‘You’ve been breastfeeding too long, you’re only doing it for you.’ Why should I stop breastfeeding my child just because he has reached a certain age?’: Mom tandem nurses toddler and newborn

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“When I was 23 years old and my husband and I had been together for almost 5 years, after much discussion since we got married 2.5 years earlier, we decided we would like to have a baby. In our first month of trying, my period was one day late, so I took a pregnancy test and it was positive! We were so surprised it happened so quickly, but also so excited! I fell pregnant in November 2016, so we told our family and close friends on Christmas Day we had a very special gift cooking away!

My pregnancy was really great! Both my baby and I were so healthy and there were no complications. Aside from some morning sickness in my first trimester and a fair bit of pain in my third trimester, I absolutely loved being pregnant.

Lion Fox & Co.

My due date came and went and I was still pregnant. I had a midwife appointment on my due date, in which I was told I would be induced at 10 days past my due date. I did not want to be induced or have any medical interventions if possible, but I did not know (and was not told) I could decline induction if my baby and I were healthy. I thought the hospital ‘wouldn’t let me’ stay pregnant for longer than 10 days past my due date. I now know this is not true, but at the time I was so upset and stressed, which definitely wasn’t helping me to go into labor.

At 6 days past my due date, I was convinced I would be pregnant forever, but at 3 a.m. I woke up to a little trickle of fluid. I went to the bathroom and checked, and was pretty certain my water had broken. I woke my husband up, called the hospital, and went in a couple hours later to be checked. I had started having mild contractions shortly after my water leaked, so I was very relieved and happy I was finally in labor!

When we arrived in hospital, a midwife checked me and confirmed I was in labor and my water had broken (after first trying to convince me I’d probably just peed myself). I was still in early labor, so she said to go home for a while and come back when things picked up, or when it had been 18 hours since my water broke (hospital policy stated I would need antibiotics after 18 hours, in case of infection).

My husband and I went home and my mum came over soon after. I was still having regular contractions, but they were quite mild, so we just chatted, watched a few episodes of Catfish, and I had a bit of a snooze in between contractions for a while.

It got to 9 p.m. that night, 18 hours after my water had broken, and we went to the hospital. My contractions had intensified and were still regular, and I was around 4cm dilated when the midwife examined me.

I continued to labor through the night, without any pain relief, as per my wishes. My baby turned posterior at some point, so my contractions were extremely intense and felt all in my lower back and hips. When I had been in labor for about 24 hours, an obstetrician came in to see me. She informed me there was meconium in my waters, which meant my baby had pooped. This can be problematic, so she suggested she break my fore waters (only my hind waters had broken naturally) and give me synthetic oxytocin to speed things up. I consented to having my fore waters broken and reluctantly consented to the drugs because I thought I had no other option.

Fortunately, an amazing midwife who was looking after me argued with the obstetrician about giving me the drugs because she knew I didn’t want them. So the plan changed to breaking my fore waters and then seeing what happened for an hour. Things progressed quickly once my fore waters were broken and I didn’t end up needing the drugs after all.

After a few more hours of intense back labor (because my baby was posterior), the time came to start pushing. After pushing for about two hours in a couple of different positions, my son’s head was born while I was standing and squatting next to the bed. I pushed a few times after his head was out, but couldn’t manage to get his shoulders out, so the midwives realized he had shoulder dystocia (his shoulders were stuck), called a ‘code blue,’ and got me up onto the bed. About 10 people ran into the room while alarms were going off, and a few midwives performed some maneuvers on me to help get my baby’s shoulders out, which quickly worked, and at 11:32 a.m., my son Bowie was born.

He was placed on my chest very briefly while his cord was cut, and then taken to the cot next to my bed to have help breathing. I had no idea what was happening, but everyone was reassuring me he was okay. Once he was breathing, they then took him straight to NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) while my husband went with him, and my mum and dad (who was in the waiting room while I was pushing) stayed with me.

Lion Fox & Co.

I knew right from even before we conceived I would breastfeed. Both my husband and I were breastfed until we were 2 years old, and I had quite a few friends who breastfed/were currently breastfeeding their babies, so for me, it seemed the natural thing to do and I didn’t consider any other option. I had in my birth plan that if, for any reason, my baby and I were separated, he was not to be given formula. So when he was first in the NICU, he was given a feeding tube until he was stable enough to have the CPAP removed and I could breastfeed him.

Our first breastfeed was at about 8 p.m. that night, and was quite awkward, not only because it was my first time breastfeeding, but because he still had a lot of tubes, monitors, and a cannula attached to him. The midwife looking after him was very helpful though, and gave me some good direction. I walked back and forth from my room on the maternity ward to the NICU every two hours all night, until about 5 a.m., when the midwife said he was feeding really well and could come back to my room with me. We spent two nights in the hospital before heading home.

Courtesy of Lauren McLeod

Despite a bit of a rocky start to life, Bowie has been an amazing breastfeeder right from the first feed in the NICU. He lost a little more weight than he should have when he was first born, but once my milk came in, he gained it back right away. He even had a mild tongue tie, but we didn’t discover this until he was 3 months old. It didn’t affect his feeding, but we chose to have it revised (cut with scissors by a specialist doctor) anyway, because tongue ties can cause other issues later in life. His feeds got a bit quicker once his tongue tie was revised.

