I currently still exclusively breastfeed H, who is just over 6 months old. I am so proud of how far we’ve come, and lately I have been considering how long I will continue to breastfeed for. The World Health Organisation (2017) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and then in addition to solid foods until age 2. Mum of two, Siani Driver, details her experience of breastfeeding into toddlerhood.
“I never set a time limit on breastfeeding. Before I had my babies, I always knew it was what I wanted to do – I’m a very strong advocate of choice in all things concerning our bodies, so I’m the first to defend anyone who chooses to formula feed. However – personally, I had always wanted to breastfeed and hoped it would work for me – luckily, bar a few episodes of thrush and blocked ducts, it did.
Initially, I thought getting to six months would be a good goal. That milestone came and went, and we were still going strong. A year came and went, too. Just after her first birthday, I had to return to work. I was a bit concerned about my supply dwindling, about whether she would accept a bottle from the childminder, (she’d always been quite reluctant) and also had the dilemma of whether to express (I never had much luck in that department first time around – now I can express 7oz per boob in one sitting!) or give follow on milk. Because my daughter was weaning well and eating a really wide range of foods, I wasn’t concerned about formula being at all detrimental to her diet, and decided that on the days she was at the childminder she would have formula; the rest of the time, boob. This worked really well. My supply kept up just fine – I still fed her in the morning and evening on work days, and in the night if she woke. Even after I split from her father when she was 18 months and she started having some nights away from me, I still just fed her whenever I could.
We hit her second birthday and she was still feeding – although it was becoming more gradual. At some point between her birthday in August that year and Christmas, she stopped feeding. It was such a gradual self-weaning process that I don’t even know when her last feed was. We just got a few weeks into not feeding and I realised that I couldn’t recall how long it had been since her last feed. She just stopped by herself. I’m so glad to have done it in that way – no abrupt ending for either of us, she was never denied a feed (and even now at 3.5yrs, when she asks to try if I’m feeding her baby sister, I let her but she gets close to my nipple then bursts out laughing!) I never intended to feed for so long, but it just worked. It was a comforter, a pain reliever, a sleep aid, a bonding tool, a mood booster, an immune strengthener. It just worked for us both, and was easy.
In all my time breastfeeding, I didn’t have ONE negative comment – never even a frown, a funny look, nothing. There’s so much in the press out there about how breastfeeding in public is a negative issue, how feeding older babies will receive bad attention – I never expect any of that. I really think that in reality, very few people care what you do!
I’m typing this while feeding my 7 month old daughter. We’ve had a tougher ride that I did with my first; some severe bouts of thrush, blocked ducts, mastitis, and now she’s got teeth and is teething, she’s biting quite a lot which is difficult. I don’t know if we will make it as long this time around, I hope so. We are planning more kids with a smaller age gap though, so I might have to stop sooner that I’d like. I know you CAN feed while pregnant; I’m just not sure I’d have the energy!
I suppose the upshot of my story is that there’s not necessarily a ‘black and white’ to breastfeeding. You don’t have to do all or nothing, you can be flexible. You don’t have to exclusively breastfeed, or set a finish date on either of you. If things are going well, just go with what’s comfortable for YOU. Your boobs, your baby, your choice.”
Siani lives in the Malvern Hills with her fiancé, two daughters, cat, dog and hens! After the birth of her first daughter, Siani founded the Worcestershire Mums Network which is an inclusive and supportive safe place for mums. The group now has over 5000 members and offers peer support, advice and networking across the county, and also has a bank of amazing volunteers running groups in children’s centres. Siani is currently on maternity leave from her job working with children with special needs and disabilities, and she also keeps herself busy running a business making keepsake bears and bunnies, and write a parenting column for the Worcester News.