much time off work (one year off on maternity leave then nearly a year at reduced hours before going back full time). I don't know if I'm going to go as long as it take for her to self-wean but then I don't think I'm really a baby-led mother, more of a baby-mummy partnership so I think that if I do get tired of it then we will come to a mutual understanding about it. Not quite yet though eh! When I think about stopping in just a couple of short months I don't know if I am ready. Oh well, back to the old philosophy, one day at a time! :-)''

Peta's story...
''My first was bf'd until 18 months, only stopped because I felt pressure from family and didn't know any better. Which I regret now ! No internet then .... Only too many books and old fashioned advice. My 2nd baby bf'd until 30+ months. Self weaned. Devastated when my 3rd baby self-weaned at 16 months (pregnant with number 4). I think she didn't like the taste of the changing milk. She would try to feed but say "no like it"... I wished there was something I could do to keep her going. Currently feeding my 4th at 32 months and she's still going strong... I'm very happy about that...
...So many women of my mums generation "couldn't breastfeed" or gave up so early because their milk "dried up" or lost it's "goodness". I find this so sad. Such bad advice, such a lack of support and too much faith in doctors. Milk dried up because they were forced to only feed their babes every four hours. So cruel. I just don't understand the war the world has with nature''

Lindsey says...
''I'm still nursing my 21 month old daughter. I never planned to nurse this long, but she is a 'high needs' child and without breastfeeding I don't know how I'd cope! I couldn't end our breastfeeding relationship even if I wanted to. She has always refused any substitute and nurses a lot, even now. But I actually quite like nursing her, most of the time.

I love the fact that nursing is an instant 'cure all' - if she hurts herself, feels unwell, has a tantrum, etc, nursing immediately makes her feel better. It's her safe place. She's also very healthy and almost never ill.

However, I do struggle sometimes with her demands on me. She can be quite rough now when nursing, climbing around, kicking me, shoving toys in my face, etc. And though some days she'll only nurse four or five times in 24 hours, most of the time she nurses like a newborn. She doesn't so much want the milk, as I don't have a 'let down' of breast-milk, but I think she wants the closeness and connection and moments of comfort. She still also nurses often through the night which, though I'm used to, can sometimes get a bit much. I find it difficult to ignore the 'voices' in my head telling me she's too old to be nursing so often, it's not normal, and that she'll never be independent. I know it's nonsense, but when that's all you hear from all those around you, it's difficult to ignore and trust in yourself and your child'' 

Melanie's story...
''I'm currently feeding my 2.5 yr old. I had planned to breastfeed until at least 2. When I plan to stop depends on my mood lol, I doubt my little boy will end up self weaning because I really think he would feed until he physically can't anymore. I will wean him completely before he is at school. I love feeding, the benefits for us are: I don't have to worry about how much food he is eating, because I know he gets a lot from breastmilk. When he is sick I know he will be ok, even if he's off his food and won't take water he has never refused breastmilk - it has kept him out of hospital more than once. It is comfort for anything, no matter how upset he is he will calm quickly. When he was younger it was fantastic food/drink on the go. My little boy is also intolerant to dairy and soy, so there isn't a suitable milk replacement for him unless I was to put him on formula (why when I have the perfect milk right here).

Most of all though I really want to give my little man the best start and we both love it, so why stop?

Kylie says...
''For both my boys I brestfed until they just didn't want it any more, which was about 16 months and 15 months. They just lost interest and wouldn't ask for it. I had a great GP who encouraged me to feed as long as we wanted. People would give me funny looks and my aunts and mother all told me the old 'once they are 12 months you should stop' thing. I think it is so important to breast feed but I also think we need to congratulate women on any amount of breast feeding, even if that is just feeding the baby the colostrum. We judge too much on both sides. We don't know what is happening in other peoples lives and shouldn't assume we know what is best for them.''

Julie's story...
''Breastfed DS1 until he had his last feed on his 5th birthday, my decision. He was ready though & there was no fuss. I was also feeding my then 2yo & was pg with number 3, & had enough. Few ppl know I fed him this long because there is such a stigma attached to feeding past 12 months. Currently, Im feeding 3yo DS2 & 11mo DD. I don't think I'll make it to 5 with DS2 because I feel frustrated feeding him sometimes, but he's so reliant on boobie that I don't know how he'd go without it. Im not ready to try yet either. I think its sad that there is so much judgement made on women who feed past 12 months. I don't understand why its a big deal but also why it matters to so many other ppl how long I feed my children for''

Mistelle says...
''We're at 18the months as well. I planned for a year but for sooooo many reasons, I kept going.
Its natural, yet's very sad!''

Simone says...
''I still have the fear of the nursing 6/7 year olds from watching those documentaries are edited to that make it look weird. In spite of that fear, I will leave it up to him to wean. I could never force it on him to give it up.

