Extended breastfeeding:
Who is it benefiting anyway?

Extended breastfeeding: <br> Who is it benefiting anyway?<br/>

I’m in the 0.5% of mothers in the UK who is breastfeeding their baby beyond a year. I didn’t plan to be in that group, I didn’t aim to breastfeed for this long. I wanted to breastfeed, sure. I put the effort in. I sacrificed some of my ‘freedom’. I got jealous when my formula-feeding mama friends could seemingly come and go as they pleased. I got frustrated. I got sick of the sight of nursing bras. I shared and am still sharing my body and I’m not in any hurry to ‘get it back’.

After an initial tough start, breastfeeding became second nature. I think back to those long nights and days that we struggled with it and they seem a very distant memory.

Being totally honest, I’ve wanted to give up breastfeeding many, many times. But just as soon as I felt sure I wanted to stop, I’d change my mind again. What me and my toddler have is precious and it felt silly to give it up because she was pulling on my hair too much (which let’s face it, she’d do anyway) or because my pre-period hormones would make my let down reflex so frustratingly slow that feeding became arduous for about a week, each and every month.

I kept telling myself that this wouldn’t be forever. In the grand scheme of things, even if I fed her until she was two-years-old (or beyond!), it’s not a very long time. One day, it too, would seem a distant memory. And I’d miss it, I’m sure.

How long one should breastfeed their child for is a highly debated topic. (What isn’t when it comes to mothering?) There is no definitive answer. The WHO recommends “exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”

I’ve heard people say that it becomes ‘wrong’ to breastfeed as soon as a child can ‘ask for it’. Which seems odd, to me. I mean, when you think about it, a child would have been ‘asking for it’ one way or another since the day they were born. Lip smacking/boob nuzzling/crying – that’s all OK… but as soon as a child can verbally ask to be breastfed, that would be deemed as ‘wrong’? *shrugs*

Another phrase I hear often, in regards to extended breastfeeding is ‘it’s probably more for the mum’s benefit’. Insinuating that the toddler is an unwilling participant, being force-fed boob to satisfy a mother’s selfish desire to prolong their breastfeeding journey. Which, let me tell you, is bloody ludicrous. You absolutely can not force a child to breastfeed! A breastfeeding relationship has to be mutual in order for it to work, especially long-term. I often giggle when I think of the ‘more for the mum’ type comments, usually because I’m feeding E, whilst she’s pulling my hair or scratching my neck. Much in the same way a kitten kneads at a lap with it’s sharp claws whilst being stroked because it feels utterly content. ‘More for the mum’, my arse!

Does that mean I’m not benefiting from breastfeeding my 1.5 year old? Of course not. Like I said, it’s a mutual relationship. When I’ve had a stressful day, feeding E is sometimes the best way to calm me down. As I feed her, before bed, I can physically feel the surge of oxytocin flowing through my body. I feel completely relaxed and content. I wonder how I ever managed without this daily 5 minute mood booster. It can turn the toughest of days on it’s head – suddenly all is well with the world again.

And you know who else is benefiting from mine and E’s extended breastfeeding journey? My 4-year-old, Jasmine. Even though she didn’t get any breast milk from me beyond six weeks. I still feel my positive experience with her younger sister will benefit her too. How? She is growing up in a home which normalizes breastfeeding. The longer I feed E, the more likely she is to grow up remembering that is how her mama fed a baby. She knows breasts produce milk to feed babies – that is their main purpose. And all of this is giving her a great advantage, if one day, she has her own babies and decides, she too, would like to breastfeed.

I don’t know how much longer I will breastfeed E – we’re just doing as we’ve always done and are taking it a feed at a time. But for as long as we continue our feeding journey, the relationship will be mutual and it will benefit us both.

Jenna xx

NB. Here’s a fab link to more information on breastfeeding beyond a year and the benefits to both mother and child.

Life lately: School admissions, dog broody
and the 2018 MAMA conference

Life lately: School admissions, dog broody <br> and the 2018 MAMA conference <br/>

I wrote my last ‘life lately’ post back in December so there’s lots to catch up on…

Jasmine turned four

At the beginning of April, Jasmine turned four-years-old. We had a fantastic day with swimming and soft play at Brean leisure park – followed by a ginormous chocolate cake (peter rabbit themed, of course) when we got home.

Over a month later and I still cannot believe I have a 4-year-old… until she opens her mouth and I look at her in awe thinking “well aren’t you a proper little person now?!” But she really does seem so grown up lately, she wants to do everything herself (we stood, freezing our asses off, in the middle of town for 5 minutes the other day whilst she tried to zip up her own coat).

She’s very outgoing and tries to strike up conversations with just about anybody. I’ve no idea where she gets from as both her dad and I are incredibly introverted!

School admissions

A week or so later, we found out which primary school Jasmine had been given a place at and it turned out we were really, really disappointed. To be fair, we had been to see the school previously and it was one of our choices, however, when it came to accepting it, we couldn’t do it. It’s an OK school and Jasmine, I’m sure would be fine there. But we wanted more than just ‘OK’ and so the last week has seen us hurriedly visiting school after school in the hope that we’d find one that a) we loved and b) had a space available for Jasmine. We went back to the school we had been allocated for a second look and still felt the same way about it. We also looked at some schools we had not previously considered, village schools that are a little further afield, two of which we absolutely adored. We’ve applied for those and are now anxiously awaiting the outcome of our second application – cross everything for us, please!

Dog Broody

I have been massively dog broody (t’is a thing) and for a while have been considering getting another dog. A couple of weekends ago we went to see a beautiful crossbreed called Lesi – a rescue dog from Bosnia. He was absolutely gorgeous and a total sweetheart but it was clear to see that he had a lot issues due to the way he had been treated. Visiting him gave me a reality check – he was not yet house trained, or lead trained and would I really want a rescue dog around the girls when I knew so little of his background? With regret, I had to tell the charity who was rehoming him that we wouldn’t be giving him a home. I was sad about it but ultimately I know that it was the right decision for our family and for him too. We wouldn’t be able to commit to give him the time and attention he needed. With 2 children 4 and under and a sassy schnauzer, I more than have my hands full already. I still would like to adopt a rescue dog in the future but I think it’ll be when the girls are much older.

Teething sucks!

My poor little Elowen is really suffering with teething at the moment. She’s got four canine teeth cutting through at once which must feel just awful. Her sleep has been quite unsettled over the last week or so because of it. At least after these, there’s only 4 more teeth to go before she has a full set!

Oh and for those who don’t know… E finally started sleeping through the night. It only took 16 months. ;)

2018 MAMA Conference 

I’ve just come back from my first ever trip to Scotland for the MAMA conference in Glasgow. It’s a conference which is primarily for midwives but there were many different professions from the ‘birth world’, including doulas and obstetricians. It was a fantastic weekend and, whilst I did have the occasional moment of feeling like I had impostor syndrome, I learned so much! I spent most of the weekend with one of my NCT course mates who I got to know really well over the few days we were there. L, if you’re reading – I love ya!

I missed my babies terribly, as I knew I would but it also made me realise that I should make more time for other things that are important to me too. I’m a mum. But I’m not just a mum. I’m a student. A wife. A friend. A foodie. A lover of comedy. I am many, many things. And I’m determined to make more time for all of ‘Jenna’.

Slimming World

One last bit of news before I head to the land of nod. I rejoined Slimming World today. I’d been thinking about joining my local group for a while as I’ve put on so much weight over the last year or so. It’s a subject that probably deserves it’s own post at some point as there’s a lot to go into as to why I’ve put on the weight and why I’ve not been motivated to do anything about it until now. But I’m excited to get cracking with Slimming World and hopefully start to feel better in my own skin.

That’s all for now. :)

I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to lately?

Jenna xx

Grubby feet

Grubby feet

I’ve decided I need to write more so that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll write every day (if I want to) for 5 minutes or 20 minutes, or for however long I can squeeze it into my day. I won’t edit myself or overthink it, this isn’t about creating ‘quality blog content’ (sorry), it’s just about me recording my days and my thoughts. Ramblings, basically. If people happen to like reading it, cool. If not? Cool.

Today has been glorious as I’ve mostly spent it outside. After several days of unrelenting rain, we’ve finally been blessed with a sunny Spring day. The air is cool and fresh but there’s still a noticeable warmth on my skin. It feels like it’s been a long time coming. I spent a good chunk of the morning tidying up the front garden. I’ve no clue what I’m doing in terms of ‘proper gardening’. But I do know that I was chopping things down with gusto! Oh and intermittently running after E who kept making her escape out of the garden and onto the footpath outside our house, she loves being chased. It’s the early afternoon and my step count is currently on 14,000+ steps. That’s how much she loves being chased.

