A remarkable subject that we always try to approach with delicacy in the Mag.
For it arouses strong passions.
Each woman has a completely personal relationship with it. Love or hate it, it is entirely up to you. Breastfeeding is a kind of vocation, like a calling. Some people hear and follow this calling, others do not. Today I would like to talk about long-term breastfeeding. I have not breastfeed my children and am amazed to see these super mums find this action – which can embarrass me sometimes – so natural and obvious. I asked a few of these admirable women to talk to us about their breastfeeding. They accepted, in the form of questions and answers, to tell us about the implementation of their breastfeeding and how it settled in the long-term.
Anne-Sophie, Eve, Florence and Ombeline are still breastfeeding – so what?
Has breastfeeding always been the obvious thing to do for you? And likewise long-term breastfeeding?
Eve: “No it was not at all obvious for me. My mum did not breastfeed, nor my sister, so I had little in the way of an example around me. I think I really discovered what it was from my friends who have older children than mine.
It was the same thing for long-term breastfeeding. I had always thought that breastfeeding was related to our maternity leave and that it was impossible to breastfeed while working. Little by little by reading accounts from both sides I discovered that you could breastfeed only once or twice a day for several years.”
Anne-Sophie: “Yes, absolutely. I have always wanted to create and experience this link with my babies, and I am convinced of the immense benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mother. In contrast, no, long-term breastfeeding was not always an obvious decision to take. I remember when I was much younger looking with astonishment at women who breastfed babies who had teeth, or even worse, who could walk! And now I am one of them. I breastfed my two eldest a little like most young mums, for 2 to 4 months, and then I stopped or mixed my milk with artificial milk when I restarted work. In fact, I did not ask myself what to do but let rather life and society dictate this behaviour.
However for my third child I chose to change my life and job, in order to take full advantage of what I knew for sure would be my last experience of pregnancy and early childhood. The desire to breastfeed in the long-term has come with this choice. I never really wanted to. I spent a lot of time looking at the composition of artificial milk which, along with the organic food choices, sent shivers down my spine. No, I did not want to give that to my baby if there was another way to feed it.
Having said this, I did not imagine that it would last so long. I had given myself until “around nine months, or a year….” But today I hardly know how to stop; it has become completely natural. And I continue to believe that even it is great for her and me, even alongside a more diverse diet.”
Florence: “Yes, I have always wanted to breastfeed. I have breastfed my three children with varying degrees of success. Jude was the only one I breastfed in the long-term and it is obvious to continue until, I hope, a natural weaning.”
Ombeline: “Breastfeeding yes, I had only good examples in my close circle. It was the logical step to follow after birth, and my mother only spoke positively to me about it. This gave me the necessary confidence and naivety to not even think about it anymore! I had not put myself under any pressure and considered using the baby’s bottle if breastfeeding did not work. As for long-term breastfeeding, I prefer breastfeeding that is not cut short! A big NO, I thought, to stopping at six months as if by magic. But like many things when you become a parent, you negotiate its principles. I had not imagined breastfeeding for up to 19 months. I would have found this very weird!”
Beginning breastfeeding was easy?
Florence: “Yes, I had very few difficulties. When I did I immediately set to working out what I had to do, unlike my first two feedings for which I lacked a lot of information and support!”
Anne-Sophie: “Yes, very easily. It is a little bit surprising the first time, a little troublesome, with leaks, but very quickly it normalises to the rhythm of the baby. It is amazing to see how the mum’s body produces what her baby needs and when it needs it. But there is something that I had never heard about and which all breastfeeding mums should know: during the first few weeks the baby peaks in growth, which makes it drink almost all the time 24/7. Often the mum becomes distraught, thinking that she has no more milk, and supplements with artificial milk which only results in limiting her production of milk, while the frequency of her feedings is there precisely to stimulate it.”
Ombeline: “Yes, Blanche could suckle very naturally from birth without having to pay much attention to her position of and that of her mouth. The first four days I did not understand why my baby was losing weight despite Blanche breastfeeding regularly. I would have liked for the midwives to explain to me that everything was normal and that breastfeeding takes time to set up. I had a good day of pressure, our baby had to absolutely suckle in order to regain 100g! Everything goes back to order with the increase in quantity of milk.”
Tell me the story of your breastfeeding experience.
Florence: “I breastfed my first baby for two months, which was very complicated. I had barely any information, I was bringing her up alone and I did not trust myself. I immediately threw in the towel at the very first obstacle! For my second child, my breastfeeding lasted three months when my doctor advised me to change to artificial milk so that Gabriel would be more satisfied and would demand less for mine. For Jude I listened to no one, only to myself! As soon as I encountered a problem I went on the website La Leche League to try to find solutions and today I am still breastfeeding after 20 months!”
Ombeline: “I was very lucky; everything ran smoothly. Blanche suckles on demand. It is a moment of cuddling, well-being and even a good laugh. Nevertheless I sometimes found breastfeeding tiring, but surely not more so than if I was giving her a bottle. I do not think I am brave and organised enough to give her a bottle! Far too many logistics! Blanche is now a little over 19 months old and still breastfeeding. She does so much less during the week because she goes to the crèche and a little more on the weekend because then we are together. In the evening she always falls asleep at my breast and I admit that this is the only thing that I would change… I have never held back my milk from her and thus never spent a night without my daughter. Today I believe that she will stop on her own, I feel it.
