I guess I should start by stating where I stand on the old breastfeeding debate. Well, basically I think that we should all looks after our own boobs and stop worrying about every other mum’s. Why is it that a mother’s worst enemy is another mother?
Honestly, the biggest shit stirrer among the whole debate is the media. Every day I read some kind of controversial article about breastfeeding, always trying to stand the bottle feeders off against the breastfeeders. And we fall for it. Every. Single. Time. We cannot wait to go in for the attack, trying to feel better about our own decisions by slamming anyone who chooses to do it differently. I’ve been feeding now for nearly six years and not once have I had a negative experience in public, not once. And I’m not shy, I whip a boob out whenever I’ve need to, and nobody has batted an eye lid. Or I’m oblivious to any negative reactions, but either way I’ve gone about my business without anyone saying anything. Yet online people are up in arms, whether It be about public feeding or choosing a bottle over breast. Someone has always got something to say and it’s getting really boring. I feel very strongly about the fact that information and support should be available to new mums regarding breastfeeding, but if a mum chooses not to after having access to it then it’s her call. I have friends who breastfeed, I have friends who extend breastfeeding, I have friends who tried their very hardest but just couldn’t and I have friends who flat out didn’t want to. All equally brilliant mums doing their very best.
Anyway, back to the whole point of this blog post, I’ve gotten really carried away! What’s my story? I haven’t had a break from breastfeeding in nearly 6 years. I went from feeding one son, straight into feeding the other and it has been incredible. It’s had so many benefits for us and after a tough start establishing feeding with River due to his weak mouth muscles, it has made our lives easier. I’ve never owned a single bottle or a sterilizer! My baby bag was a spare onesie, nappies and a pack of wet wipes. I was able to travel anywhere with young babies, never having to worry about feeding schedule or carrying enough bottles. It just worked for us and it still does.
But River turns 3 soon and he still feeds a lot, mostly at night but it’s still pretty full on. He just loves boob! He also really enjoys food and eats very well, but there is always room for breastmilk as far as he’s concerned. A bit like me and dessert really, you can never be too full for it! I guess the thing that concerns me is that he is nearly three and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon. Should I be more concerned about weaning him off my milk? If I’m completely honest, the thought of not breastfeeding anymore terrifies me. Here’s why.
1. His immune system is strong, he very rarely gets ill and has only had a handful of colds. A lot of children with Down syndrome have weakened immune systems and illness and infections can be common. Now River may not get poorly very often, but when he does he seems to catch whatever is going around so much worse. I swear its breastmilk that is helping him stay strong and makes it easier for him to fight off illness. I worry that if I stop feeding him, he will stop getting the protection provided and get ill more often. I can’t take that risk! Right now, I try not to get him too close to other sick kids, but I know that’ll really intensify if I start to think he’ll catch everything going and get so much worse than anyone else.
2. Sleep. River has the potential to be an awful sleeper, and again sleep problems are extremely common in children with Down syndrome. Any children I know, but it is evidential that children with Down syndrome are prone to sleep issues. Well we co sleep, have done since our first born and it’s not up for debate whether it was a good decision. It has 100% worked for our family and I wouldn’t change it at all. Well I sleep right next to him, and if he wakes up he goes right back to sleep. I know for a fact that if I wasn’t next to him then he would wake right up ready to party. Without a doubt. River goes to bed at 7 and quite often at 9 ish we’ll hear the bedroom door slam and he’ll scurry as fast as he can down the corridor, sneak up behind the sofa, pop up with a big grin and shout ‘heeellllooooo’. He finds it hilarious and I know for a fact that if I couldn’t coax him back to sleep throughout the night by feeding him, then that would happen continuously all night. Now call me lazy if you like, but fact is that I’m a better Mum when I’m not exhausted Letting him cry it out is not and never will be an option and other than having a boob on stand by I’m not really sure how to achieve sleep for the whole family.
3. River has strong oral muscles which can be a big issue in children with Down syndrome. It is common for a child’s tongue to stand out and while it was once believed that people with Ds have bigger tongues, it is because they have weaker mouth muscles. They can be strengthened and for River that was through breastfeeding. The same with speech and eating real food, River is doing incredibly well and again I believe for us it has been because of breastfeeding. Now I may sound naïve here, but it is something that concerns me. Will his progress continue so well if his oral muscles are not being used as much? I just don’t know and again I am scared to put to the test.
So, there you have it, that’s why I don’t want to stop feeding my toddler. I also just love it, it’s been massively bonding for us and I love those 3pm cuddles when he crawls onto my lap and gets comfy. Breastfeeding is comforting for him, it calms him quickly when he is upset and soothes him when he is tired and tearful. It is working for us, and yes, he is coming up three but honestly, I just don’t care. I’m going to hope that one day he will just decide to stop for himself and I won’t have to make any decisions about when is the right time to wean him, but I also hope it won’t happen just yet.