Natural Term Feeding
“Are you planning to stop soon?” “Isn’t he a little old now to still be feeding from you?” “You’ll be feeding him at the weekends when he comes home from Uni at this rate!” Yes, I’m still feeding my nearly twoyear-old. If you’d have asked me when I was pregnant if I thought I’d be feeding at two years, my honest answer would have been, “Eww! I didn’t even know feeding past six months was a thing. That’s completely weird” – because that was me. Except, when you’re feeding a toddler . . . it’s completely not weird. It’s the exact opposite. Most women have some idea of how they want to feed their baby, whether it be breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a little bit of both. I was asked, when I was pregnant, if I wanted to breastfeed, and after thinking about making a bottle at 3AM with a screaming baby at my hip and the £££ I would spend on formula, I decided that yes, I wanted to breastfeed. And, in all honesty, that’s the only thought I gave it. After nine months of waddling around waiting to meet the baby growing inside me – out he popped. I latched him to my breast and he suckled perfectly. At that exact moment, I realised just how much I had wanted to breastfeed. I spent those first few weeks typing ‘breastfeeding’, ‘cluster feeding’, ‘colostrum’ and many more words into Google, realising there was more to breastfeeding than just latching him on. It was during one of these late-night searches that I came across all the benefits of breastfeeding – not only for the baby, but also for myself. Nine weeks later, my nephew was born, and I attended a breastfeeding cafe with my sister. We met a lovely lady there who casually mentioned she was still feeding her five-year-old daughter. I froze and asked myself if I had heard that right. Did people actually feed their children to that age? Then I asked myself why I thought it was weird; was it because I still had this tiny nine-week-old who couldn’t move looking up at me with his great big eyes? Or was it simply because I had never seen anybody breastfeed past the first six weeks? Before I had my son I had never really seen much breastfeeding. Fast forward some more and here I am – feeding a nearly two-year-old. But why does natural term feeding have such an ‘ick factor’ here in the UK when up until around 100 years ago it was a cultural norm? I mean, if I turn on my TV, I can see boobs bouncing around in bikinis (or less) to music – so I’m being subconsciously told that’s what they’re for and that’s okay for everybody to see. I think that in westernised cultures like ours, natural term feeding isn’t seen very often, and things that aren’t seen very often tend to make people feel a little uncomfortable. When you research the benefits of breastfeeding, they’re ginormous. And if you research the benefits of breastfeeding a toddler, they’re not much smaller. Breastfeeding a toddler still offers their immune system a boost, it offers them nutrition when they are ill and may not be eating or drinking other things, it reduces the risk of breast cancer in the mother, along with many, many other benefits. Your breast milk changes as your baby grows. Reflecting on how I started my breastfeeding journey (with next to no knowledge), to how I am now, I believe if I had seen more women openly breastfeeding their children, I wouldn’t have found it so odd. Breastfeeding my son is the easiest thing in the world. If he’s upset or unsettled, I can “whip out my boob” (as my partner likes to say) and feed him to bring him some comfort. It allows me ten minutes to sit with him quietly and calm him down in a situation where he can breathe rhythmically and be with me. I spoke to a friend recently who is feeding her toddler. She asked her toddler what breastmilk taste like, to which her toddler replied with “happy”. I don’t know about you, but that makes me smile. If your son/daughter could talk, what would their response to that question be?