A neighbour stopped by to chat with me, I often see him when he’s out walking his dog. He’s a friendly bloke but does make me a tad uncomfortable. Ever so often he’ll grab and hold onto my hands. As if we were a couple of teenagers on our first date. I don’t know how to tell him to fuck off, without, you know, telling him to fuck off.

After picking up J from pre-school, the three of us played out in the back garden. I took off the girls’ shoes and socks, rolled up their trousers and let them play barefooted on the lawn. At the risk of sounding like a prize hippy, I think it’s important for kids to be able to get grubby and feel the grass between their toes. Good weather makes parenting so much easier. E was happy picking up stones and carrying them from one end of the garden to the other whilst J charged around pretending to be a police officer.

I’m currently sat on the sofa with the girls either side of me. We’re eating hot cross buns. I’m not normally a fan of them (the buns that is, not the girls) but these aren’t just any hot cross buns. These are Marks & Spencer’s luxury mini hot cross buns! ;) #notanad

Talking of #ads. I’ve deleted Instagram off of my phone. It wasn’t making me particularly unhappy, I love Instagram but that was the problem. I was addicted to it. I felt like I was becoming more invested in what other people were doing instead of focusing on my own life. I also want to avoid being ‘sold’ things by people whose lifestyles I supposedly ‘should’ be aspiring to. I’ve realised I don’t need anything that anybody’s selling, I’ve got everything I could ever need already. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against people trying to earn a crust via social media, I’ve been paid for Instagram brand collaborations myself, but I’m done being a passenger on the advertising wagon.

Whilst I’m on the subject, I must mention this video from Lucy from Lulastic blog too. She talks about ways to live more simply and I’ve been thinking about it all day. She also talks a bit about avoiding advertising which has just confirmed to me that I’ve made the right decision re: Instagram.

I’ve eaten a ridiculous amount of chocolate today. I have no self control when it comes to sweet stuff. Like, at all. I’m predicting I’ll be diabetic by 6pm this evening. There’s an Easter egg in the kitchen calling out to me. Daring me to eat it.

Must. Resist.

Jenna xx

Two

Two

Two. We were supposed to be done at two. I was supposed to be done at two.

Just moments after E was born, I scooped her up into my arms and looked across to my husband.

“I’m never doing that again. I’m done.” (To be fair, my fanny was still stinging.)

Hubby nodded. “Two is a good number.”

14 months on and I have that oh-so-familiar ache. I’m longing for another baby. I don’t feel done.

It’s impossible to ignore, believe me I have tried.

And I often think that this feeling will pass, eventually. When the girls are both older and life gets easier. When nappy changes and night feeds are but distant memories. Maybe I’ll just look back and think “those days were hard” and never want to put myself through it again.

But right now I cannot ignore my feelings.

Stephen and I both like the idea of having a big family but (being far more sensible than I am) he worries about the practicalities of having a third child. Space, money, effort. I do think about those things too but my ovaries chime in with “WE’D MAKE IT WORK, SOMEHOW!”

Is being broody enough of a reason to have a third baby?

Although, this feels like more than just broodiness. I’m not getting ‘clucky’ at the sight of a newborn. I’m thinking about growing our family every waking second of the day. This is all-consuming.

Even on the hardest days.

When the kids have spent the the entire day squabbling.

Or E’s kept me awake all night.

When I’m so tired that my head pounds.

I. still. want. another.

We were supposed to be done at two. I was supposed to be done at two.

Jenna xx

10 things nobody told me about breastfeeding

10 things nobody told me about breastfeeding

1. Nobody told me that… my periods could return whilst I was still breastfeeding.

I know that breastfeeding has lots of benefits for my baby but one of the perks for mama is that your period stops. AMAZING! I’d heard of ladies going years without a visit from ‘Aunt Flo’ due to breastfeeding their babies/toddlers. Naively, I just assumed I’d be free from periods for as long as I was feeding E. Nope, at 8.5 months post-partum my monthly cycles returned! Gutted.

2. Nobody told me that… breastfeeding can be a little isolating.

0.5% of mums are still breastfeeding their babies at 12 months (in the UK) and whilst I truly am proud to be one of them, it sometimes feels quite isolating to be the only breastfeeding mum in the room. Don’t get me wrong, nobody has ever said anything negative (see point 5) but it would be nice to be able to discuss the trials and tribulations of feeding a toddler with somebody else who is also going through it.

