As we know, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to our children. Parenting Perspectives is a blog series which aims to share posts from other mums (and dads) that take an alternative view to “traditional” parenting, whether by choice or not.
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This week, Rebecca from http://www.theishmother.co.uk/ shares her experience of extended breastfeeding and why others shouldn’t be so quick to judge!
“Why would you breastfeed a 4-year-old?”
That’s actually a question I asked myself, many years ago. I was watching ‘Supernanny’ and there was a woman with a 4-year-old daughter, who was still breastfed. I still remember Jo’s expression of barely concealed disgust at this and I got the message – blimey, that’s a bit weird isn’t it?
How having children of my own changed me!
Nowadays not only would I not watch ‘Supernanny’ (if I did I don’t think my TV would survive the battering) but I am actually one of those weird mums who has breastfed a 4-year-old.
Well, not really. You see, it’s not really something you plan. I didn’t cradle my newborn daughter in my arms and lovingly sigh, “I’m going to breastfeed you until you’re a matter of weeks off starting school.” Back then, I couldn’t even see myself making it to 4 weeks. Her latch was awful and she had reflux which meant she would push me away (yes, even at a few days old) and scream when fed. Looking back, I don’t know how I persisted, but somehow I did.
The first 8 weeks of breastfeeding were horrendous – I can honestly say carrying on was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But carry on I did because I’m a stubborn mare who didn’t want to have to pay for formula or wash up bottles every day. Then it gradually started to get easier. By 6 months it was a piece of cake (and legitimised me eating cake too – all those extra calories it burns!!) so I decided to keep saving my money and carry on to a year.
Of course, by the time I got to a year my daughter had a mind of her own and goodness, didn’t she know it! She didn’t want to stop, and nor did I particularly. Breastfeeding was like a parenting shortcut – won’t go to sleep? Mummy milk. Fallen over and hurt herself? Mummy milk. Forgotten to bring a drink out? Mummy milk. Teething and paracetamol not cutting it? Yep, you guessed it – mummy milk! I couldn’t think a single reason why we should stop and plenty of reasons to continue.
And so continue we did.
Breastfeeding saw us through teething, tantrums, numerous illnesses, separation anxiety and all sorts. When she started preschool it was a lovely way of reconnecting. When I got pregnant with my second child, it got more difficult as it was very uncomfortable for me but I think pushing through that gave her the reassurance she needed that she was still my little girl and I still loved her.
I’d planned on tandem feeding, but after my son was born, I developed nursing aversion – but just with my daughter. I couldn’t feed them together – she was 4 by this point and my son was a big baby so having both of them on me at once made me feel horribly claustrophobic! I persisted for a few months just feeding my daughter in the morning but the aversion didn’t get better. One day she said that she couldn’t get enough milk out and I suggested maybe her mouth was too big now. She decided of her own accord to put a time limit on it – she’d stop when she started school.
In the end, she just announced one day in August that she was done with mummy milk and didn’t need it any more. She backtracked a couple of times but really, that was the end. I was so glad that we’d got to a point where we were both happy to stop.
Has it had any negative effects on her?
I don’t think so. She never had any problems leaving me to go to preschool, and walked into school without a backwards glance. The fact she decided to stop with just a bit of gentle persuasion shows to me that it was an attachment she outgrew naturally. She’s now very affectionate without being clingy, and has a beautiful relationship with her little brother with hardly any jealousy.
As for my son, he is now 15 months and still breastfed. I can’t see him stopping any time soon so I’m happy to keep going. It’ll be interesting to see how long he continues for, especially as he’s my last so there won’t be another baby on the scene to change things! I can’t imagine breastfeeding much longer than the 4 and half years I breastfed my daughter, but then I never imagined feeding her for as long so who knows?
Why would you breastfeed a 4 year old? Why not? If mum and child are both happy, then go for it and don’t let anyone, Supernanny or otherwise, tell you that you have to stop!
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