Saturday, 12 May 2012

Why I tandem feed/ still breasteed Dylan

So there is this debate going on about extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting and I thought, seeing that I still breastfeed Dylan (though not very frequently), I'd share how it is for us.

Before I had children, I had a clear and strong idea of what kind of perfect parent I was going to be. Though Andy and are not extreme on the 'hippie spectrum' most of our pre-baby parenting ideas leaned more towards hippie than nazi and they still do, but let's just say, we're now cutting ourselves some slack. Ha.

I think to the outside world, I would be considered a more tolerant, attachment parenting, hippie-esque parent, and yes, we practise something called NVC (non-violent communication) with our babies (though NVC doesn't have a direct link to AP), we also don't use punishment as a method to discipline, nor do we dominate, shout or hit our children in any way, but still, we are by no means extreme on the spectrum of tolerant parenting.

Breastfeeding and co-sleeping were something that seemed obvious to me before I had children. I couldn't fathom putting a newborn far away from me in another room. It just didn't feel safe. And the breastfeeding thing seemed obvious: nutritionally it was healthier for the baby and also for me plus there was the whole bonding thing. Also, I have a great fear of cancer so when they say: breastfeeding reduces the chances of cancer I'm like: keep sucking on them boobies baby! Ha. But, I am getting to the point via a different route than I wanted, let me back track.

So, I never formally ascribed to the attachment parenting approach even though co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding seem two of the 3 pillars of attachment parenting.

Dylan was born, we started breastfeeding, it went great. I never gave 'when to stop' a huge amount of thought at first and was aiming for at least a year I think. Then as time went by, it became obvious that breastfeeding had become an integral part of my relationship with Dylan and it was an awesome tool to: help him go to sleep, calm him down when in pain & support his health (and mine). It also created a close connection and bond with Dylan that I still cherish today.

There were times that I started to really dislike breastfeeding though. Particularly when he was around 10 months old and he started to pinch the skin of my breasts and sometimes he'd 'clamp down' on the nipple leaving me in excruciating pain.

And here comes the kicker: I didn't not stop, because I am a holy selfless angel mother faithfully following the 'sacrifice all your own needs for child' rules. Nope. It was simply easier to keep breastfeeding. It avoided major drama. And when you are sleep deprived and weary and deeply tired of drama. You do everything you can to avoid drama. It's similar to offering your child that candy or cookie so that he won't have a tantrum.

Basically, for me, it's like this:

I'm trying to make our lives as easy as possible while doing the least emotional damage to all family members involved.  It's that simple.

If that means I breastfeed Dylan some more, then I will.

It's all about ease people.

After the first year; we naturally progressed on, he loved breastfeeding, he still does and we just kept going. There was no reason not to (apart from perhaps people being freaked out by the idea of it, but you know what: I'd rather have less cancer risk, a drama free life and a happy baby while freaking out people than; more cancer risk, more drama an unhappy baby and gaining the approval of other people. When I look at what I prefer, it's a no-brainer.)

So, we continued on after the first year: he loved it, I didn't mind, healthier for both of us, easy choice. Then I became pregnant with Elliot. Breastfeeding while pregnant is less comfortable and less easy, so we lessened the feeds, but still continued. I think by that time, it was twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

I was told that if you want to stop breastfeeding before a new baby comes, do so a good 3 months before, otherwise it's very painful for the toddler to see the new baby breastfeed and so I decided not to stop before Elliot as at that time he still loved the feeds so much.

Dylan is now 2 years and 9 months old and has an occasional feed. Perhaps one feed every 2-3 days. He gets sad and frustrated when he sees Elliot feed though he's getting better. I don't imagine he'll be feeding for much longer. I think he'll finish before he's 3 years old. We'll be doing whatever is comfortable for the both of us.

I hold no judgement of people who breastfeed their children beyond 3, though I can understand that some people may find it awkward or unusual as it's not a common thing here in the Western world. But I don't understand -like for instance with gay marriage- while people even care. I am a generally chilled person though when it comes to other people's life styles. If your life style doesn't hurt anyone involved or others, then I'm so very cool with it. Anyhoo ... :)

So, that's my/ our breastfeeding story. 

Love from a tandem-feeding mum who still breastfeeds her 2.9 year old toddler. :-)

deesha & mummy 
(Dylan circa 1.5 years old)


  1. good for you, if everyone just did what was right for them and left everyone else alone, oh what a wonderfull world we would have,

  2. I think how you live and parent is totally normal and natural. It's society's idea of normal that is odd.
    Much love to you xo

  3. I applaud your honesty and courage to stand up for what is right for you and your family....because it is just that, YOUR family. No one else's opinions matter :)

    I think your kind spirit and loving nature is what so many of us find endearing about you and your gorgeous art!

    Big hugs to you and yours!

  4. I agree -it is the easiest thing on earth, I have no negative feelings about feeding babies and toddlers, at nearly 3 Luke started to read a book with me whilst I fed Adam as it was "easier' for him to do that than carry on feeding ( at this point he only 'wanted' a bedtime feed).

    At 21 Luke and I (when he is 'home') still chat just before he goes to sleep, he is peaceful relaxed and stupidly well adjusted.

    Adam stopped feeding at about 3 too...I don't remember why he just did...

    everyone I knew bottle fed, and thought I was crazy .......

