Did you know the UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world? Isn’t it mad that a first world country is getting it so wrong when it comes to our children’s health? I honestly think this has a lot to do with our education system. How breastfeeding isn’t a part of the curriculum is beyond me.
I never really had an opinion on breastfeeding. I knew that I wanted children and I knew I was supposed to feed them myself. However I had no idea how I was to go about this and for how long! So I asked my Mom, she told me that she fed both myself and my little brother to six months, before we then moved to solid foods. This made sense, as I assumed they had milk to six months then only solid food after.
So I got pregnant, and entered the world of online pregnancy support groups. It turned out the world of parenting was a whole like the world of high school. A little group where everyone shares similar opinions, there were groups on how to feed your baby, how to carry your baby, where they should sleep. It was overwhelming!
I gave birth to my daughter and even though we had a very difficult after birth (which you can read about here), our start to breastfeeding was relatively easy. I went along to a local breastfeeding support group, as I wanted to weigh my daughter, and ended up making some amazing friends. It became a weekly thing and after a few months, I was asked to become a breastfeeding peer supporter. It turned out they only asked me to fill the course up, but I’ve ended up becoming a regular volunteer so good thing they did! 😉
That course taught me so much, not only about breastfeeding, but how to correctly bottle feed too. By the end of the course, my daughter was six months and I had no intentions of weaning. My goal changed to 2 years old, following the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
My period returned at 8 months PP, and we decided to let nature take it’s course…at 9 months PP, I was pregnant! You can read more about that here. Straight away I got comments about weaning my daughter…”Well, I bet you’re regretting bed sharing now!”….”Oooh, you’ll have to stop coddling her”….”Time to get her off the boobie, eh?”
However I saw no reason why I had to stop. I knew it was safe to continue to feed throughout my pregnancy and beyond. I didn’t think it was fair to stop feeding my daughter, to take away her one source of comfort, just because I had become pregnant. The pregnancy had made me become very protective over our bonding time, I was worried that if she didn’t feed anymore, she might not need me anymore.
I started to research exactly how tandem feeding would work, seeking advice from every possible avenue. I read La Leche Leagues ‘Adventures in Tandem Nursing’ and ‘Mothering Your Nursing Toddler’, both great reads if you have ever thought about tandem feeding. I was nervous as to what my consultant would say however was surprised when they supported my decision to continue and confirmed that it would have no affect on the pregnancy or my sickness.
Baby came and feeding was the only thing that did come naturally. You can read my seconds birth story here. Once my daughter arrived to meet the baby, we were both eager to feed after a long break. She watched me feed the baby, then immediately became upset, wanting to feed too. I latched her on and felt immediate relief. I had been so worried that she wouldn’t want me anymore, all of my anxiety released, at least for a few hours.
Once we got home, we started experimenting with different feeding positions. For some reason I was determined to feed them both at the same time, however, I found it very uncomfortable. It was a sensory overload. I could not focus on feeding both children at the same time. My head buzzed, my arms and legs got pins and needles, and I just wanted to push them away from me. I started to worry that this would be the end of our tandem feeding journey. I joined as many Facebook ‘Tandem Feeding’ support groups as possible. Scrolling through, desperate for someone who felt the same as I did.
Finally, I plucked up the courage to ask the question…was it just me? Was it possible to feed both of my children without physically feeding them at the same time? Turns out the answer was yes! Over 100 mums from all over the world commented to let me know they felt the same, some had been feeding two, even three children without actually feeding them at the same time. I was elated.
Having the toddler feed first, meant that she did not feel jealousy for her new sibling, I barely became engorged, the baby would get a comfortable feed and I wouldn’t be hassled by the toddler! We continued with few issues until my son was coming up to a year old. I seemed to be prone to mastitis, having had it a few times with my daughter, I was used to seeing the signs early, getting the medication and it not being a big deal.
However one morning my daughter woke me as usual for her morning feed. There was a bit of pain from a small lump, so I massaged it whilst feeding and it seemed to reduce. An hour later and the kids were up and watching telly, I went to the bathroom when suddenly I was overcome with uncontrollable shivering, I started vomiting and was unable to move. Luckily a dear friend came over to take over child watching, I called my GP and was asked to go in straight away. My husband picked me up and took me to the doctors office, where I collapsed in the waiting room.
After a quick visit in hospital with some IV antibiotics, I was on the bend again. Then it happened again, the following month. And again the following month. No one could figure out why it kept happening, but it was starting to make me hate breastfeeding. After the fourth month of recurrent mastitis, I decided enough was enough. My son was 13 months and my daughter was 2.5 years. My breastfeeding ‘journey’ was over. Crying in bed, in excruciating pain, I decided to go cold turkey. I didn’t document my son’s last feed. We had never bonded over feeding. It was a chore.
I avoided feeding my daughter and she seemed okay with this. Distraction was key. Two days into not feeding, I was severely engorged. I decided to give my daughter one last feed. We cuddled up into bed together and I explained that this would be the last time she would have booby. I told her I would still love her very much, and we could still cuddle every morning and evening, just like we do when feeding. We had our last feed. I took as many pictures as possible. Once done, I felt comfortable again. My daughter thanked me, as she always did, then told me that she loved me very much, even though she won’t have booby anymore. I teared up.
I returned to the breast clinic shortly after a stopped breastfeeding, to check on the lumps that had become infected. It turns out, they were connected to the hormone change during my menstrual cycle. The consultant explained that I would probably experience mastitis each time I had a period. This confirmed that I had made the right choice to stop when I did.
It’s been a good three months since I stopped feeding. I have found this time very difficult. I feel guilty that I only fed the baby to 13 months, when I fed the toddler to 2.5. I had always defined myself as a breastfeeding mother, so now that part of my life has come to an end, it has taken some time to come to terms with this. I have had to find new ways to comfort my children, new ways to distract, new ways to get them to sleep!
I continue to support other mothers at my local breastfeeding support group and antenatal classes. Just because I am no longer breastfeeding, certainly does not mean I cannot continue to support others!
But more on that another time…