South Essex Slings
And that's a Wrap!
The end to our natural term breastfeeding journey.
Just to note I say breastfeeding as that's the term I personally use.
It’s very bitter sweet. I will never breastfeed a baby again. This makes me hugely sad.
I fed Imogen for 5 years and 5 months.
Even a year ago I would never have believed this day would come, she fed so often still.
But gradually she asked less, I started taking pics of each feed as I never knew which one would be the last, until it was the last. I’m grateful I have a photo of our last feed.
She was a battle from the start though! not plain sailing like her older sister.
I was hand expressing colostrum into shot glasses because it was so painful to feed her.
We drove across London to Harrow when she was a week old to get her tongue tie cut on a midwife’s kitchen table.
Persistent shallow latch, but it wasn’t painful and she got milk so we lived with that forever.
Bottle refusal was a fun one, so she came to work with me until she was reliably eating solids and could be left for more than 2 hours at a time, which was probably about 9-10 months.
She used to go in the sling while I cut hair, or helped run the sling library sessions. Luckily she had quite short feeds so stopping to feed her wasn’t too much of an issue. Or I could feed her in the carrier and keep working when needed.
Allergies was a much bigger issue. Read my blog about that here.
We noticed early on that she was getting eczema as her older sister had. I started cutting foods out of my diet one by one.
Nothing seemed to help.
We saw various local NHS paediatricians, dieticians and dermatologists, none of which were much help.
We saw private allergists who helped massively at first then the reactions would creep back in.
At 3 years old, during lockdown we eventually moved NHS care to the Evelina hospital in London. Things have been a lot better and we’ve had much more progress with them thankfully.
But it’s absolutely soul destroying wondering what she’s reacting to. You second guess and doubt absolutely everything you eat and touch. It’s relentless and so so shit.
I lived with a constant feeling of anxiety. She was always itchy, I was constantly distracting her hands, or covering them up - then I'd feel guilty because she couldn't have her hands free. I've absolutely no idea how she was such a happy little thing, she must've been so uncomfortable and sore 24/7.
Then there’s also the questions like “when are you going to stop” I think these started around 12-18m and peaked a bit after 2 yrs. By the time she was 3 I’d become ‘one of those weird people that feed big kids’ so less was said, it was all ignored like the elephant in the room.
There can be judgement, often from those very close to you. Feeling the need to explain why you’re not stopping is not pleasant, in fact it makes you feel like absolute shit.
I've always been happy to answer questions. People don't often realise that milk will still be produced after a certain age, for example, plus many other myths they've heard. I will happily chat and demystify things with people. I just hate the judgement.
Breastfeeding gets the blame for so much.
Her not sleeping long stretches, not taking a bottle, not wanting to leave me…..
These are also symptoms of being a child 🙈
Did I ever think I’d be feeding a 5 year old? God no!
I started feeding my newborn baby and she grew day by day. She still needed me even when she was bigger. This is normal and ok.
She was still feeding very regularly day and night until she was about 3. At this point I wanted help with the night wakings as it was taking its toll being the only one she’d allow near her and she was waking 2 hourly.
Lockdown hit as she turned 3 so it was the perfect time to give Daddy some sleepless nights.
And no - stopping boob during the night didn’t magically make her sleep for anyone wondering!!!! I just lost my magic power to get her back to sleep 😤
She still fed a lot during the day, and I could see no end in sight at all. But gradually, over the last few months she asked less.
She was only really boobing at bedtimes, then she wasn’t asking at every bedtime. It dwindled down to a couple of times a week until she stopped asking completely a few weeks ago.
Natural term weaning. On her terms. When she was ready. At 5 years and 5 months old.
It’s been a very special, wonderful journey. I love the closeness of feeding, the magical power of it, the amazing goodness it’s given her.
I’m sad it’s over (crying writing this!) but hugely proud and privileged to have experienced it and very happy that Imogen was able to choose the end.
For those feeding big kids, well done it’s not always easy.
If you’re experiencing any negativity- stay strong. You’ve got this. You do not owe anyone an explanation. Your body. Your child. Your choice.
If you need any support or just want to come for a chat with like minded folk Basildon & Thurrock BRAS are there for you.
Keep on boobing. 🤱
Deborah, breastfeeding peer supporter and carrying consultant.