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