3. Nobody told me that… some babies will only drink their milk from the source!

I thought the odd night out with my friends would still be possible whilst breastfeeding. I’d just express some milk and my husband could feed her using a bottle. Simple, no?

Except E won’t drink milk from a bottle, or a beaker, or a cup with straw, or from a silver chalice encrusted with rare diamonds. Nope. She’ll only drink her milk from the source.

I’ll be honest, and no pun intended, that kinda sucks.

I’d love to go on a night out with my friends once in a while. Or spend more one-on-one time with my eldest girl. But having a baby who requires boob on demand has made those things difficult.

4. Nobody told me that… I’d sometimes feel envious of formula feeding mamas.

Due to the combination of points 2 and 3, I do sometimes look at formula feeding mums and feel a tad envious.

14 months of…

…being the only person who is able to do night feeds (and fyi they’re still happening 3-4 times a night).

…not having a date night with my husband.

…or a evening out with friends.

…or having more than a few freakin’ hours to myself.

So yeah, for purely selfish reasons, I sometimes wish I didn’t breastfeed.

5. Nobody told me that…I don’t *need* an array of expensive breastfeeding clothes.

Breastfeeding clothes are expensive and (generally) pretty darn ugly. However, I thought without a wardrobe full of nursing clothes I’d struggle to feed my bambino in public without flashing my breasticles to all and sundry.

Not the case. Admittedly, I am a ‘t-shirt and jeans’ kinda girl so my outfit choices are relatively simple. But I’ve never had any trouble feeding my daughter whilst wearing my normal clothes. My advice? Invest your money in some good (non-wired) nursing bras as these do make feeding easier and help you to avoid getting blocked milk ducts.

6. Nobody told me that…. generally, other people are very supportive.

In the real early days I was nervous about breastfeeding in public. I’d heard so many stories about women being asked to leave shops and restaurants because they were breastfeeding (even though that’s totally bloody illegal). I’d heard tale of people, tutting and making rude remarks towards women who were simply trying to feed their baby. And I’m not saying that stuff doesn’t happen, because clearly it does, but in the 14 months I’ve been breastfeeding I’ve never experienced any negativity.

Instead I’ve found that, on the whole, people are very supportive of breastfeeding mums. I’ve had people bring me over hot drinks and glasses of water. Or help entertain my toddler whilst I wrestled with my hungry baby. I’ve had other mums (breastfeeding and formula feeding alike) cheer me on and tell me how well I’ve done.

There will always be those who disapprove of breastfeeding in public, but they are few and far between. Just remember, everybody else has got your back. :)

7. Nobody told me… not to bother with a cot!

Co-sleeping is, of course, a personal choice. But in my experience, when you’re exclusively breastfeeding, having bub in the same bed as you makes night feeds SO. MUCH. EASIER.

I mean, you don’t have to get up and go make a bottle… so why get out of bed at all?!

After several months of E’s cot gathering dust in our room, I sold it and used the money to buy a bed guard instead.

8. Nobody told me… I’d regularly ‘touch up’ my own breasts in public.

Let me tell you an easy way of spotting a breastfeeding mum in a room. She’s usually feeling up her own boobs.

Keeping track of which breast you last fed your baby from is tricky – especially if you’re feeling hazy from night feeds or busy looking after your older children. So, the easiest method to know which breast to feed from next is to give them a good ol’ squeeze. One will be soft and squidgy, the other will have rock-like characteristics. Feed from the rock-like boob.

9. Nobody told me that… I’d become a human punchbag

Breastfeeding is often portrayed as this calm and relaxing bonding time between mum and baby. And sometimes it is.

The rest of the time I’m having my hair pulled, or being slapped, punched, kicked and pinched and on the odd occasion, bitten.

All I’m saying is, it’s a good job I love you, kiddo.

10. Nobody has ever told me… how to stop.

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve reached our 14 month breastfeeding milestone. I honestly never thought we’d get this far, or even planned to breastfeed for this long.

The main reason I’m still going? I don’t know how to stop.

This was never covered in my breastfeeding classes and at the time it wasn’t something I thought to ask about.

I’ve Googled it, of course, many times. But I’ve yet to find any useful information on the best way of stopping breastfeeding. Most websites make you feel guilty for wanting to stop (useful, thanks) and others give very vague ‘advice’. “Just drop a feed each week…” If only it were that simple.

Is there anything you wish you’d been told about breastfeeding?

Jenna xx