So breastfeeding beyond 12 months; that’s strange, right? Due to lack of information and discussion, and of course the ubiquitous Little Britain sketch, there are so many negative stereotypes around boob-feeding babies past a certain age…but surprise! It’s actually the most natural thing in the world.
However if you’d told me a year ago that I’d still be – very happily – breastfeeding beyond 12 months and still feeding my baby past the grand old age of one, I’d have not believed you. We had a lot of initial problems with latching, jaundice, agonising, toe curling pain, and I had mastitis a couple of times. Ouch. But as I said in my last post, somewhere along the line it just clicked, and it’s now such a lovely but often unremarkable part of our everyday life.
Eliza is a really healthy eater, with three meals a day, as well as our food too if she can swipe it off a plate. And yet she shows no sign of wanting to give up the 2-4 feeds a day we still do – she has now picked up the baby sign for milk from somewhere, and has learned to say ‘bob’ and point at my chest, which I love – so why would we stop just because she’s a whole number instead of a number of months?
Here’s what’s so great about breastfeeding a one year old:
- It’s a fantastic way to reconnect if we’ve been apart, especially post-nursery. I find it really grounding for both of us. It’s our equivalent of a ‘how was your day?’ catch-up with less chat
- As she eats so well, breastfeeding at this point offers us both so much more than the ongoing nutritional – and health – benefits; it’s bonding and still a really effective way of soothing
- It fits in easily around our life, even now I’m back at work. I’m lucky as I’m only working a few days a week and most of those from home, so we have a good pre and post nursery feed, and I can express if necessary (it must be more difficult if you’re back to work full-time in an office though)
- And when I’m at home and chasing her around all day it’s often a relief to have a reason to sit down and check my email
- People always seem to bring up teeth as a reason to give up. E has five and it’s fine – she did nip me once or twice at first, but I don’t even notice them now. And what about babies who are born with them?
- Lifestyle-wise, it’s not a problem to have a drink if I want it, or to express if I’m going out
- And I’m still reaping the magical calorie burning and weight-loss benefits
I am lucky in the respect that I had a lot of help initially, everyone around us is supportive, and we live in a place where no-one has ever blinked an eyelid at public baby-boobage. Although we hardly ever need to feed when we’re out at this point as a carrot stick will often suffice. The only comments I’ve received have been positive – the nicest was an old lady who tapped me on the shoulder on a packed London bus, mid-feed, and said ‘that is so lovely to see.’
Breastfeeding beyond 12 months remains of the most surprising and fulfilling things in my experience of motherhood; it has banished and continues to confound all my pre and misconceptions. I can see us tapering off for a second baby, but I don’t think that will be for a while yet (although who knows?) At the moment we both love it, and I’m happy to carry on for as long as we’re both happy to do so.
I am really interested to know other people’s experiences of extended breastfeeding – are you still doing it? How are you getting on? How long did you do it for? And as always, this is purely a comment on our experiences and nothing else…
The photos at the top are of baby feeding from The Baby’s Catalogue by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. I love the way it presents all sorts of feeding in a completely normal, unpolitical, everyday way. And here’s the only photos, I think, of us breastfeeding, taken when we were out to lunch a few months ago: