Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding an older baby

All of the women who were breastfeeding or had breastfed an older baby said that they hadn't started out planning to do so. It was something that they didn't notice and it just happened as their baby grew up day by day. Several women said that they set themselves little milestones along the way, like saying “I will just feed until six months”, and then reached that before they and their baby were ready to wean.

The women also said that it was something with which they, their baby and their family had to be comfortable and emphasised that breastfeeding an older baby was almost always in the privacy of their own home, not something that they talked about except with close family and friends and that the baby was only being fed once or twice a day (morning and/or night) more for comfort than for nutrition. A few remarked upon the irony that at the beginning they were receiving encouragement and approval for breastfeeding and then at some point that turned to surprise or mild disapproval and they found themselves fielding questions about it being time to wean and dealing with other people's attitudes even including disapproval from some health professionals.

Interestingly, a few talked about reaching a point at which they'd had enough and wished to have their body back (as if it had been on loan to the baby) or, in the case of a father, wished to have his wife back, so that they could all move on to the next developmental stage in their lives (see 'Weaning the baby from the breast').

Some women became pregnant again while they were still breastfeeding (see 'Managing weaning including thoughts and feelings'). Often the baby weaned him/her self about half way through the pregnancy (perhaps because of changes in the taste of the breast milk) but for a few, the older baby was still breastfeeding when the new baby was born. These women continued to breastfeed both babies, often referred to as tandem feeding, and devised strategies to ensure that each baby got what he/she needed. A couple of women said that tandem feeding seemed to decrease feelings of jealousy in the older child towards the new baby. They also remarked upon the growth spurt in the older child as a result of the new flush of milk.

One woman experienced the death of her foetus in utero at twenty-two weeks while she was still feeding her nine month old daughter.

Last reviewed September 2015

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