Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Featured, Parenting

Breastfeeding older children together

30 October, 2014

Ah, precious breastfeeding moments!. Just me and my little one… and my older one… and a small pink babushka doll… half a chewed orange… an awkward pair of fairy wings… and a small bunch of wild flowers. Breastfeeding older children can be quite a crowded experience!

Yet here we are!

*smiles brightly*

It’s not often we all squeeze up together like this, my two older children and I. Early on in my tandem breastfeeding experience I decided that three of us at once was too tricky for me to handle. (In one sense “tandem” is a good word- it brings to mind the gargantuan effort of tandem parachuting – a wild enough thing without another person tangled around you. But in another sense, it doesn’t quite do, as there are more than two involved. There are three of us trying to get our heads/ lips around this. I think “triptych breastfeeding” better captures the ungainly mechanisms of it all!)

Breastfeeding older children - Extended Tandem

Breastfeeding older children – Extended Tandem

What is it like breastfeeding older children?

18 month old Juno is in the stage of breastfeeding that makes me think that the whole “grass is greener” part of human nature begins early. She takes a few gulps on one side, then pats the other as if to test the waters, then moves over to the other one.
She isn’t quite at the inanimate objects sharing her milk stage (that began with Ramona at two, nursing a micromachine…) but she will often bring some kind of contribution. The marmite toast she is halfway through or a bit of lego she can’t leave behind.
Juno is restless… always on the go, climbing and discovering… when she snuggles in for Mummy Milk it is one of the few moments of stillness in her day. Her eyes flicker vacantly at the sky or our ceiling, I can almost see her processing all that has gone before. I watch her watching her own little show reel. And then the eye lids droop and sleep stills her body.

Ramona will be four in two weeks… and as we approach her birthday I wonder if we are approaching her weaning. Some weeks she doesn’t have a drop of my milk. Most nights she will fall asleep during a story, or just snuggled against my side while I give Juno milk. I guess we have been on the world’s slowest weaning journey over the last year… creeping down at Ramona’s pace, soon to be done.

When I bring the topic up she vehemently declares she isn’t finished with it… “I’m going to have Mummy Milk ‘till I am FIFTEEN!” (Ah.. . the internet’s worst nightmare.) She still sees breastfeeding as her greatest comfort.

Breastfeeding older children simply for our own sakes?

People say that mothers breastfeed for a long time for their own sakes… because they can’t let go of their children. You only need to breastfeed through a pregnancy to realise this isn’t the case… I never quite got over the weird physical feeling of breastfeeding Ramona while I was pregnant.

We are touched out, have things to do, no time to sit and watch eye lids flicker, no room on our laps for a babushka…

Breastfeeding older children - Extended Tandem

Breastfeeding older children – Extended Tandem

And yet.

I never imagined to still be nursing Ramona at four. But there are one million things I never imagined I’d do as a parent… yet have found myself embracing them when it appears apparent that this road is for us. (Every family has their own paths to take… and it is often the children who grab your hand and reveal it, don’t you reckon?) If you detect any lactating smuggery in this post… please don’t. I understand that for all sorts of reasons this path isn’t for all…. and it has been a rocky one for us at times. (*clumsily inserts all the journey metaphors*

It is pretty special to be meeting Ramona and Juno in a place that mothers in ancient and modern cultures across the world have met for millennia.

(On a rocking chair set in long grass. Hehe.)

Tim took three snaps and at first I didn’t like them one bit. I was so stern in the first! Like a Victorian teacher! But… I’m growing to like the fierceness. My expression is the courage of every parent to walk the way their children beckon.

And the second one…. it seems so immodest, with my spilling breasts. And then, I remembered that that is the accusation pointed at nursing mothers constantly. I’m not going to point it at myself. Breastfeeding can be a bit messy and gaping and vulnerable… but pfft, so is love. That is the world’s sexualisation issues. Not mine or my child’s.

So, there we are. The three of us… and the rest. Just breastfeeding until they aren’t any more.

Are you breastfeeding older children? Would love to hear of your experiences.

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18 Comments

  • Reply Jane 30 October, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Lovely post and lovely photographs. I too did not expect to breastfeed beyond six months, yet both my daughters self weaned, the older when she was three years a month old, and the younger when she was three and a half years old. If we listen to what our instincts and heart tell us rather than what society demands then we will make the right choices for our own family, whatever those may be.

