Mum breastfeeds daughter for 9 years, says it "cements their bond"
The mum says that extended breastfeeding has given her and her daughter a "lifelong bond".
Somewhere in your baby’s first year, breastfeeding mums will probably get unwarranted advice from various people, urging them to stop nursing. But honestly, no one has the right to tell you what age to stop breastfeeding your child. Like one mum in UK who ignored every single person who told her to stop breastfeeding her daughter… and continued for nine years!
Mum breastfeeds child until she’s nine years old
When Sharon Spink, now aged 50, gave birth to her daughter Charlotte nine years ago, her mind was set on natural term weaning when it came to breastfeeding, instead of forcing it on her.
Turns out Charlotte, now aged nine, decided she didn’t want any more “mummy milk” just two months ago.
At times, Sharon didn’t want to continue breastfeeding. However, she pushed herself for the child’s sake, knowing that it’s for her own good.
When Charlotte was four, she’d sleep the night but still go to Sharon’s bed to latch on. Six months later she still nursed thrice daily. But over the past four years, this slowly declined to once a month.
Sharon had allowed Charlotte to decide when she wanted to wean – very slowly. Now that she’s stopped, Sharon comment, “I don’t feel sad about it” and that “it’s just nice that it’s come to a natural end”.
According to Sharon, breastfeeding Charlotte for so long had many benefits, despite the naysayers. Breastfeeding :
- solidified an eternal and close bond between them, which will continue even though she’s stopped
- has made Charlotte much healthier due to the milk’s nutrients which have improved her immune system. The child hasn’t had common issues like “an ear infection, cough, cold or tummy ache for a long time” says Sharon, emphasising that “When compared to my other three children I would say she is healthier.”
- a “feeling of comfort and security”. Sharon explains that “Children find a lot of comfort in the breast, and the older they get the more it becomes about comfort rather than nutrition.’
Breaking the stigma of breastfeeding older kids
Sharon hopes that by breastfeeding her daughter for so long, that she’s helped break the stigma surrounding breastfeeding older children.
Sadly, she says, mums are too frightened to talk about it. They fear criticism from others who don’t know that breastfeeding older kids is quite normal.
The mum-of-four wanted to assure all the doubtful mums out there that breastfeeding older kids “is normal and this is what children do”.
“If they feed for as long as they want to they will naturally wean. In a lot of countries it’s perfectly normal to breastfeed older children and they will do it for a lot longer than we do in the West,” says Sharon.
Proud of her body
For Sharon, it was satisfying to be able to breastfeed Charlotte for nine years and see what her body has managed to accomplish.
She shares that all her children were delivered via a caesarean section. She was disappointed because it felt as though her body had failed.
The same feeling arose when she failed to breastfeed her previous three kids. But this only made her even more determined to breastfeed Charlotte.
Looking back, Sharon says she has learnt a lot and matured from her experiences. She encourages all mums in their choices, saying: “I feel like my body is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. It’s what breasts are for. We have to support mums. It’s about choice.”
What age to stop breastfeeding
According to the organisations like the WHO and AAP, mums should exclusively breastfeed their infants for at least six months.
That means that your baby should not eat or drink anything else apart from breastmilk – not even water.
Afterwards, the WHO advises mums to continue breastfeeding till they turn at least two years old.
There isn’t a set guideline on when to stop breastfeeding. Only you and your baby can make that decision, mums.
But when you do decide to wean your child, here are some tips.
Tips to wean your child off the breast gently
The key is to gradually reduce breastfeeding. You can begin by dropping a breastfeeding time which your baby appears to least enjoy.
You needn’t worry about your baby gaining less immune benefits from the dropped breastfeeding sessions, mum. Over time, weaning makes your breastmilk much more condensed with antibodies to fend off bacterial and viral diseases.
By gently and gradually reducing breastfeeding sessions, rather than stopping abruptly, you will also prevent issues like engorgement and blocked ducts from affecting you. But, if you are in a hurry to wean your baby, say for a medical reason, consult a lactation consultant for the best way forward.
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