Tigerlilly Quinn: Breastfeeding beyond a year

Friday, 28 June 2013

Breastfeeding beyond a year


I'm writing this post in a hotel room, a Medela breastpump attached to my right breast as I try to relieve myself of the pressure of a full day of not breastfeeding. I have spent the past two days away from my 18month old son. This is the first time I have properly been away from him and the first time I've really ever used a breast pump also. I am counting down the hours until I get to scoop him up in my arms, kiss, cuddle him and reconnect with breastfeeding. 

If you have been a reader of my blog for a while you will know that for the first few months of Wilf's life I found breastfeeding a torturous and heartbreaking experience. I struggled though mastitis, working on technique, gritting teeth and from around three months something clicked and by six months there was no way I could even consider stopping. The shock of first time motherhood, the extreme exhaustion, the adjustment to your new life and all it brings can sometimes leave you feeling a little down. I found breastfeeding in those days not only helped me slow down and connect with my baby but it gave me what my friends I would describe as 'motherhood MDNA' there is really no feeling quite like it. 

Knowing at six months that there was no way either Wilf or I were ready to stop breastfeeding I decided that there was no need to put a limit on the amount of time we would carry on until but simply see how long we both were happy with the situation. 18 months on and it is still such a privilege to be connecting with my child in this way. 

I told some of my readers I would be taking part in the 'Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt' and asked if they had any questions on what it was like to breastfeed beyond a year. My friend Ashley came up with some great questions that I thought I would address here, these are only my opinions on the situation though of course.

What does he drink during meals? - Water, pure and simple

How do you maintain your supply? - I found this a perplexing question, I have never worried about maintaining my supply. Perhaps due to the fact I was one of those women with the milk cannon boobs in the early days of breastfeeding but in reality it's not something I've ever thought about or even heard any one talk about. Wilf will sometimes go through phases of breastfeeding only twice a day or he will breastfeed ten time a day, my body is a clever clogs and produces exactly the amount he needs for what he needs. I was amazed to hear that your milk will even change according to the weather, if it is a hot day you will have watery milk to keep your child refreshed! It is a common mistake to think you have a low supply because your breasts feel empty, they may feel empty but production is constantly occurring. Amazing right?

How many times a day do you feed him? - Completely depends on the day, no day is the same. Somedays he may need some more reassurance perhaps and we bond over nursing. It is no longer about sustenance so much rather than an emotional bond for us both. That being said of course there are still huge health benefits to continuing to breastfeed for an 'extended' time. 

What if you have to leave him for a weekend? - This will be the first time in 18 months that I have left Wilf over night (and two nights too boot!) I have borrowed my friends electric pump, however the days have felt very uncomfortable in parts. I am not used to not having a toddler around to drain them! I also feel like two nights were a little too long to be separated from him, although this of course changes with the individual. 

Do you pump? - I tried to pump a couple of times in the first 6 months or so but I could never produce more than 2 oz, again this is why pumping can seem very misleading in terms of supply worry (as asked in the above questions). I am not very good a pumping but I know I have a huge amount of milk. We never found this an issue as we simply took Wilf everywhere we went. After six months or so (when he was mobile!) we left him a couple of times for maybe two or three hours and since a year I have of course left him with Tom for an afternoon with no issue. 

Has wilf stayed interested on his own or do you have to go in a dark room with no distractions? - Wilf has certainly gone through phases of being distracted. Around 5 months or so and then again perhaps at nine months. During this time I would have to try not to engage in conversation for the 5 minutes or so that he was nursing but nothing to the extent of having to leave the room. I think babies/toddlers tend to go through phases like this during developmental stages but it does not mean they are no longer interested in nursing. In terms of staying interested he certainly asks for 'boo boo' more than it is offered but for example if he had hurt himself or had a bad dream I would offer him a feed for comfort. 