  • Reply Becca 30 October, 2014 at 8:50 am

    lovely post x

  • Reply Sarah 30 October, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Brilliant post, written with great wisdom, wit and honesty. My 4 year old still likes her Mamma milk (and previously my now 8 year old nursed till the age of 4 and my now 11 year old did till she was 2 (she self weaned when I was pregnant).
    Sarah recently posted…The Photo Gallery | LightMy Profile

  • Reply Debra 30 October, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Lovely, and thank you. Still nursing a 3.5 year old here despite having no plans beyond six months. Oh and where’s the third pic? 😉

  • Reply Steph 30 October, 2014 at 9:20 am

    The photos, the words…seriously in love with this post, and your whole blog actually! I find your writing all sorts of amazing – motivating, inspiring, thought provoking. Your words often make me reasesses my thoughts and behaviour, and in such a kind, encouraging way. Thank you. X
    Steph recently posted…It’s LEGO® season!My Profile

  • Reply ThaliaKR 30 October, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Absolutely LOVE the photos. Well done, Tim?
    ThaliaKR recently posted…Advent with Kids: 76 (or so) Ideas for Getting Ready for AdventMy Profile

  • Reply Alex 30 October, 2014 at 9:24 am

    The way you write conveys an air of generosity and peacefulness which I’d love to see absorbed into our society’s communal mindset, especially with regards to mothering/parenting choices. “So, there we are. The three of us… and the rest. Just breastfeeding until they aren’t any more.” It’s simple! Lovely. Beautiful images, too. (I don’t think your friendly face can ever look ‘Victorian style’ stern, by the way.)

  • Reply Gem 30 October, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Lovely post. Just what I needed to read, still breast feeding my 2 year old ( despite initially thinking I wouldn’t even last 3 months) and don’t know anyone else doing extending BF so can sometimes feel a bit worried about it. Thanks for your your reassuring words.

  • Reply Natalie @ little jam pot life 30 October, 2014 at 9:46 am

    I love this post! So real and honest. I fed my eldest daughter (turned four on Monday) until she was 13 months, I was also four months pregnant with my second baby at this time and she just didn’t seem interested in feeding anymore just the snuggles. Then I was hoping to feed my second daughter longer but she self-weaned at 15 months (again.. I happened to be 4 months pregnant 4monthz pregnant again!) maybe my milk tasted different! But I loved the bond, I had a huge journey with my first girl. Ten weeks of excruciating pain, rounds of thrush and mastitis, a bad latch resulting in a open wound, oh the pain! But persevered and thank my lucky stars I did. And here I am feeding my third baby, my beautiful 9month old baby boy. Great post, I can’t stand how society sexualises Breastfeeding, boobs and all that mumbo. They’re on humans, it’s normal, they need to get over it!
    Natalie @ little jam pot life recently posted…Phoenix – You are 9 months oldMy Profile

  • Reply Helen 30 October, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Lovely post! Every breast feeding experience is unique and mostly not what you had planned. In my case both my children breasted until they were 5 years old; 3 years of tandem feeding. Not many people know that!! I loved the way that they had a common bond from day 1 and they still get on really well ( most of the time!) I often wonder whether the tandem feeding helped.

  • Reply Adele @ Circus Queen 30 October, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Beautiful post and pics! I’ve recently written about breastfeeding my 3.5-year-old but haven’t posted it on my blog yet. Will soon. This is a journey I too never thought I’d take, especially with an 8-month-old too! Parenting is so full of surprises. We recently went on holiday for two weeks and in all that time, T didn’t ask for milk. I thought we were done. Then we went home again and she started again as if we’d never missed a beat. I imagine weaning is not so far down the road for us either but she’s showing me that I can’t predict. Only wait.
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  • Reply Amy Treasure 30 October, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Love this! I never imagined I’d still be BF Rose at almost 17 months but here I am..she shows no signs of stopping either. I certainly agree that it’s not just for the mother’s sake in carrying on BF as I know for now, Rose still needs it and I will endeavour to carry on until she’s finished naturally. Thank you for such a light-hearted approach to this topic and congratulations in your BF journey! X
    Amy Treasure recently posted…Wardrobe WednesdayMy Profile

  • Reply Anna 31 October, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    We had a similar story (except there was a extra year in between my girls, my eldest weaned at 4yrs 2 mths when her sister was nearly 6mths old). Your words capture the feeling of it beautifully. I found myself, with great surprise, tandeming. We just meandered along our journey making it up as we went along, enjoying the unexpected moments and getting through the bumpy parts. It’s something I never particularly thought about as a possibility, but am now glad I got to experience.

  • Reply Pinkoddy 4 November, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    A lovely post and I don’t hear enough from mother’s who breast feed 4 year olds – it needs to be talked about more. I think self-weaning was the nicest thing I did for my youngest 2 boys (who both stopped around 4) and wish I’d done it with my older 2.
    Pinkoddy recently posted…Bullying & Autistic Spectrum DisorderMy Profile

    • Reply Kizzy 10 November, 2014 at 7:28 pm

      I breastfed my youngest till nearly 4 and it was my decision to stop it and I am absolutely sure had I not, he would still feed (He’s 6) now. I also stopped my daughter just before I became pregnant (by surprise) and wondered if I could have managed tandem feeding. I love the photo, such a great shot to treasure.
      Kizzy recently posted…Fear…..My Profile

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