I have breastfed 4 children, and with each I never thought that I would have problems and I never thought there was another way… to give a newborn a bottle of formula just seemed alien to me. There is nothing as amazing as the feeling you get when feeding your newborn and also the satisfaction of knowing that you are the only source of nourishment for your ever growing, gorgeous baby.
I have dealt with a few of the major ‘problems’ – slow newborn feeder, mastitis, cracked nipples (that the baby was sick blood!), pain from poor latch, thrush, blocked ducts, boobs that could have given Jordan a run for her money, and milk that could have squirted the other side of the room, (and did if the baby suddenly stopped feeding and turned the other way!) but there was never the option to ‘quit’ and offer formula, I don’t think anyone suggested it, or if they did I didn’t hear. Each time I had a problem I ‘knew’ how to deal with it from past research, and if I wasn’t sure I sought advice from a breastfeeding advisor.
But ...some 14 years ago with my eldest son I was advised to feed solids from 3 months (!) and by the time 6 months came around I didn’t see any other babies being breastfed at the playgroups etc I went to, most other Mums had stopped and the only comments I heard were “I need my body back”, “my husband can share the night shift”, “well I’ve done X months – that’s quite enough”, or things like “it’s wrong to feed a toddler, so I’m going to stop now”. I even saw the GP about feeling tired and she told me to “stop breastfeeding as that would be the cause of it and I had done enough for my baby’s health, now it was time to think of mine.
I had never met anyone who breastfed a toddler, nor tandem fed…that was only for strange hippy types, and apart from library books I had no access to information to prove to me any different. So at around 9 months I tried to introduce formula… he hated it… a few more bits of advice from the health visitor and I thought I needed to stop for my health and his and was advised to go cold turkey. So against my better instincts, when he was 10 months, I let my mum look after my crying baby for the 3 nights or so it took to stop him screaming (and to stop my boobs feeling like they were going to explode) I clearly remember listening to him crying, and me just sobbing as I wanted to feed him, but I thought I was doing the right thing for us both by not.
My second child was similar…. All praise for the first 6 months or so for exclusively breastfeeding, and then we hit 12 months and it was the constant stream of when are you going to stop? I ended up stopping breastfeeding him at 13 months, just purely as it was drummed into my head that it was the right thing to do.
My daughter I fed until 18 months, mainly as I had then started to read up on allergies (my 2nd had awful eczema -triggered by dairy) and didn’t feed her dairy at all until over 12 months. But again from that point onwards I was ‘encouraged’ to stop from all sides and to try and wean her (which I admit she did on the ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’ method)
But with all three I had a deep desire to still feed them, to give them that last breastfeed and even though I wanted to stop (from the belief I had that it would be for the best) I still ‘sneaked in’ a private one last feed and cried while feeding them, knowing that was it.
I then had my 4th child after a 6 year gap. In that time we had got the internet and I found forums of mums who were still breastfeeding a toddler and pregnant, others feeding 5 year olds! And the more I read the more normal they and their views seemed…and then I read that there are still health benefits to feeding toddlers (even the WHO recommends feeding until 2yrs) and their kids haven’t grown up ‘strange’ as they remember feeding from mum…in fact the opposite seemed true. I also found out so much that the mainstream feeding advice does not tell you, how it makes formula an acceptable second so as not to upset mums who cannot breastfeed (or in most cases were not given the help, support and advice they wanted to breastfeed) or those that didn’t want to (or is this just as they think formula is as good, or have preconceived ideas about boobs and breastfeeding?)
It also made me pretty angry that I was given this so very wrong ‘advice’ and opinions with my eldest 3, my instincts (that I ignored) were right for me and my child. Although I actually feel ‘lucky’ that I didn’t get some of the even more appalling advice I have heard others have been given and have stopped breastfeeding their baby at an even younger age as they have been so wrongly told that they shouldn’t struggle, and a happy mum means a happy baby etc.
It was probably a good job that I read this new information while pregnant as my son was a boobaholic, he loved his ‘boo’ and at 4 years old now is still feeding at bedtime, & I can’t see him giving up in the near future either. I have had all the same ‘teasing’ from other about his feeding and when will he stop, even the GP said I should stop (again), but now I just don’t care about others opinions. They are opinions, not fact. He’s happy, I’m happy I’m giving him the best nutrition available and that’s all that matters