Breastfeeding a toddler is not without its hurdles however, at 18 months we are experiencing our first case of 'separation anxiety' because of which his feeds have upped massively. I am starting to feel like some boundaries need to be drawn to ensure it is an enjoyable experience for us both and also discovering that perhaps it does not need to be the answer for all things. I often find Wilf asking to nurse when he has gotten bored of whatever activity we are perusing, which is fine as long as its not every half hour! This I think is the first tricky experience i've encountered in our breastfeeding journey since he was three months old. We are learning together how to create a situation we are mutually comfortable with!

The times in which both myself and Tom have been thankful for breastfeeding are when Wilf is sick, albeit we have been hugely lucky in that these times have been few and far between. When Wilf had a 24 sickness bug it was such a relief to know that through nursing he was replenishing all his vitamins and keeping re hydrated. Again when we have been out for longer than expected or in a situation where snacks are not immediately available it is incredibly handy to have a mobile food source (me!) to hand to make sure he is never left hungry. It is a fact of course that breastfeeding offers many health benefits but that is not why I/we continue to do so. We do so because we both still find it an enjoyable experience, with any big change (Wilf has just started two days at nursery) it is a fantastic way to connect.

I wrote this post as part of the 'Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt' do check out all the other amazing posts this week. Some of my favourites so far are from:
Anna
Adele
Gill
Fiona
Jess

36 comments:

Ms George said...

I really hope I'm able to breastfeed when the time comes. It's something I have always known I was looking forward to.

Kelly Rae said...

We just hit our 1 year mark on the 25th. Yay! I have no set time and would be fine nursing far into toddlerhood. Maybe 3? I have no plans on weaning her anytime soon. She looks so completely content when nursing.

I remember how very difficult the early months were and how my husband really pushed me to keep with it. I'm glad he did because now I can't imagine my life without that experience.

jannatul rahamoni said...

thanks for the post..guess will need this for my next time pregnancy...

Bonnie Rose said...

I loved breasting feeding my sons when they were babies. I didnt realise so many moms dont breastfeed, or at least I didnt think that was as common as breastfeeding until recently.

anna said...

I'm starting to think I will have to start weaning my toddler now, as he is approaching 2 so I think around the birthday time, I will have to see..

Interesting post!

Circus Queen said...

Lovely post, Fritha! I would add to the answer about supply. Our breasts actually make milk while our children feed so if the breast is drained and the kid is still going, the breast just starts making more while they're suckling! Amazing, isn't it?

I'm really open-minded about when we will finish this journey. It may be mother-led, it may be child-led, it may be a mix of both. I'd just like to let her finish when she's outgrown the need, ideally.

Lindsey said...

I'm still breast feeding my little girl, Edith who will be 2 in August. My intention is to just let her stop in her own time. I have encountered a few friends at mummy groups who feel Edith is too old now, but we feel its the most natural thing in the world. My response to them is 'I don't judge your choice not to breast feed so please do not judge my choice to continue'

The Stork and The Beanstalk said...

Your post is fantastic. I love how you pay no worry to supply (that's been such a source of anxiety for me with both, really). You have a very healthy outlook on it all and it's nice that you plan to do it as long as it works for both of you as opposed to dedicating yourself to some particular age. Thanks for this post :) xo

Mummy Daddy and Me makes Three said...

This is a beautiful post Fritha and congrats on feeding for that long. I stopped after 11 months with Mads, I had to go away to Brussels for work and I just thought it seemed like a good time to stop as by that point we were downtojust 2 feeds a day. I was really sad. This time around i would like to get to at least a year. X

ecstatic said...

This Post is very encouraging,as its not very common to breast Feed and especialy so long.my oldest was bf till 18months I was 5months pregnant and it was good by than to stop,now I breastfeed my little one 11 weeks open end!how is it for you to breastfeed your toddler in public,do you get reactions,negative or positive?

Valeria
(from berlin :) )

Danielle f said...