I never went into breastfeeding with a plan, I just figured - I have these lovely big boobs I've been carting around for 35 years - they better do what they're designed to do! And lo & behold they do & so very well.

My 13mo son gets such comfort from me & I believe he still gets benefit from the milk. Apparently the fats in breastmilk are tailormade for brain growth in the first 2 years, which is why bf babies are smarter ;) Can't wait to tell him that in 15 years time.

Here in Australia there has been a big push on breastfeeding since the 90s or so & whilst it is common for women to be seen bfing in public, toddlers bfing are not so prevalent. I hope to be a BF ninja as my son gets older - popping boobs out when & where needed. Doing my little bit to normalise it.

All of that said, I do sometimes struggle with the constant requests (we do baby sign) for milk especially during teething periods. I feel as though I should just sit on the lounge topless all day as no sooner do I start doing something else, I'm requested to stop. Which can be frustrating. And although I long for the day I will get more than 2 hours sleep at a stretch, I realise that I will look back & long for the day when I was the centre of my son's world & the filler of all his needs... So I resolve to soak it up & suck it up. For now :)''

Kim says...
''Just thought I would add something that may or may not be of interest. Islam, the 2nd largest religion in the world pescribes breastfeeding for 2 years (Quran 2:233) and if a mother is physically unable to feed her child a "wet nurse" can be used for her child (human milk for human babies) The world Muslim population is 2.1 billion. Therefore, over 30% of the worlds population hold this to be true''  

Cate's story...
''S nursed for just over 3 years. It wasn't planned. The initial plan was 6 months but we had a struggle with supply issues at 3/4 months so it seemed a shame to stop having just got back on track after hard work. By this time I had met an online community and discovered that people fed for far longer. So we just kept going. At this time I was thinking perhaps to begin weaning at 18 months with a view to stopping at around 2 years but when we got there Seren was nowhere near ready, nursing was way too important to her. So I took a deep breath and opened my mind to self-weaning. In the end it wasn't quite self-weaning as my supply was low again and nursing was becoming uncomfortable. It was very gently mother-led over a period of around 6 months, and she weaned a month after turning 3 years old.''  

Anna says...
''I have a 3 month old and I will be breast feeding her till at least 2 possibly 3 but no older than that. Its very sad to see how mums get vilified for doing this when its the natural way and we would have all done this many many years ago.''

Further Information on Breastfeeding Past Infancy

Breastfeeding an older child can feel very lonely but there are loads of mothers who do. Here I have put together a list places where you can go to find out more about breastfeeding past babyhood and gain support...
(Feel free to comment and add others...)

Groups/Pages on Facebook 
 Online articles/blogs/resources supporting breastfeeding and natural duration of breastfeeding
Reading books
  • Breast-feeding Older Children ~ Ann Sinnott
  • The Breastfeeding Book: Everything You Need to Know about Nursing Your Child from Birth through Weaning ~ Martha & William Sears 
  • Fresh Milk: The Secret Life of Breasts ~ Fiona Giles 
  • Attachment Parenting : Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child ~ Kate Allison Granju 
  • How Weaning Happens ~ Diane Bengson

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Is attachment parenting degrading to women?!

There has been a lot of controversy this week regarding attachment parenting mainly spurred by this picture:

Time magazine decided to do an article regarding attachment parenting. They could have chosen a baby wearing father, a couple bed-sharing with a baby or even a mother and baby having skin to skin after the birth...but no they choose an attractive woman breastfeeding her son, standing up to the breast.

The caption 'ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH?' implies, on the surface, that not feeding your child until they can stand is just not good enough. So no wonder there was such emotive discussions going on around the web regarding this. Time Magazine are just selling magazines, I am sure many will buy this just because of the cover, they are intrigued as its something that appears out of the ordinary, when in fact the boy on the cover is not even 4 years old...the average age for weaning weaning from the breast world wide is around 4 years so really it's quite strange that this is a rare sight...

But getting back on topic these are some comments I have seen around the web this weekend:

 "Is that woman really breastfeeding? Her breasts don't look like they're producing any milk to me, they're far too small - even flat chested women have serious cleavage when they're breastfeeding (I speak from experience).
WHO guidelines are surely aimed at women in countries where there is limited access to clean water for making up formula and where there is a strong likelihood of malnutrition.
In my view if the child is old enough to ask, they're old enough to drink out of cup."

"I have not had a child, but isn't three a bit old to still be breastfeeding? That is what bothers me about this picture, not the act in itself."

"I think that so called 'attachment parenting' was created by mothers who have children in order to automatically fill a void in their lives by encouraging unnatural dependency. It's an excuse to not do anything else with your life, a glorified extension of the burnt toast and coffee dedication to motherhood that has never been more than a way out for women who have no other ambitions.These people have turned mothering into a dogma. Most healthy women can be a great UN-attatched mother and still be dedicated and raise happy Independent children."

