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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.

 

Initially, she thought she would breastfeed for four months but got into a routine and just kept...

Initially, she thought she would breastfeed for four months but got into a routine and just kept...

Age at interview: 33
Sex: Female
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From one extreme to the other, you know, and was looking for it quite often and he would've been a long feeder, you know? And you nearly just did feel sometimes that's what you're doing nearly all day when my husband went out I was feeding, when he came in I was feeding, whenever he left to go out again I was feeding, but I just felt as if I wanted to breastfeed and I thought, 'Well I'll go on'. Initially as I say my, my sister-in-law, she had done it for four months and I thought, 'Well if I could do it for that length of time' I didn't know how long you can breastfeed for, I went to the feeding group and there was a girl there and her child was, I think nearly two, and there was other mothers and, and their children were six months and eight months and I thought, 'Oh you can still feed to that length of time' and whenever it got to four months I thought, 'Well I'll go on to six months, I don't have to change the formula milk, to follow on milk', and I got to six months and it just, the routine then just kept on going and then I thought, 'Well I'll go to the year and I'll just put them on cow's milk' and that's what I did.

So you set yourself little milestones?

Yes.

How did you feel as a young mother with a little baby when you saw the nearly two year old feeding, do you remember, were you shocked? Interested, just astounded? 

Yeah I think kind of, I think kind of surprised, you know, I think whenever you think of breastfeeding you do think of babies and sometimes whenever you see a youngster running around initially you kind of think, 'Oh my goodness', I know a lot of ones it's, they think, what about the teeth? And, you know, they kind of think once they have teeth that's it no more breastfeeding but we would have, I'd say half the group, and there's new mums come in and they see how long we have been breastfeeding for, and we're also trying to encourage some mums in the antenatal classes, there's a few of us from the breastfeeding group will go now at the time when they do the breastfeeding talk and they can ask us questions, and that's one, one question I asked, one of the mums is, 'What do you think when you see my daughter sitting there?' You know, because at that stage she was about thirteen months, I said, 'What do you think?'

And what did they say?

One of them said, 'Well, it could be for you, it wouldn't be for me but if you want to do it that's alright' and I says, 'Well to tell you the truth I never thought it'd be for me either' and because I'd fed my son on for the year I thought I'd try and feed my daughter for the year too. Whenever it came to the time she was the year, it was winter time my son was bringing home colds and whatnot from the school, I thought she would still be getting the benefits of it, she did have the cold but it never settled on her chest and I thought, 'Well I'm giving her the resistance to this', so I, thought 'I'd feed her on till they got over this, and then she was due her MMR jab so it was 'I'll feed her on until after this' and then I'll feed her on to the two weeks later in case she reacts.

Can we just go back to an earlier topic about seeing an older child feeding.

Uh-huh.

You wanted to tell me a bit more about that.

Whenever you're starting off to breastfeed and you have all those number of feeds and for the length of time and all the rest of it, you sort of assume that that's how it will always be, whereas whenever they get older they might feed for less and sometimes they might feed maybe slightly more frequently i

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.

 

There were times when it caused tension but it was wonderful to be able to breastfeed her son...

There were times when it caused tension but it was wonderful to be able to breastfeed her son...

