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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 🙂

15 Responses »

  1. Am so impressed. It’s so amazing that you take all decisions, whether it’s bout baby wearing or breastfeeding or anything regarding your kids. And am with you here on this. Mom’s are the strongest creatures on earth, they have to be otherwise God wouldn’t thrust such big responsibility on female tender body and mind. And I believe, coz of this strength, theyhave all the capability in the world to raise the kids in the right way. I dont know why most mom’s become so much dependent on traditions and ‘how things are usually done’ for such an individual thing as nurturing. We tend to loose our motherly instinct in order to be compliant with ways of the world, and sadly with such approach even the kids are expected to be bricks in the wall. Am glad, found your blog and didn’t loose heartwhile fighting for my right to breastfeed, and cuddling my lil one to sleep rather than force her on an expensive crib.

    • Well said! It seems like in trying to make things ‘easier’ for parents by using bottles, cribs, etc, it’s actually making the job of parenting so difficult!

  2. Tandem feeding has really helped us too. It has its challenges but it makes things easier on the whole. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love your blog, stumbled across it the other day looking at crafty things. Haven’t stopped reading it since.
    My boy was one last week and I absolutely love breastfeeding him. I really hope he’ll want to breastfeed for another year at least. In England it’s not ‘ normal ‘ to breastfeed so long. Even upto one year ! People have been surprised that I’m still breastfeeding since my baby was six months old. My doctor told me my baby didnt need it anymore and I should makes him eat more solids as breast milk wasnt giving him enough nutrients ! That was at four months old !!
    My baby and me co sleep, Practise elimination communication since week one, baby wear and breastfeed and we are so proud to tell others too. Everyone comments on how happy my boy is all the time , of course he gets a bit grumpy when tired or teething but he’s generally happy.
    Then they say that I shouldn’t baby wear so much, co sleep and definitely shouldn’t breastfeed after one year as he might have problems later with female relationships !!!
    The way I see it is, my baby is happy, confident, trusting and considering he spends so much time with me, I have never spent more than an hour away from him yet ! , he’s great with other people, doesn’t miss me when I nip to the shop. This tells me I’m doing something right !
    And as long as my baby is happy that’s all that matters to me. People worry soo much about everything these days that they have forgotten to LIVE. Wake up in the morning and smile because we can! I look forwards to breastfeeding as long as my boy wants to obviously I’ll pump and bottle it when he starts college !!!!! I’ll baby wear until my back cant are it anymore and I’ll sleep with my baby until he doesn’t want to. He’s a human and is more than capable of knowing when he wants something, when the time is right for him. I trust him, I love him.
    I love life, I love my son and I love being a mother.
    Sorry to go on. It’s a subject that really gets me. Live and let live xx

    • Oh, so lovely to hear all of that!!! Yes, just keep doing what you’re doing, never mind what everyone else says! It’s the best and you have absolutely no regrets that way! So many of my friends who started off following ‘mainstream’ parenting advice have moved closer and closer to what we’re doing with their subsequent children because the ‘mainstream’ stuff just doesn’t sit right with them! Well, it’s not a natural way to parent, and I think some smart people pick up on it 🙂 There are mothers out there like yourself, you just have to find them! See if you can look up your local baby wearers group or attachment parent group on Facebook! It’s nice to meet ‘real’ people who share the see parenting philosophies as you!

  4. What an amazing commitment!!! I’m amazed. I tandemed for 4.5months and weaned my 29month old because it was just.too.much. He was nursing before bed and it was actually a really easy transition for us both. I appreciate so much to know that there are other mommas (outside of my circle) that are extended BFers and have tandemed nursed. <3

    • It’s certainly not easy, doing the whole tandem thing! I nearly weaned, but like I wrote about, just cut back and decided to give it some time. Glad it was easy for you though, I was probably scared to do it! There are lots of tandem nursers out there, probably more than we think!

  5. My boy turns 1 tomorrow, and then breastfeeding will end. It feels right for both of us now. Most Mums I know stopped earlier, and I get a lot of respect from them for doing it for a year. Most Mums had little choice but to stop after 6-8 months when they had to return to work. I have no doubt that if we had more favourable maternity packages here in the UK, more women would feed and feed for longer. I was lucky to be given an expressing room at work.

    I loved feeding my son, and it was never a question for me. My Mum breastfed, my sister breastfed, so it’s the normal thing to me. Not only is it better for both Mum and baby, but it’s free too! Plus you aren’t messing about heating bottles in the middle of the night. Already looking forward to feeding future baby number two!

    • It must be a different game going back to work full time with a baby and breast feeding. Everyone has to do what feels right for them, of course. For me, breast feeding a toddler was often an easy way out of getting something nutritious in them because sometimes my older one wasn’t interested in food at all or was wanting to be close to me after a day at work (I did go back to work when she was older)! If you should happen to change your mind… The World Health Organization recommends feeding until 2.

    • Angeline, you can absolutely nurse part time. You can supplement baby with food or milk (cow, almond, coconut, whatever you want) and still nurse when you are home.

      • That’s some good input! Yes, you can absolutely feed part time, and really after one, I think most babies can go for a whole without a feed and not be too bothered by it.

  6. I really enjoy reading your blog. I am tandem nursing a 3 year old and 1 year old myself. Planning to allow each of them to self-wean. If you haven’t heard of it, there is a book being written about nursing beyond 3 years. It will be a compilation of nursing stories, photos, art, poetry: Submission deadline is 10/15/13.

  7. I loved your blog. Tandem feeding seems so scary to me (I’m still nursing my 21 months old girl and web want to have another baby). My biggest fear is to reject my daughter…I really thank you for sharing this with the world! Greetings from chile!


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