When I first breastfed my daughter Evie it seemed like a miracle happening. The simplicity of it was what impressed me as being so genius, and for anyone who hates clutter, likes to travel light, and doesn’t know one end of a steriliser from another, it’s the only way to go.
I became a real breastfeeding junkie, perfecting feeding my daughter in a sling so I could go for walks, meet friends, even eat out, with her close to me all the time. Whenever I breastfed her in public I felt an overwhelming sense of pride, and I am pleased to say that the reactions of the British public have always been positive and re-affirming.
My husband Michael was equally happy and proud, and when she reached her second birthday and I was still breastfeeding her (as the National Childbirth Trust recommends), he was thrilled and gave me a high five as I gave her a last feed before bed.
REWARD OF FEEDING A TODDLER
Since her tiny newborn baby days things have changed enormously, and breastfeeding a growing toddler is rewarding in new and different ways. As her language developed she would finish a feed, smile at me and say, “mmm, delicious milk mummy” before hopping off my lap and running off to play.
Two and a half years since she was born, I am still breastfeeding Evie, albeit once a day for a long feed in the evening, but the space on my lap is becoming increasingly small, occupied now by a tall and wriggly toddler, and my new growing bump.
REDUCING THE LOAD
Since discovering I was pregnant again I have reduced her feeds from around four or five a day to two, morning and evening, and then in the last few days, as I near the end of my first trimester, one long feed before getting ready for bed. But I don’t want to give that up for a while yet.
I have explained to Evie that as she grows up into a big girl my body is adapting to her, and not making as much milk, because now she can have milk from a cup. On the odd occasion that she has asked for milk at other times I have explained that I haven’t got any, but that I am busy making some for her to have at bedtime.
Evie has taken it all in her stride, as she does with everything, and to a large extent I am led by her. Her evening feed is still important to both of us, a special connection at the end of the day, and I want her to reap the benefits of breastfeeding for as long as I am able to give them to her.
The longer she is breastfed the less likely she is to suffer obesity, cancer and various other illnesses in later life. She will also have a higher IQ. I have read that to put it simply the longer you breastfeed the more IQ is positively effected because breast milk contains Omega 3s in a form that the body can utilise easily.
On a recent visit to the doctors following some blood tests (all fine thank goodness), Evie walked into the doctors office and cheerfully greeted him by name before sitting down. I noticed he looked a bit funny but thought nothing of it. Over the course of the appointment she chatted with him and we discussed the results. One of the factors involved was her growth. She has steadily tracked the 98th percentile for height since she was born, but he also commented on her development. Because we were discussing the blood tests I assumed he was still talking about her physical development, but then he said, “Whenever I see her I am always astounded, by how tall she is, but also how developmentally advanced. To walk into my office and greet me by name and talk the way that she does. I have never met a 2 and a half year old like her. She is obviously going to be incredibly bright.”
Michael and I grinned, thanked him politely, and I tried to think of something clever to say so that he would know she definitely belongs to us. As we left his office we thanked him again, and Evie said “Thank you Dr Crawley,” before running out into the corridor and calling to us over her shoulder “come on, let’s go”. I turned to shut the door and caught his open mouthed expression for a second time. Outside in the empty corridor Michael and I looked around to make sure no-one was watching, did a little dance and gave each other a high five before straightening ourselves to walk out through the waiting room, still beaming like Cheshire cats.
Later that evening as she curled around my bump for her evening feed I turned to Michael and said, “I wonder how much of it is thanks to this”, and he smiled back and said, “I was just thinking the same thing”.
The reactions from medical professionals to the fact that I am still breastfeeding Evie well into my second pregnancy has been mixed. I mentioned it to a couple of doctors recently, one, who clearly thought I was deranged and said I should really try to stop, and another, who was quite encouraging. My midwife and the trainee midwife who was with her on my first consultation were genuinely excited and congratulated me profusely (I think they want to do some sort of medical write-up about me but I’m going to draw the line at doing exhibitions). They advised me that I could breastfeed up until the birth if I wanted and was able, and tandem feed both children after the new baby had taken the all important Colostrum. As I my bump gets bigger I could see some logistical problems with this, but it’s nice to know you have options, particularly if you happen to have two babies very close together and want to give the first the benefits of your breastmilk for a bit longer.
However, as much as I am a fan of breastfeeding with a bump, there are some important things to bear in mind:
Firstly, you can’t do it all. I am afraid this is rather a case of do as I say and not as I do, because I had to get fall-over exhausted before I listened to family and friends and slowed down. So ask yourself: Busy toddler? Breastfeeding? Pregnant? Working part/full-time? Exercising? Gardening? Cleaning? Cooking healthy meals from scratch? Lying of the floor yet?
Something has to give, so relax if the house doesn’t look like a show home and have a rest when your child does. Take advantage of offers of help from family and friends, it’s not a sign of failure, it could be the key to your success in the really important things. Take short cuts wherever and whenever you can. Who wants to boast, “I never really did much with my children when they were young, but the silver was always polished!”
Leave big garden/house/work projects if you can or ask for help. Eat well, high quality nutrient rich foods including good calcium sources. I also take a Pregnacare supplement for pregnancy and breastfeeding with the all important folic acid as well as calcium and the other key vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Finally, don’t be disappointed if your milk supply reduces or stops, or if your child complains that the milk tastes different. It is your body’s way of conserving the energy it needs and natures message to you and your little one that it’s time to stop. This has happened to several friends who breastfed their children into the next pregnancy, and I am ready to accept it if and when it happens to me. And I have no worries about Evie adapting to the next stage whatsoever. As I say, she’s a very clever girl!