Age at interview: 36
Sex: Female
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He's two and a half. It's funny I never thought I would, I never really thought how long I was going to feed for, I always knew I would plan to feed till about thirteen, fourteen months 'cause that's when my wonderful role models, my sister and my sister-in-law had fed till. And certainly until eighteen months, lots of my friends had fed fourteen, fifteen, sixteen months. I kind of always assumed I would be weaned by eighteen months, but hell we've waited this long [laughs] for it, and he gets so much comfort from it, and it's a special time, that I made a decision that I wanted to wean him naturally. I mean, there have been moments when it's caused issues and tensions with my whole family dynamic, and I've got to keep everyone happy, I want everyone to be happy in the family, I only feed him once a day now and he knows that, you know, if he asks me now I say, 'Yes, yes in the morning'. So he knows and it kind of gives him comfort that he knows that there's a time, but I have to say it has been so wonderful, there was, when he was about eighteen months old he got very poorly and he needed to have an IV drip put in and I went to the hospital and the doctor was quite a young doctor and I said, 'Do you mind if I feed him while they're putting in the line?'. And you could see the look he said, 'Well what you could do is maybe feed him after to comfort him' and I said, 'Well [pause] okay I understand your idea'. I mean basically he was thinking that he might associate my breast with the pain but he was too smart for that, I think also maybe he didn't want me in the room while he was putting a line in, but my feisty eighteen month old was feeding from me and hardly flinched while that needle went in, and I know that he would have been hysterical and they would have to pin him down if I hadn't been feeding him at that time. So there's been definite moments, and also there's, there's been points where he's had really nasty tummy bugs and he hasn't been able to tolerate anything apart from my milk. And also when we've been travelling it's been great, we went to South Africa, my husband was lecturing out there, and we went on holiday and a magical moment for me was feeding on the top of Table Mountain. We were there it was actually Valentines Day, a year ago, and people were walking by, most people didn't notice at all 'cause you can't even see what's happening, but there I was sort of me attaining my dream and it's very much led by [2nd son], if he hadn't wanted to do it I would have completely understood, like [1st son] didn't want to, it didn't work for him, but for [2nd son] it's been really important.

 

For her own comfort she discouraged her toddler from wanting to breastfeed in public.

For her own comfort she discouraged her toddler from wanting to breastfeed in public.

Age at interview: 36
Sex: Female
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But apart from sort of not being as long, she kept on breastfeeding and the time when it changed was as she got a little bit older and we would be out, and I have a recollection of being sat outside a caf' with some relatives, my husband's relatives who were older, in the summer, and my daughter climbing up and pulling my shirt up, outside, and it was quite busy and it was quite embarrassing and that I think is when I found that discipline is acceptable with breastfeeding when they get a little bit older. I realised then that it had to be about both of us, and that she, because at this time she was around about eighteen months old, and I thought, she can understand that it can happen at home and she doesn't, it's not acceptable to pull my clothes up in public. And I felt very much that we both needed to be happy, because I wouldn't have been happy if that had have continued, so I just I started to say to her, 'In a minute' or 'you can't, can you wait until we get home?' if we were going to be going home soon. Or, but I told her that she mustn't pull at me clothes, that she could just ask, or tap, or use some sort of way, and even though she was very young it did work, it did work with her, but I felt that I was at a time, because, I'd sort of given everything I could and, and had been quite happy to breastfeed, and always quite happy to breastfeed in public and, never really, never restricted her feeding, and after that time I thought, 'We now have to be working two ways and, you know, this can't be uncomfortable for me either'. And so, I mean I call it discipline, I don't know whether you'd, it's part of that understanding, this is how I feel it, it's part of the understanding of discipline, so starting to show what boundaries are and for her to have an understanding of that. And some people did think she were a bit young but it worked and if it hadn't then I'm not sure what would have happened with it, I don't think we would have continued to, to both enjoy the breastfeeding as much. But as it happened she quite happily accepted it, but then at twenty months she decided that she wanted to stop, it was a very difficult time, she'd cut down quite a lot, she were only feeding before she went to sleep, at this point she were going to bed so she fed before she went to bed and she would quite happily have a feed and then toddle off to bed.       

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').

 

His wife breastfed each child until she became pregnant with the next one. He thinks the...

His wife breastfed each child until she became pregnant with the next one. He thinks the...

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Male
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So this baby breastfed for how long?

It's been four and a half, five years.

So by then she's quite large.

Mmm very large.

What do your friends and family say?

That she, really she should have stopped feeding by now but it had, I mean it wasn't a regular thing, it wasn't well, no tell a lie, it was regular but it was just at a particular time of day.

Such as?

I think it was just bedtime basically, it was just a night time, it really got down to that, to that point, but yes I mean it was, it was quite unusual, it wasn't something that any of not anything that our friends at the time had experienced or displayed and certainly none of the family to my knowledge had fed a child for that long.

What did you think of it?

I really wanted it to come to an end by that stage, I.

Because?

