Breastfeeding: Through the School Gates

Morning campers! Today Megan brings us her story of what society calls extended feeding. I hope you’ll really enjoy, as Megan’s breastfeeding journey spans 8 years and she brings fantastic insight.

“Would you be able to write something about extended breastfeeding to share with others and any tips you have for those just starting on their breastfeeding journey?”

“Er… ok I’ll give it a go.” and so I’m sat here now pondering what to write without coming across as one of those stereotypical hippy mummy who has a child hanging off her breast at every opportunity whilst staging a breast feed sit in at a swimming pool or the like.

Firstly I’ve never taken part in one of those.  The nearest I’ve come to a sit in is trapped under a sleepy breastfeeding little one on the sofa at home cursing myself for not having made sure the remote/drink/snacks were within arm reach.  Ah my first tip for the newly initiated – make sure you have provisions and entertainment within arm’s length or you’ll be sat twiddling your thumbs until the little one has finished their feed/woken up.

I don’t think I could be considered a hippy or a yummy mummy either.  More like slummy mummy trying to keep her wits about her!

So how did I end up in the position of feeding my children way past what is seen as the norm?  To be honest I’m not really sure, it kind of just happened.  One day I was feeding a tiny little baby and then in a blink of an eye a small child.

When you are first presented with a hungry baby squawking for milk, it seems odd to shove your breast into their mouth.  That sensation of them sucking is a weird one.  The best way I’ve found to explain it is to tell you to take hold of one of your fingers and tug whilst squeezing with your other hand.  Even this can’t really give you a true understanding of it.

I did not have a clue how to breast feed my first baby.  I didn’t know many others with a baby and certainly never watched to see how it was done.  Being typically British I had always averted my eyes if anyone had breastfed near me, so not surprising really that I was clueless about it. It didn’t come naturally to me either, took me a few attempts with the help of a midwife and my lovely Mum to get the hang of it.  Trust me once you’ve bared your legs and push a baby out of your body, someone grabbing your breast to hold it in place whilst attaching a baby for a feed is not embarrassing at all.  In fact anything these days that requires a close look at my body by a medical professional doesn’t faze me at all… but I’m going off on a tandem there.  Be good for another blog though – the joys of prolapses and small children in the bathroom with you…

One of the best bit of advice I was given by a friend was to make sure I was sat comfy with cushions behind my back to feed.  This stops you from slouching in a bad position when feeding.  The nose to nipple tip is also a great one to remember.  No not your nose, the baby’s nose as it prompts them to open their mouth wide to get a good latch.

One thing no one ever tells you about until afterwards is that it ruddy hurts when you first start breastfeeding.  Why?  Well your nipple isn’t use to feeding a little one.  Think of it like breaking in a new pair of shoes where they give you a blister at first, but then over time they become really comfortable.  It can take a few weeks for breastfeeding not to hurt, and this is often why breast feeders give up as they think it’s not going to end.  You need to be persistent about taking baby off and repositioning them if feeding is really painful, as it may be they have a poor latch.  It is worth seeking advice too in case baby has a tongue tie which can be another reason why breastfeeding is so difficult.

You’re probably sat there thinking I’m one of those know it all type who fed all her children with great ease.  Actually you would be wrong.  The baby I most struggled to feed wasn’t my first, it was my last.  In some respect that was harder as everyone assumed that because you’ve done it before, you should be a pro at it.  In fact if my last has been my first, I probably would have been one of those who decided to give up breastfeeding sooner than planned because of how difficult and painful it was in the first few months.

Then one day all of a sudden it clicks and you feed without pain.  Baby is content and so are you.  I found it quite relaxing just sitting and feeding my baby.  It never fails to leave me in awe how much comfort breast feeding can bring to a little one who one minute could be screaming and crying, and in the next happily feeding.

No one tells you about how hungry breast feeding can make you.  Some lucky mummies don’t pile on the pounds either whilst breastfeeding regardless of how many biscuits they scoff in a short space of time.  I found as did a number of my friends that on about day 3 or 4 the hunger kicks in as your milk arrives.  Make sure you have plenty of food on standby for this day as you will eat like you have never eaten before!

Just as you get to grips with breastfeeding, teething starts and this results in your little one adjusting their latch.  Occasionally they may bite your nipple and this hurts lots.  My advice is to remove little one from breast and say “No biting!” in a firm voice.  They soon learn that if they bite they don’t get to feed.

I’ve had the little ones that turn to be nosy whilst stretching your nipple as far as it will go as they don’t want to stop feeding.  I’ve had the twiddlers too that poke, prod and twiddle whilst feeding.  Some folk get round this by wearing jewellery that they can fiddle with instead.  I’ve also had one that liked to turn self upside down whilst feeding.  No two child is alike in how they feed which is why it is difficult to say what the best way of breastfeeding is.

Getting back to the focus of this blog post my breastfeeding journey with each of my children has lasted for different lengths of time.  My first ended at 2 years and 1 month after gradually reducing feeds and combined feeding with formula/cow milk.  I ended it as needed to have an operation and was told I wouldn’t be able to feed due to the medication.  Have since found out that I probably could have, had I been given better information.  My second ended around 18 months as lost interest as was a very active child and wanted to be getting on with exploring the world rather than feeding.  My youngest has only recently stopped showing an interest in having milk regularly at nearly 4 and a half years of age but still occasionally snuggles up for a quick feed.  He is the taboo one, the one that society recoils at the idea of breastfeeding for so long.

“You’ll be feeding through the school gates!” “More Titty please Mummy!” said in the voice of a comedy sketch character. “But, but doesn’t it hurt?  The teeth?!”  These are just some of the comments I’ve heard over the years.  The truth is that we as a society have lost our perspective of what is normal.  They aren’t called milk teeth for no reason.  Children lose the natural ability to breastfeed once they start getting adult teeth.  Did you know that breast milk adapts specifically for each feeder, providing them with the essential vitamins and immunity needed?  Breastfeeding a child isn’t just about providing nutrition, it is also about providing comfort and security.  It is also full of health benefits for the mummy too, as it reduces the risk of a number of health conditions such as breast cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

Breastfeeding past 6 months shouldn’t be seen as this weird concept, it is totally natural.  I’m lucky in that I have mostly a supportive network of people behind me.  I have also over the years been able to develop my knowledge of breastfeeding and the benefits of it thanks to reading articles and taking part in discussions about it.

It shouldn’t really be called extended breastfeeding either as its natural term feeding.  Don’t you roll your eyes at me, go and look it up if you don’t believe me.

At the end of the day what is important to remember is that it is totally up to the mother and her child to make the decision about their breastfeeding journey, no one else whether that be for a few days, a couple of weeks, 6 months, a year or longer.

Thank you, Megan. Let’s start using that term: natural term feeding.

If you want to read more about the benefits of breastfeeding, you can here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/benefits-breastfeeding/

If you want to find out about good latch, you can here: https://www.babycentre.co.uk/x553877/how-will-i-know-if-my-baby-is-latched-on-correctly

But remember, you can always speak to your health visitor or GP and they will be able to signpost you to breastfeeding support in your area.