 "The reason why this photo shocks us it is because the boy is a boy, and of higher than average height, and, most of all because he does not touch his mother while at her breast and looks at us. The boy is a big three year old, the mother looks like a fashion model rather than a mother. Everything is "not your average" so to speak. Now try to put an average height three year old, who does not look at us and actually touches his mother, (lets say he is in her arms rather than on a chair) and put an average mother as the model .The picture would be more representative and less shocking. I am tired of shocking magazine covers, ..I am sure they sell more than others but the price we pay as a society is that reality is misrepresented by the very people who should inform us."
 Then this one which really prompted me to write this:

"My generation fought for what women have nowadays; careers, contraceptives, busy lives, relationships without marriage, equality and freedom. NOW there are a load of lazy hippy mothers WANTING to undo all that fight and stay at home to breastfeed their babies until school age, carry them around, sleep with them until the child wants to leave the bed and even home school them when there is a perfectly good education system. And that's not all. They are trying to guilt-trip all mothers into doing the same by implying that a mother who wants children AND a life is less of a mother and damaging to her child. Why? Attachment parenting is DEGRADING to women."

So is attachment parenting degrading to women? As they cite Dr William Sears in the article lets have a look at his '7 b's of attachment parenting' and use these to clarify attachment parenting and hopefully rid some myths...

1. Birth Bonding

So baby is born and its encouraged to have skin to skin as soon after the baby is born to promote breastfeeding and attachment. There are benefits to mother and baby and Dad can also have skin to skin. In the UK skin to skin is promoted as part of the Baby Friendly Initiative to aid breastfeeding so is certainly not limited to attachment parent types.

Is birth bonding degrading to women? In my opinion - no.

2. Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is very protective. Formula feeding increases the mothers chance of cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis and the childs chance of leukemia, type diabetes, allergies and hospitalisation in childhood. Granted breastfeeding means you have to be with your baby as much as possible so does mean the mother will find it more difficult (but not impossible) to jet off for the weekend or work full time but surely it is up to the individual to decide what is best for them? And since when did knowing the facts = judgement?

Is breastfeeding degrading to women? No - if you ask me all the undermining the formula industry do is far more degrading to women than breastfeeding.

3. Babywearing

Wearing baby in a sling has many benefits, I would say it gives me MORE freedom. I can get about easily (no need to worry about steps etc for buggies), its easier than putting a buggy up and down in the rain (I put sling on before we leave the house), I can breastfeed on the go and my baby is happier, she can see the world and be close to me. Possibly though a very important point is that fathers/partners/grandparents etc can all do this, not just mum has to wear the baby.

Is baby wearing degrading to women? Hell no! If anything it gives women more freedom.

4. Bedding close to baby

Co-sleeping doesn't have to mean bed-sharing. Baby can be in a cot in your room, a sidecar option or in bed with you some of the night. Co-sleeping provides protection against SIDS, aids breastfeeding and makes life easier for mum (or dad) during night feeds. 

Is sleeping in the same room as your baby degrading to women? I cannot see how. I think most mothers would welcome the fact it was protective against SIDS if nothing else.

5. Belief in the value of your babies cry

Dr Sears states 'responding to your babies cries builds trust'. To me this is logical. We are mammals and not designed to expel unnecessary energy. In my opinion babies cry for a reason and yes sometimes that may just be for a cuddle. It doesn't have to be mum that responds as long as they are responded to.

Is responding to your babies cries degrading to women? No but surely not responding is degrading to your baby...

6. Beware of baby trainers

Baby trainers often advise strict routines, scheduled feedings, sleep training methods which involve ignoring baby's cries, putting baby down as often as possible and even avoiding eye contact - all of which puts distance between mother and child and undermines the mothers ability to learn her own baby's cues this again is not limited to mothers. 

Is being aware of baby trainers degrading to women? Quite the opposite, baby trainers feel babies should all fit the same mold and mothers who feel their baby doesn't do as the book says at 3pm could end up feeling that they are doing something wrong - baby trainers are degrading to women.

7. Balance

That's right, its not all about the baby all the time. Mum gets a look in too. It is important to meet your own needs also and remember that attachment parenting is a guide for promoting healthy attachment which grounds children for life. 

Is balance degrading to women? Again the opposite. It IS possible to be an attached parent and return to work or bottle feed or use a pram or have babe sleep in another room.

The thing many do not realise about attachment parenting is that it is flexible. Dads can promote healthy attachment too and women do not need to stay at home with their children until they leave home. It is just about showing your child love, respect, boundaries and that their needs are met in the hope they grow to feel loved, secure and cherished - with that in kind is this not what all parents want?