Bowie and I have been so fortunate to have had breastfeeding come so naturally to us both. We’ve never had to use formula or donor milk, and once my milk came in when he was about 4 days old, I didn’t need to pump and top up his feeds with expressed breastmilk anymore, as he started gaining weight nicely and quickly. He was such a happy, relaxed baby, and any problem he had could easily be fixed with boob (and still can, 3 years on!). It has been so amazing watching my son grow, knowing my milk is nourishing him and keeping him healthy.

Lion Fox & Co.

The biggest obstacle we have faced on our journey came just after Bowie turned one year old. I had a few people make comments about our breastfeeding, suggesting it was going on too long, I should stop breastfeeding him and let him eat food (he most definitely did eat plenty of food!), I was only breastfeeding for my own selfish reasons, and other comments along those lines.

I was so upset by these comments at first, but I just kept reminding myself (and others!) this was OUR journey and none of anyone else’s business. I knew I was doing the right thing for my baby by continuing to breastfeed, and over time, I became more confident about doing this and have not received any negative comments for a long time. Why should I stop breastfeeding my child, who clearly wants and needs the comfort and nourishment of breastfeeding, just because he has reached a certain age society has deemed inappropriate to continue breastfeeding past?

Lion Fox & Co.

My original goal was to breastfeed Bowie until he was 2 years old, and when that milestone came and went, he was not ready to wean and neither was I. I fell pregnant with my second baby one month after Bowie turned two, and I was happy to continue to breastfeed through pregnancy and potentially tandem breastfeed. I knew some toddlers wean completely during pregnancy because their breastfeeding parent’s milk dries up or changes taste, some breastfeed less, and some continue to breastfeed like nothing has changed, so I kept an open mind.

Breastfeeding through my first trimester of pregnancy was excruciating, but I continued because Bowie was still so reliant on breastfeeding for comfort and connection (as is biologically normal). The pain eventually subsided and my milk completely dried up in my second trimester, but Bowie continued to dry nurse like nothing had changed. This was fine with me, and I prepared myself to tandem feed once my baby was born.

Lion Fox & Co.

Tandem breastfeeding has been the most incredible experience! It has its challenges, of course, but I’m just so grateful to and in awe of my body for making milk to nourish not one but two babies. Bowie is now 3 years old and my daughter, Tigerlily, is 6 months old. I feed Tigerlily on my left breast (my over-producer), and Bowie on my right (my under-producer), although they do occasionally swap. Bowie still breastfeeds around 5 times a day, and Tigerlily feeds as much as a 6-month-old baby does. I have not had to use formula or donor milk for Tigerlily at all either – my body has just adapted and knows how much milk to make to feed both of my children.

I don’t know how long I will continue to breastfeed for, so I’m just going with the flow. Breastfeeding a toddler is not an easy task, and I do feel very ‘touched out’ at times, but the sweet moments like breastfeeding Bowie to sleep after a long day, or seeing my babies hold hands while they breastfeed at the same time make it all worth it.

Lion Fox & Co.

My biggest advice for parents who wish to breastfeed is to listen to your intuition and do what feels right for you and your baby. Don’t let anything anyone else says dictate the decisions you make for yourself and your baby. The reason many people make negative comments about breastfeeding is because they are not educated enough. If you feel called to, don’t hesitate to kindly educate someone who says breastfeeding your baby to sleep is a ‘bad habit,’ or that your two-year-old doesn’t need to breastfeed anymore. If you can’t be bothered continuing the conversation about it, just nod and walk away.

Another thing I cannot stress enough is, if you are having problems breastfeeding, you are in pain, your baby isn’t gaining weight, or anything else that’s not quite right, please seek help from an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). There are many of them all over the world and your pregnancy care provider should be able to refer you to one or more, or you can just do a Google search to find one. There are many who do virtual support as well as or instead of in-person support.

I could write a book full of breastfeeding advice (maybe I will one day), but for now I’ll just give one final piece of advice. Trust your body! Your body was made to breastfeed, and it is very rare a person simply does not make enough milk to feed their baby – there is usually a reason why a breastfeeder’s supply is low or their baby is not feeding well, which can usually be determined by an IBCLC. If your baby is feeding a lot, especially when they are a newborn, that is normal! Breastmilk is made via supply and demand. The more your baby breastfeeds, the more milk your body will make. Your baby will breastfeed a lot in the first few weeks to signal your body to make as much milk as they need. They won’t breastfeed every two hours (or more) forever, I promise. Trust your body and your baby, and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you feel something isn’t right.

Lion Fox & Co.

Breastfeeding is such a beautiful thing and should be celebrated! Of course, it doesn’t always work out for everyone, and some people simply choose not to breastfeed, and I acknowledge that. Every parent’s and every baby’s journey is unique and a variation of normal. If you are, or hope to be, a breastfeeding parent, trust your intuition and remember your journey is no one else’s business except yours and your baby’s!”

Myrtle & May Photography

This story was submitted to  Love What Matters  by Lauren McLeod of Perth, Australia. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story  hereand be sure to  subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and  YouTube for our best videos.

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