We've been breastfeeding for 14 months now, and I definitely don't want to stop any time soon! I find it a lovely way to bond with my son as its such a special connection that we share, and he finds it a comfort. I plan to carry on for as long as he wants :) x

Donna McParland said...

I breastfed my daughter for 19 months, we're currently 18 months with no sing of stopping with my son.... we'll stop when we are both ready hopefully

Iliska Dreams said...

Great post. I feed my daughter until she was around 22 months, and Jarvis who is 19 months in a couple of days still gets his three sleep feeds a day.
I attempted to stop feeding him a month or so ago (outside pressure), he was a hysterical mess and would not go to sleep. There and then I decided it was silly to feel outside pressure on something that was between myself and my son.

sc2987 said...

There's some interesting research about the natural age of weaning here: http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html

My daughter is 27 months and will wean when she's ready.

Tracy Hudson said...

I have been breastfeeding for 4 months and want to carry on as long as possible.

Samantha Peaty said...

Been feeding for 3 months now and planning on self weaning :)

Bethan Turner said...

As long as we're both happy and enjoy it. 11 months now and don't see us stopping any time soon

Pippa Ainsworth said...

I fed my son until he was 25 months old and plan to let my daughter self-wean

fritha strickland said...

Ms George - I'm sure you will, just remember that to look (and accept) help if you need it. It can be so tough at the beginning but so so worth it! x

fritha strickland said...

congrats on your year mark - Kelly! Thats fantastic! Same with Tom, I don't know what I would have done without his help x

fritha strickland said...

It's odd isn't it - Bonnie. Have you ever thought about an ex pat breastfeeding post? I'd love to hear your opinions on british vs american attitudes x

fritha strickland said...

Anna - I totally agree it is down to mutual feelings. If there came a point where one of was not enjoying it anymore I would wean for sure. I like the idea of two but we will see! x

fritha strickland said...

Adele - it really is AMAZING, our bodies are super clever aren't they! I agree, I'm v open minded about it too, if I get to a point where it's not working anymore for whatever reason I will be comfortable with weaning but so far so good! xx

fritha strickland said...

Lindsey - well done you! Don't listen to those sillies you are doing an ace job and like you said no judgement on your part on their choices so why should they judge you? x

fritha strickland said...

no probs Ashley - I guess I am lucky as apart from the initial mastitis issues I've never been worried about weight etc, Wilf was always a v big baby & I quickly realised I didn't agree with most things HV's say so stopped going after two sessions! x

fritha strickland said...

Katie - that such a shame that you didn't feel ready but amazing you manage to breastfeed her due to such problems at the start, you did an amazing job lady! xx

fritha strickland said...

ecstatic - I would love to hear more about breastfeeding in pregnancy! It's interesting also that you say it is not very common, I'd love to hear about views on breastfeeding in Germany x

fritha strickland said...

Danielle - that's fantastic Danielle, good on you for carrying on until you both feel ready x

fritha strickland said...

Donna - Exactly! Thanks for sharing x

fritha strickland said...

lliska dreams - I hope you are not getting too much pressure. You are doing a fantastic job mama! xx

fritha strickland said...

Tracey - Thats so great to hear, well done on 4 months, hope you are getting some sleep :) x

fritha strickland said...

Samantha - Thanks for sharing! x

fritha strickland said...

Bethan - That's so wonderful thanks for sharing x

fritha strickland said...

Pippa - That's amazing Pippa, thanks so much for sharing x

Mandi Morrison said...

I have breastfed my six children until 18- 22 months, number seven is due in nine weeks and we shall just go with the flow

Laura Honeybee said...

I've been breastfeeding my daughter for 22 months now. I'm pregnant and she's still going. Ideally I would like to get to 2 years and then see what happens. I have IGT, so won't be able to exclusively breastfeed the new baby, which also means that I will have to be careful that number 1 only ever feeds after number 2 has finished.

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