I think it was just a case that really it was time to move on, I felt that it was getting in the way of my daughter actually then moving on to the next stage of her life and to some degree it was, you know, getting in-between, not myself and my wife, but it was something that I think we just needed to move on from, rightly or wrongly. I did put a link between my daughter not being particularly settled or able to settle herself to go to sleep, she still needed this sort of contact with mum to go to sleep and she was still at that stage where she, you know, she couldn't really, settle herself and go and put herself to sleep. So of course it then meant things were very much more difficult for everybody really it couldn't, you know, we couldn't go out for example because, 'cause mum had to put her to bed, if she woke up she'd have to have mum there to put her back to sleep so it just made the whole experience of being a married couple more difficult I guess.

What did you do about that?

In the end it kind of, sort of developed, my wife fell pregnant for number two and that was pretty much it because I think then she being my wife, had actually then put a, the whole sort of situation into perspective whatever you want to call it and she decided that well, you know, I can't be feeding both of them when this baby comes then really I need to be feeding the baby and not and not the child, the five year old, or six as she almost was when the second baby came along. so it was much more of a conscious, a conscious effort at that stage that she'd that, you know, she tried to stop feeding, cut it out completely, and that's when it stopped [sighs].

Did you raise the issue of this long term feeding?

[Sighs].

Can you remember the responses you got, how a conversation like that might have gone?

We talked about it, I always take the approach that, you know, very much it's a biological thing and that, you know, there is there is a big emotional bond between mum and baby and I think that's probably more important than the yeah, you know the lifestyle issues that perhaps it was causing difficulty with, and when we discussed it wasn't particularly something, I'm not the kind of person that will say, 'Look you've got to stop and, you know, this is what you do and you do it now' because, you know, there are obviously reasons for them for it continuing. So the conversations weren't particularly forceful if I remember rig
 

She still felt very attached to her baby which was wonderful but at the same time she wanted her...

She still felt very attached to her baby which was wonderful but at the same time she wanted her...

Age at interview: 30
Sex: Female
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I guess the other thing is also the one, for me one problem is, one reason not to stop at about fourteen months is, you know, you want to be able to go out and have a good drink sometimes and, you know, be able to have a night out, because you feel a bit guilty almost even, I had, I used to have a glass of wine in the evening, I think people say that's okay but you still feel a little bit, you sort of want your body back, you know, after a year [laughs] but, I'd say give it a good six weeks and then 'cause I think by then it will be, you know, it'll be much easier than you think it's going to be.

Can you talk to me a bit more about wanting your body back?

Yeah I think just wanting, I think 'cause the only downside for me of breastfeeding is I did feel slightly tired all the time, I'm sure I felt, I'm sure it does make you tired 'cause it's quite a drain and also, you know, you go to a party and everyone's drinking and you feel like you can't because you're breastfeeding and also, you know, you've got quite big boobs and, you know, not very attractive to my husband, you know, you feel like, I feel like I'm still almost like part of the pregnancy phase almost still, you're still very much attached to the baby which is a really lovely thing and it's wonderful but I think also after a year you start thinking, 'I want to feel, feel that sort of feeling of having energy again'. And also I don't know, getting your figure back as well I think, I know breastfeeding is very good for getting your figure back in the early stages but I also think to some extent when you're feeding your body still holds on to, holds on to fat and I feel like, you know, you just don't feel quite like you used to until afterwards. I think it's the tiredness is the main thing I'm sure it made me more tired than anything and just being attached to, attached to the baby you can't go off for a weekend or, well you can but it's always a bit of a stress and not being able to, you know, have a couple of glasses and not feel guilty really.

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.

 

She breastfed through all four pregnancies and tandem fed her last two babies.

She breastfed through all four pregnancies and tandem fed her last two babies.