  5. I have 4 kids and breastfed a total of 6 years with them all - baby 1, 2years, baby 2, 18 months, baby 3, 11 months and baby 4, 2 and a half years!
    I love breastfeeding and think it is the most amazing thing, all of my kids stopped feeding when they wanted to!
    my fav thing is when they are still sucking but looking at you and smiling, half sucking half smiling - a glimpse of heaven!
    thanks for sharing your story!

  6. Great post, Tam! It's funny that we were just messaging about this on Facebook a week or two ago (before the Time article came out and people started fussing). Before I got pregnant myself and started researching parenting and breastfeeding and learned about attachment parenting, I was pretty ignorant about the whole thing. Of course I had lots of opinions about parenting and what I would or would not do as a parent. I am ashamed to admit that I was very judgmental the first time that I encountered someone in my life that was doing extended breastfeeding. I was in a relationship with a man who had impregnated a woman after only dating her for a month, and while he was a great, committed father who was very involved in his daughter's life and supported her and her mother, they never developed a romantic relationship and were strictly friends and co-parents. I was in a serious relationship with him from the time his daughter was 16 months to when she was almost 3 (it broke my heart when the relationship ended and he couldn't remain friends with me - so I never got to see his daughter again even though I loved her and had grown very attached). Well, her mom was still nursing when we met and continued to until the daughter was about 2 and a half. The father (my boyfriend) wasn't too happy about it, but he deferred to the mother (he was more upset about the co-sleeping because he wanted to have his daughter for overnight visits). I was shocked and talked to other people about it, saying things like "Once a child is old enough to walk over and ask to nurse she is too old to be nursing." If I could I would write to the mother and praise her for extended nursing and co-sleeping and apologize that I was so ignorant (though I never said anything to her about it)! This little girl was so secure and independent and smart and a joy to be with - I'm sure (now) that was at least in part because of the nursing and co-sleeping. So I understand how easy it is to judge other parents - and believe me I've been on the receiving end of plenty of misplaced, annoying, and hurtful "advice" and criticism. Everyone thinks that they know what they would do when they become parents but until one actually becomes a parent (and much of one's parenting ideas and philosophy change or are impossible to implement) and people should just butt out of other people's parenting (unless they are abusing their children).

    The best book I've read about parenting (I'm so glad I found it when I was pregnant) is "Our Babies, Ourselves" by Meredith Small who is a pediatric anthropologist (I think that's her title) who has studied parenting techniques in different societies all over the world. It is not a "how to" parenting book, it is a non-fiction book about different parenting traditions in many cultures both western and non-western. It is a fascinating book for anyone to read, parent or not. I would love to buy a case of copies and hand them out to everyone who objects to breastfeeding, extended nursing, co-sleeping, attachment parenting, etc. as well as every first time parent-to-be (or even parents expecting more children). One of the funniest parts of the book is an anecdote about some American anthropologist who were talking to women from a non-western society (I can't remember where) and these women asked the anthropologist, "Is it true that American mothers put their babies in cages at night?" Lol! It's true, cribs weren't even invented until the late 1800's and like formula were heavily marketed as being crucial to baby's safety and well-being.

  7. Great article, Tam. I love how you are just so matter of fact about it! I feel sad for our children (and for mothers who feel pressure around this) that it is an issue at all. It's my opinion that our culture has a very unhealthy attitude to bodies, sexuality and sensuality and that this leads to so much ignorance around what are appropriate boundaries - including the boundary of stopping breastfeeding. It is so NOT a sexual thing!!! I do not find it sexy to feed a squirming, pinching, nipple-stretching 19 month old! Like you, I'm doing it because of all the health benefits for me and him (my mother died of breast-cancer so anything I can do to lessen that risk, I will do) but, like you, more than that because it is integral to mine and Samson's relationship and he would be bereft if we stopped now. He goes down for naps easily, he asks for it when he's upset, he's easy to 'nurse' when he's ill, he tells me he 'loves boo-boo'... And, when he's not squirming, I really enjoy the closeness with him. And NOT IN A SEXUAL WAY!!!! I want to shout this to those who like to denounce longterm bfding. It is possible to have close, intimate and sensual contact with other human beings that doesn't have over or under tones of sexuality. So, may we all feel happy to feed our kids in whatever way and for whatever length of time feels right for us and them. And may we move to a place culturally where people can practise whatever lifestyle suits them, as long as they aren't hurting anyone in the process, without fear of prejudice, ignorance and judgement. Love to you hon xx

  8. I breastfeeded my son as well...when he was born the nurse asked me, I give you tablets to prevent the milk from coming ? I didn't understand at first, then I said, we were made with breasts, that's for a reason no ???? breastfeeding is just natural...easy and a great day there was an accident on the road we were stuck in a huge file of problem, I was quietly sitting at the back feeding my baby ...
    go on sweetheart, it's your life, your son's life nobody has to interfere...
    Love from the west of France
    Peaceful from Life-book

  9. Tam, I was able to nurse 2 of my children, but I did pump for my last daughter, Missy now 35 yrs old. She was born with a rare muscle disease therefore wasn't able to suck at all..I fed her my milk for months by eye-dropper. I believe that one must do what's best for all concerned! I love your ability to share such personal info in a bright and loving way...course I just think you are awesome!!! Blessings, Bevie


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