Extended breastfeeding – or just breastfeeding?

Thanks for hopping over from Renegade Feminist and welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Day 5 Extended Breastfeeding we have over £700 worth of breastfeeding and baby goodies up for grabs including prizes from More4Mums providing a set of ‘Hot Milk’ Lingerie, a signed hardback limited edition copy of Milky Moments and a £30 voucher from Milk Chic  Full details of the Grand Prize can be found here and all entries to be completed via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.


I dislike the term extended breastfeeding.  I, and many of my lentil-weaving hippyish friends, prefer to call it natural term breastfeeding, but only other lentil-weaving, hippyish people know what that means so I’m forced to use extended breastfeeding, because, in our modern-day 6-months-of-boob culture, anything past six months is seen as extended.  Just in case you’re still in the dark, though, allow me to enlighten you: extended breastfeeding is feeding your baby from the milk in your breast until an age where your family (either blood-related or in-laws) start openly asking you when you’re going to stop.  Naturally this is different for every family.extended breastfeeding

Yes, that’s right. In this age of tits on every billboard, buy a daily newspeper to admire some cleavage, décolletage being the selling point of every brand imaginable – whether relevant or not – it’s the sight of a mother feeding a child who (to quote a relative who should know better) “is old enough to ask for it” that really gets everybody clutching their pearls in abject horror.

I never set out to shock and dismay. I knew for sure that I wanted to breastfeed and, like many other mothers, had six months in my head as the goal I was aiming for. At the time I think I just believed this was how long you were ‘supposed’ to do it for. After three years of in-depth peer supporter training, I now know better.

Six months is just how old a child should roughly be before introducing anything other than breastmilk. Formula companies are banned from advertising in this country for babies under that age, so all their advertising (behind which there is much money) is aimed at ‘follow-on’ milks and so on for babies older than six months. I, like most others, mentally converted this into a maximum age limit for breastfeeding and honestly thought anything beyond that was unnecessary and, perhaps, a little odd.

And then I had my baby. My precious Boy. I held him in my arms, watched him stroke his cheek, my breast, his cheek, saw his wonder that he and I were the same person and two different people all at once. I fought to feed him despite birth trauma, bad advice, pain and post-natal depression and then, at about eight weeks it began to get easier, by 12 weeks it was easy (except for the sleep deprivation – oh God, was I deprived!) and by six months, when he started to mess around with bits of mango and fingers of toast I was laughing.

“Why would I give up now?!” I laughed to myself as I sailed out of the house with no paraphernalia other than nappies when he was five months old.
“Well I’m not giving up now!” I declared to myself, and others, when his molars started coming through aged one and feeding in the night was the best, easiest, quickest and most natural way to resettle him.
“Thank God I hadn’t given up!” I exclaimed through several stomach bugs at all ages where the only nutrition and fluids he took was endless, comforting suckles at my breasts.
“I don’t want him to give up now…” I murmured as I held my big two year old on my lap and stroked his hair and cuddled him in the only time he stayed still for more than a minute in his busy day.

By about two and half he was only having milk every couple of days and when I got pregnant and suffered horrendous pregnancy sickness for the first four months it was game over and the last of my milk went. He stopped wanting to suckle, even for the comfort.

If you’re wondering about feeding until your child weans themselves then I can honestly tell you it’s wonderful. It’s special. You can have time away from them (my son stayed away from me for five nights on two separate occasions and both times we managed to pick back up where we left off), but you don’t need to set yourself a goal now.  One of the very best things about breastfeeding is that (once you’re over the initial hump) it’s intuitive. You do it as and when. You know when it’s necessary and when it’s not and you can change your mind as you go.

For the family who wonder why you still do it, well, it’s none of their business really, but I always found “There’s a reason they keep their milk teeth until they’re five or six you know!” was a very effective deterrant. If nothing else the look of horror on their faces as they picture you still feeding a six year old is totally worth it!


For more extended breastfeeding experiences please hop on over to My Moo and Woo where you can gain further entries into the grand prize draw. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Keeping Britain Breastfeeding website. UK residents only.

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