Age at interview: 36
Sex: Female
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Yeah, very well when I became pregnant with my second because I've nursed I have breastfed through all my pregnancies and if one thing that mums talk about and reasons they say for giving up breastfeeding is because they are tired and I've never found I'm tired because I'm a mum, I'm tired because I've got children I'm tired because I do work for my husband, I'm tired because I do, I'm doing other stuff but I've never seen breastfeeding as being what makes me tired and I've always found that breastfeeding through pregnancy is actually one way that makes you sit down because if you weren't breastfeeding you wouldn't sit down and probably if you've got a toddler running around, with a toddler, you wouldn't sit down half a dozen a times a day and put the telly on and get your book and read like you do if you're breastfeeding, so I've always found that, that nursing through pregnancy hasn't made me tired. In the beginning of still nursing when I'm first pregnant, it's a bit uncomfortable it has been a bit uncomfortable and I've kind of grimaced a bit and probably limited, tried to avoid feeding as much but that was only for weeks you know never for very long and I think probably I can't remember who, but I think one of the kids might've been worse than the others, it wasn't a you know, it wasn't really bad with all four of them, or all three of them I should say and so yes so I've breastfed through pregnancies and then hoped that they would wean by the time the baby came along.

From going to La Leche League meetings and from experiences of other mums and that I've talked to other mums, their babies seemed, their toddlers seemed to have weaned by the time their next baby came along, there was one mum who had tandem fed and I felt at the time it wasn't something that I was that keen on doing but I wasn't completely opposed to it so it would be if it happened it happened anyway, it didn't my son weaned, he weaned himself with I think he was down to one feed in the morning and the way I stopped that was I just used to, I just got up out of bed before it happened and that was it and it was never an issue, he was never, I didn't, he wasn't upset about feeds stopping he just, he just stopped when my second son was born. I can remember saying to my La Leche League Leader, 'What will I do if he asks for it?' and she said to me, 'Don't offer, don't refuse' so if he asks don't refuse him just say, 'Yes, let me just finish feeding the baby then' and he did ask and I did that and when I said, 'Come on then come and sit on my knee' he ran off [laughs] and it and it's like, 'What are you doing?' so he, once he knew he could have it, it wasn't an issue for him and that was it, he never looked back. Next one again he weaned but he was older he was three because I had a bigger gap and he weaned, he was having two feeds, no he was down to one feed, this was the night and I started just around I started when he was three, trying to wean him and he no I didn't start his last feed, would have been around his third birthday and what I did instead of lying in bed and feeding him I just sat on, knelt on the floor and cuddled him and I think we had something like two nights where he didn't have it then the next night he asked for it and I let him because I didn't want him to get upset about it and it went on like that for I think a week and then it just gradually, he just stopped having it and it took me from then which was February till May to wean him off me actually being with him in the room to go to sleep and I gradually, I remember reading a book, got further away from his bed to actually standing on the landing and sorting out the washing to go in the machine that night and that was how I got him to sleep by himself and that was three and then my next daughter, my first, my eldest daughter she again I nursed her through pregnancy but she didn't show any signs of giving up at all
 

Her first baby was only one year old when her second was born. She fed them both together for a...

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Her first baby was only one year old when her second was born. She fed them both together for a...

Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
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I did with my first one as well, second one as well, I fed him as well, and actually when my son was born I was feeding my daughter, my first daughter as well because she was only one so I felt as if I was breastfeeding two, but even at that time I felt as if that was my duty, she needs this, this is providing for her naturally and she needs it, and I need to give it to her, you know, it was just so natural I wasn't thinking at all, it's going to be so hard for me, he's breastfeeding and, that, only, it's like I had no, I don't know why I just didn't think, I was just thinking I was like doing the right duty mother to them. And I was actually, felt as if I was breastfeeding two twins because she was.

So just tell me how you worked that, logistically'

Yeah.

'did you feed one and then the other or both at the same time?

They were both at the same time, because I had my son in my lap feeding him from one breast and she wasn't walking at that time because she was only one and thirteen days old, and I'm talking about the day I got back from hospital, and she was, the difference between them was one year and fourteen days at that time, so as soon as I got into the house, my husband brought me home from hospital, and he settled me down and everything and he said, 'I think he's ready for a feed' and I said, 'Yeah' so I put him on and she crawled up to me and she said to, I said to her like, 'Do you want dudu?' because I thought maybe I've gone to hospital she's forgotten it all, and she started nodding her head and saying, in my language, 'Yes, yes', so I was like, I was like trying to fumble, fumble with my top to get her to the other breast and she just like helped me as well, and lifted my top up as well and, she was actually holding on to the settee and, and clinging on, was standing up and clinging on to my, one of my other breasts and just taking it off there, she was just taking, sucking it off my other breast while my son was like on my, arm, was on my arm on this other breast.

