Motherhood has brought me many things I never imagined. A love so deep that my son’s name is written into my very bone marrow; opinions on Makka Pakka’s role in In The Night Garden; field knowledge about how long I can actually go without washing my hair – and the guts to push it one day further.
But one of the most humbling things is a realisation that you don’t know a damn thing about someone’s situation until you are in it.
I used to think that breastfeeding a child who was old enough to ask for your breast, loudly, in Marks and Spencer while pulling down your t-shirt (just as a random example - ahem) was weird.
But reader, I am that weirdo.
Except, it’s not actually weird at all.
The World Health Organisation says: “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”
And the NHS states: “Breastfeeding is about more than just nutrition. It helps to reassure and comfort your growing baby, even when they’re a toddler.
“If you’re comfortable breastfeeding there’s no need to stop until you and your baby are ready.”
In fact, no government or international body has a recommended upper age limit for when a mother should stop breastfeeding her child, and the average age of weaning worldwide is four.
So why. according to a report published in the Lancet. are only 1 in 200 British women breastfeeding their children after they reach their first birthday?
It would be easy to say ‘because they go back to work’. But I started back in an office when my son was seven months old.
At his current ripe old age of 18 months, he now feeds for twenty minutes when he wakes up and before I get ready for work. If I get home in time, he also breastfeeds before he goes to bed. If I’m not back for bedtime he happily swigs down a bottle of Daisy’s finest udder juice.
Speaking of cow milk, Frankie has always been mixed fed. In fact, at the very beginning, he couldn’t breastfeed at all due to a 75% tongue-tie that was missed by the hospital and his first health visitors but that we had snipped after a week.
In fact, breastfeeding was a real struggle for us for the first four months: Frankie would only feed via a nipple shield until that point, and while they were far better for me than him not breastfeeding at all, it was a miserable time.
And maybe that’s one of the reasons I have no intention of stopping feeding him now.
Another is that I’m very fortunate in having a natural, resting, ‘don’t even think of messing with me when I’m feeding’ face. I have yet to have any negative comments about breastfeeding in public, and the whole of South London has seen my slightly chewed nipples by now.
Some M&B readers haven’t been so lucky and talked to us about being shamed for feeding beyond a year.
One said she endures “subtle shaming from family and friends,” and noted the "’are you STILL feeding’" comments,” she endures.
Another told us she was booted out of a baby group for feeding her toddler.
Talking about tandem feeding her two children, she said: “Our breastfeeding support group stopped us going after the eldest became two. That was a bit of a knock.”
A third reader told us she incurs the wrath of internet trolls because of her breastfeeding choices. She said she’s shamed: “All the time. Online mainly but in public too as I breastfeed my three-year-old and six-year-old. Just because it's not the societal norm when it is the biological norm…
“We need to educate people and health professionals as they always pass comment on it and don't know the facts.”
And maybe, therein lies the root of the problem. Very little facts exist about the benefits of breastfeeding toddlers because who would pay for the research?
But here are some solid facts: my son likes breastfeeding. He finds it comforting. It’s not harming either of us.
And that’s enough for me to keep feeding him until the day he decides to self-wean. Either that or my nipples give out. Whichever comes first.
Honest celebrity quotes about breastfeeding from Adele, Holly Willoughby, Giovanna Fletcher and more
AdeleJust when we thought we couldn’t love Adele any more, when the singing superstar and mum of one brought up breastfeeding her baby during a concert at the O2, it was in response to Jamie Oliver’s comments that every mum should do it. Adele added: ‘Some of us can’t do it. I managed about nine weeks with my boobs, but some of my mates got postnatal depression from the way those midwives were talking. Breastfeed if you can but don’t worry, Aptamil [formula]’s just as good.’
Holly WilloughbyThis Morning star Holly Willoughby is never one to hold back, and that’s why we love her. When the topic of breastfeeding in public was brought up on the TV show, Holly defended a mothers’ right to breastfeed whenever and wherever she can, saying: ‘I understand if you were out with your breast out that would be different. Breastfeeding is not that easy! It’s difficult! Some babies can’t feed under a cloth because they don’t like being in the dark. It’s not that easy.’ Amen Holly.
Giovanna FletcherAuthor, mum of two and our wonderful columnist Giovanna Fletcher is always one to share her experiences of motherhood (and we love her for it). In a blog post about breastfeeding Buzz for Hello Magazine, Giovanna wrote: ‘I can’t tell you how many times I almost gave up. I didn’t have a smooth ride with breastfeeding – I wore nipple shields (never felt so attractive) and got a lovely lactation consultant over to try and help me and Buzz on our merry-breast-way. I was determined and stubborn about the whole thing – I hoped we’d get it right eventually. And we did.'
Chrissy TeigenThe mum of one has been very open about her struggles with postnatal depression after giving birth to baby Luna with husband John Legend, but breastfeeding was also on the list of topics Teigen was happy to talk about.
Telling Entertainment Tonight’: ‘The feeding schedule surprised me a lot. If you kind of do the math, you’re breastfeeding for ten hours a day total. It’s very loving and sweet but it’s not easy. It’s hard to work your entire day around getting her the nourishment she needs because [babies] are just little animals.’
Miranda KerrThe model was extremely open about her experience breastfeeding Flynn, her son with Orlando Bloom, frequently sharing images of herself nursing her baby on social media. Writing on her own website KORA Organics: ‘I intend to breastfeed for as long as I can. My breast milk will give our little Flynn the nutrition he needs for his continued healthy development, and to all the mums out there, I am sure you will make the right choice for you and your baby.’
BeyonceAlthough she’s kept pretty silent since giving birth to twins Sir Carter and Rumi, when it came to breastfeeding Blue Ivy, Beyonce told People.com: ‘I lost most of my weight from breastfeeding and I encourage women to do it. It’s just so good for the baby and good for yourself.’
Thandie NewtonBritish actress Thandie Newton has been open about her extended breastfeeding, sharing photos on Instagram nursing her son Booker as a toddler. The caption read: ‘Perfect happiness @latitudefest. This is what my body is made for. And the rest is my choice #Freedom.’
When it came to feeding her babies, the fashion icon revealed she loved breastfeeding. When talking about her daughter Harper, she said: ‘Stopping work wasn’t an option for long, but I took as much time off as I could. I spend the whole summer with my boobs out, breastfeeding. I loved it. It was heaven.’
Gisele BundchenAnother model mother who shared nursing images with the world, Gisele wanted to spread a message about breastfeeding in her infamous comment: ‘[There] should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.’
The model later added to this statement on her own blog, explaining: ‘My intention in making a comment about the importance of breastfeeding has nothing to do with the law. It comes from my passions and beliefs about children. Becoming a new mom has brought a lot of questions; I feel like I am in a constant search for answers on what might be best for my children. It’s unfortunate that in an interview sometimes things can seem so black and white. I am sure if I would just be sitting talking about my experiences with other mothers, we would just be sharing opinions. I understand that everyone has their own experience and opinions and I am not here to judge. I believe that bringing a life into this world is the single most important thing a person can undertake and it can also be the most challenging. I think as mothers we are all just trying our best."