I didn’t make an active choice to ‘do’ extended breastfeeding… I just never used bottles and it was so easy to peacefully feed baby to sleep (tut, tut, no, no!), comfort baby (and then toddler), nurse my child through teething with breastfeeding (did you know sucking releases endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers?). My children all started solids around six months of age, they drank water from a sipper cup around then too. They all eat a wide-range of healthy foods. So why keep breastfeeding? As I said, it wasn’t a decision I made, it was just me meeting the physiological and emotional needs of my child. They continued to feed and I continued to provide. I never have been very good at saying, ‘No’!
I sought advice on the Internet and found support groups singing the praises of extended breastfeeding and making me feel perfectly normal. I was, truly, doing what nature intended (only not many other people do it… only one or two of my antenatal group did and many fellow mothers thought I was ‘nuts’).
When my children turned 18 months feeds became much more private. My toddlers very rarely indicated they would like a feed when we were out in public and I usually found a way to distract them if they did – or sought somewhere a little private. In front of close family and friends, or in my own home, I felt a lot more comfortable, but on occasion we’d have visitors to our home I didn’t know so well and I’d retreat to a bedroom.
In the night they fed for several months… into years. But this was more of a positive than anything. They went to sleep peacefully, blissfully even, happy and content. There were few nights of tears and upset. Illnesses were comforted with extra feeds. Teething pain was easily and naturally alleviated and it was very rare that medical pain-relief was needed.
However, I found myself so bound with my children emotionally and so attached that I became their night time ‘comfort blankie’. It was (and is now with Alice) impossible for me to go out in the evening. Charlotte used to wake like clock work and have a good sleep between 8pm and midnight, allowing me some valuable ‘escape’ time. Sophie spaced out her wakings too, but it wasn’t until she was nearly two that I left the home in the evening, feeling secure that she wouldn’t wake and be too upset. Also, around the age of two all the girls accepted and sometimes sought, in preference of me, their Daddy for night time comfort (phew, a relief to me!).
Thankfully, my freedom to party (not that I any longer had much desire or energy to!) did return. My children self-weaned (Charlotte at 2 years and Sophie at 4 years – with a little encouragement just before Alice was born). But Alice is now 19 months and going stronger than either Charlotte and Sophie ever did! She’s bigger than they were at this age. She eats a great range and quantity of solid foods too. She’s happy, healthy and a joy, but I am ready for a little more sleep without interruption! It will come, I know.
In the meantime, I love this video, ‘Ignorance Meets Knowledge’ (extended breastfeeding). The first half flashes up ignorant messages that extended breastfeeders are sometimes confronted by and then changes to the knowledge that reveals how very natural extended breastfeeding is and the benefits to both mother and child.
References: Natural Mama NZ