So she was desperate?

Yeah she was like, yeah she was just, and I, and even at that time I didn't, I felt proud that, 'Oh look she's, even until now she's one and I thought maybe she's forgotten but she's still breastfeeding off me' and I felt so proud but, still it was just that, it's what they, what I'm meant to be doing for them, that's how I felt all the time.

So what happened to your milk supply in that time? Obviously you were feeding her before you went in what, once or twice a day?

Yeah I was, when I got back from hospital and well like I said, I fed her straightaway and that then I had the midwife come in to see my son and examine him and then I had the health visitor coming in and they were asking me like how am I doing with the breastfeeding? I said, 'Well I'm doing fine' I had no problems whatsoever as well, but when I told her that I was breastfeeding my daughter as well who's one, and they let me do it until, until my son was two weeks old, and they said I have to stop, that I had no choice because there won't be enough for him then. Because she's a growing child, and she was taking most of the feed, most of the milk, and it's going to take a time to produce again and she was saying that and then he, probably ready for his feed at about, say about two and half hours later, and they'll be having, you'll be having difficulty all that but they were saying it's entirely up to me what I wanted to do but it's best for him because he needed it more at that time, and she was a growing child, she was taking most of it, so they were, they were persuading me to stop as soon as

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

 

She had trouble convincing hospital staff that she did not wish to 'dry up' her milk because she...

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She had trouble convincing hospital staff that she did not wish to 'dry up' her milk because she...

Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
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So when, when I was that was when I were, my daughter she was nine months then, I was breastfeeding her then so she had to, she was on my breast as they were actually all the family was struggling to look after her till like, you know, say that I'm in the hospital or anything, she wasn't speaking much as well but then again she, the same as others, she was eating what they were feeding and everything, and I was in the hospital so I, they induced me and everything, they got rid of everything what they needed to do and it was about twelve, twelve centimetres baby, a little tiny one and they, and then they took me upstairs in the ward and I had a midwife come up to me, she says to me, 'Have you got milk coming through?' and I said, 'Yeah I have' because I was, 'Yeah' I said, 'Yes I have' I didn't say much to her, she says to me, 'Well we have this medicine we can give you to dry up your milk' and I looked at her, and I said to her, 'Oh, oh, why?' you know, 'I don't want to dry up my milk' she said, 'Well, well it's no good to you is it? Because you haven't got a baby' and I says, 'Well I have a baby at home, nine months old that can breastfeed off me' and she says, 'Are you sure?' I said, 'Yeah I'm still breastfeeding her, when I go into the hospital and this happened I was still breastfeeding I hadn't gone off it yet, she hadn't gone off it yet and I was deciding, I hadn't known that this was going to happen to me I was thinking of deciding well near to my, end of my pregnancy I was deciding to stop her, if it, if I could but since this has happened she's still breastfeeding off me' and she, she was giving me these looks like, thinking, you know, 'What rubbish are you talking about?' or something like that, I said, 'Well no I'm sorry I don't want to take these tablets I'm' and I was glad I didn't take them because when I got back from hospital two days later and my baby was ready for that milk, and she was taking off me perfectly and, and she was nine months then and I went for a holiday after that, after the miscarriage I was, my husband took me away on a holiday to get, you know, give me some time to myself and she was a year old then, and she was still breastfeeding. And when I got back, when I went home, back home to my in-laws and they, they said to her, you know, like, 'You be, give yourself some time and that' and so they'd started giving her cow's milk inside a cup and she took to it, and they were feeding her, looking after her, all three of them she, they were looking after and I didn't know where they were and they treated me like a queen, I was there, and that's how it happened with her so I was thinking, with that, when I had that miscarriage they were actually wanting to dry my milk up, I'm glad I didn't take that, maybe at that time it probably would, but then again I'm thinking, 'If I did take it' and when with my fourth one, what if I didn't produce any milk what if that, had that infection or, you know, affected it in some way and I was dried up for completely or something, so I was glad I didn't take that medicine from the hospitals, and that's when they wanted [laughs] wanted to give me that medicine when I had that miscarriage and they're thinking that I, that milk was no good to me.
 

Last reviewed November 2018.

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