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Very Extended and Tandem Breastfeeding: A Few Raised Eyebrows for Sure

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Big kid, loves boobs

Big kid, loves boobs

The other day, I was watching this clip of Maggie Gyllenhall, talking about breastfeeding her baby while she was shooting for the movie, White House Down.  The actress was saying how her daughter was only 2 1/2 months old when she started the filming, which seems crazy to me… Two months post partum and if I had as much money as her and I think I would be hunkered down with my baby wrapped on my chest and my pajamas on… forget having make up on and being on a movie set… but anyway…  It got me to thinking though… why is breastfeeding such a big deal?  I’m not talking even about breastfeeding in public, or breastfeeding a three year old, but I mean, just breastfeeding in general?  The talk show host certainly seemed a bit conservative about the whole thing, and also was a little confused when Maggie said she was ‘like, really breastfeeding‘… which is right, which is what you do when you have a tiny baby.  Anyway…

Breastfeeding rates are much higher in Australia than in America.  There are probably many reasons for that, the majority of them is that there tends to be better maternity leave, and mothers can stay home longer with their babies.  So, many woman end up feeding their babies for at least a year, sometimes two and it’s not uncommon for people here to feed their kids until they’re 3 or 4.  In fact, a few woman I know have even fed their kids until 5 or 6 years old.  They say that the average world wide age of weaning is, get this: between 4 and 7 years old.  That means that many kids around the world are, yes, coming home from school having boobies before bed.  I just love love love this article written by a Canadian mother who lived in Mongolia when she had her son, it gave me a whole different perspective on ‘extended breastfeeding’ (extended brestfeeding is usually considered breastfeeding beyond one year).

A very nice group of older people from New Zealand come to stay in our building for several months every winter.  They’re very cool, always want to have a quick chat and sort of pinch the kid’s cheeks.  They were here last year when I had Goldie at home, I warned them all, just in case they might hear me when I was in labour.  To them, there were no raised eyebrows about a homebirth… even no raised eyesbrows when I told them that I did elimination communication (taking babies to the toilet).  But, for some reason, today, when one of them asked me  today, if I was still feeding Goldie (who is only 10 months old), I sort of held back a little.  Instead of saying what I wanted to say, which would have been, ‘Yes, I’m feeding her, and I’m also feeding her big sister‘, I just said, ‘Oh, yes, still feeding the baby’.

I’m not embarrassed about it… I don’t really care what people think because I’m not still feeding Margo for anyone’s sake other than hers.  But, I just feel like there’s potential for disapproval and I would rather not get into the conversation.  I could easily let the breastfeeding relationship go, but I know she’s not ready.  It’s comfort, support, immunity and nutrition.  YES, I said it, nutrition!  I’m not sure why, but there is some talk out there about breastmilk not holding any nutritional value once a child hits a certain age, and that it’s only for comfort.  Well, Margo certainly couldn’t sustain herself on breastmilk alone, but it’s still so good for her and she sure loves it before she goes to bed… don’t some people like a glass of warm milk before they go to bed?

Anyway, Margo only gets her boob once or maybe twice a day.  Early in the morning and sometimes before bed.  Hardly ever more than that.  And, there are perks to feeding a 3 year old!

1. They don’t squirm, mine sits perfectly still on my lap

2. They don’t grab and pinch

3. It stops her chattering for a few minutes

4. It makes her feel like she’s still got a little of mommy to herself for a change

5. There is no popping off just as the letdown is happening, to see what is going on around her.  Boobie time means business.

6. Sometimes Goldie, the little sister, sees what’s going on and she thinks it’s a riot, comes crawling over and pulls on Margo’s hair and totally interrupts the session.

There have certainly been some rough patches during the whole tandem feeding experience.  I would say between about 2 months and 6 months post partum were the worst. I was seriously considering weaning Margo, even though I knew that she wasn’t ready.  I made a deal with myself to limit her to one or two feeds a day until she turned 3 and then to reassess my decision. If I was feeling really not up for it, I would have to tell her ‘no’ and even though she would cry, I would just say to myself, ‘Well, she’s 2 1/2, she’s bound to cry over anything, it might not be all about me saying ‘no’ to boobies…’ To my surprise, my aversion to nursing subsided during this time and now I sort of think, ‘Well, we’ve come this far, how much longer can it go on, a year max?’.   She won’t be going to uni with a boob in her mouth, that’s for sure 😉

We definitely have a rhythm going with the tandem feeding and it’s very settled out now and I’m glad I stuck with it.  I’ve not noticed any jealously so far between the girls.  I wonder if the tandem feeding has anything to do with it?  It works pretty well now that they’re both older.  For example, tonight, we were all on the big bed together, mommy in the middle.  Margo waiting quietly next to me on one side while Goldie fell asleep, and when Goldie was asleep, I turned over and took care of Margo.  It usually goes that way, more or less.  And, I don’t always have to give Margo boobies at night either, I can say ‘no’, she will complain and maybe cry, and keep asking, but will eventually just go to sleep and know that she will get them in the morning.  I can’t feed them at the same time anymore.  Once Goldie starting in with the ‘grabby hands‘, it was all over, because she would just grab Margo’s hair and poke her in eye.  Plus, the two of them are really big together!

I don’t really run around telling people that I’m still bresatfeeding my three year old (ok, I sort of did by writing this blog post on it).  To me, it just seems normal and completely natural.  From what I’ve seen thus far, Margo is a pretty well adapted kid.  She goes to day care and really enjoys it.  Does playgroup, gets along with the kids there.  She can talk to just about anyone without any reservations.  She’s got amazing confidence (which sometimes really gets annoying because she thinks she can do everything herself).  I’m not saying that you have to breastfeed a kid until they’re 3 in order for them to have all of these positive qualities, but I do know that feeding Margo for this long certainly has only done good things and made the tough age of ‘3’ a little less tough on all those involved 🙂

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