I knew I would try to breastfeed my daughter, Defne, when I was pregnant with her, but I had no idea that this adventure would continue so long.
I first read about child-led weaning when Defne was a few months old. It just felt like the most natural thing to do, so here we are at 4 years 9 months old, still breastfeeding. The thought of breastfeeding a toddler turns many people off, let alone a preschooler. However, it is known that human babies naturally wean themselves between 2-7 years old.
When I started this journey, the only extended breastfeeders I knew were some fellow bloggers and some mothers that I knew from online forums. I was lucky enough to have a smooth start and the first year passed in the blink of an eye. When my daughter turned two, I expected her to slowly decrease her breastfeeding. However, she was breastfeeding as much as a newborn. She was very attached to me. Sometimes she would hide behind me in play groups. She never wanted me out of sight and would never go a meter away from me and enjoy playing with other children.
At times I felt overwhelmed. Sometimes nothing but breastfeeding would calm her. Even Daddy was useless, he was afraid he was no different than a stranger. There have been times I questioned whether or not I was doing the right thing. I couldn’t have possibly continued without the presence of my online community.
When my daughter was 2.5 years old, I fell pregnant with our second baby. My daughter was still an avid nurser but I was ready to tandem feed both kids. During my pregnancy she changed – a lot! She became a more independent child, happy to spend time with Daddy. She started to attend a nursery and settled in very quickly. My milk almost dried up at some point but she was still breastfeeding. My colostrum came in when I was about 4-5 months pregnant. We could see how that fatty milk turned her into a chubby girl!
When baby was born and I started to tandem feed them, it was lovely. I love how they hold hands, giggle and play. But tandem feeding is not all rosy; it has its difficulties. For me, breastfeeding my daughter in the morning is especially very difficult. The baby still breastfeeds during the night (especially a lot around 5-6 o’clock) and I literally feel drained. Yet, that morning feed is very important for her I don’t want to take it away from her. At this point, she breastfeeds about twice a day. In the morning and once in the afternoon, usually when she comes home from preschool.
Breast milk is a wonderful thing. Its composition changes according to your child’s age and needs. In this age and society, people tend to think that after 6 months breast milk is not capable of providing anything for the baby. However by the 20th month of lactation, levels of igG and igA (two immunoglobulins) are still as high as in the second week. Beyond 18 months, breast milk can provide as much as 31 percent of calories and 38 percent of all dietary protein.
Because we don’t see older children breastfeeding, it sounds/looks weird. I stopped breastfeeding in public when she was around 3. At that age, she was okay to wait until we got home. Our close friends and family circle knows that she is still breastfeeding. Some find it unnecessary, some find it strange maybe. A few times I was told I’d better wean her, especially during my pregnancy.
After the age of 3, she became more sociable and easy going, and I like to think that breastfeeding helped her. We still have lots of skin to skin contact which is great for her neurological development. Oh, and at the age of 4, she is a chatter box – speaking with everyone! If anyone tells you breastfeeding makes children dependent, simply don’t believe them! I have been told by her teachers time and again that she is very independent.
Breastfeeding a baby is beautiful and lovely but breastfeeding a toddler and preschooler is also very interesting because you can actually speak about breastfeeding with them.
Sometimes I ask her when she will wean and she says she will always breastfeed forever because my milk is so tasty! She says it tastes like chocolate! Sometimes she says she will wean at the age of five. I know that she is aware most children her age do not breastfeed, although she does. She doesn’t know anything about child-led weaning yet! And she doesn’t care what the rest of the world does! She will wean when she is ready developmentally. I feel very happy that we could make this possible.
Isil is a Turkish mother living in England. She has a 4 year old daughter and an 18 month old son. She is passionate about natural childbirth, breastfeeding, babywearing, gentle discipline, green living, organic and local foods, sustainable living and informed health care decisions. When not blogging or breastfeeding, she can be found playing with playdough, crafting with her daughter or eating chocolate. Isil blogs at Smiling like Sunshine.