On your Instagram account we found this hashtag: #jallaiteencoreetalors, why? Are people’s looks not always kind? Must we change our mentalities?
Florence: “I created the #jallaiteencoreetalors following remarks and looks that I faced after my 6 months of breastfeeding. I wanted to change society’s view of long-term breastfeeding and support women who feel isolated and overwhelmed by certain remarks or who are having difficulties with their breastfeeding. To say to them that they are not alone! French society struggles to reconcile itself with long-term breastfeeding certainly because of a lack of knowledge! Campaigns on breastfeeding advise breastfeeding for just up to 6 months. Unfortunately people rarely talk about the benefits of breastfeeding after these 6 months.”
Eve: “For my part, it was to help out other mothers because I had had lots of questions about it. I would have liked to be better advised 8 years ago for my eldest child. If I had seen other mothers using this hashtag then I would perhaps have continued breastfeeding. I think that there is a bit of judgement about it too? So, it is nice to see beautiful photos of these precious moments, which give out the message that “you see it is beautiful and precious to breastfeed even for 16 months” and “I do this no matter what anyone says”.”
Anne-Sophie: “I do not hesitate to proselytise (without reproaching those who do not!) But yes, other people’s looks or opinions are not always kind, even without any talk of long-term breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is always responsible for all ills – “Your child sleeps badly at night? It is because you are still breastfeeding. She does not want to go to the kindergarten, to leave you? It is because you are still breastfeeding.” Everything can be used to stigmatise breastfeeding and really I do not understand why. I do not judge those who do not breastfeed, why are they judging me?”
Ombeline: “It is from the account the Florence created: J’aurais pu m’appeler Marcel. And she did well to come up with it! All these photos of mums and their “big” babies are beautiful. I really like this hashtag. It makes me feel less alone, less isolated in my decision to breastfeed for longer. I do not know if people’s looks are malicious. I am lucky enough to have many kind followers on Instagram. Me “still” breastfeeding Blanche surprises people around me, it provokes questions, upsets, causes them to pull faces or even say strange things, which is sometimes annoying. I think the key to not feel judged is to not judge yourself.”
Some tips: for when we are afraid to start breastfeeding? When e have trouble? When we want to stop?
Anne-Sophie: “It is difficult to give advice on this subject. It is something very personal that really depends on the mother’s feelings, and also the father’s. Sometimes the body just does not want to. I would say that you really have to do what feels right. If you are having difficulties you need to trust yourself. As long as the baby is well, even if it does not grow much, there is no reason to stop, unless you want to. Like many things in life, it is a matter of desire. The same rule applies for when you want to stop. It is almost like when you wanting to quit smoking: in order to achieve this you have to really want it. Otherwise it is complicated for the mother and baby. I had set myself the beginning of January, my daughter’s 2nd birthday, as the stopping point. But she never demanded more than exactly then! So I said to myself what is the point of forcing her weaning? As long as it is not a problem for me, I will continue. This does not prevent me from missing several days if necessary. These are very precious moments, which sometimes solve situations as well!”
Florence: “If I could give one piece of advice it is to listen to yourself and always do what is best for you and your baby! Do not lose heart. Shut your ears to those few people with malicious words and have confidence in yourself! If you have a problem I recommend the website Leche League and if you need to talk to someone you can call a lactation consultant, the website has a list of them for every region. For the mothers who want to stop breastfeeding, I advise them to do so gradually, if possible of course!”
Eve: “Do not hesitate to ask for advice from the people around you; I had a lot of messages from my Instagram followers and many of them helped me regain back my self-confidence and desire to continue breastfeeding.
The best moments from your breastfeeding experience?
Ombeline: “The best was probably our first night together at the maternity centre. Blanche was in my bed for breastfeeding and I was so scared of crushing her that I lay far away from her and she used all of her energy to drag herself towards me. At that moment I realised that I was a mother and she would always need me.”
Anne-Sophie: “Around 5/6 months, when things are established, your breasts no longer swell up because there is no longer an increase in milk production, when they have found their “normal size” – the things are at their best. You have the advantages without the disadvantages. And when the baby is growing up, it can ask for milk itself and I can also tell it no, not now, and it understands me. The relationship becomes truly bilateral. It creates a very strong bond. And the father has no less an important place important role in the story just because he does not give out a baby’s bottle! The most beautiful moments are without a doubt in the evenings when breastfeeding, or at night, when you are in a quiet place, half asleep, just you two. Also the moments in bed in the morning… I love breastfeeding because it is simple, natural and easy. Without any fuss. Sweet. Life as I want it.”
Eve: “Our favourite time is in the morning with my baby because it is our first contact of the day, a quiet moment, just before the crazy day and all the noise that three children can make! A way of saying, hello, good day my baby!”
Florence: “Every moment of my breastfeeding is so magical!”