It’s not too late to relactate & reconnect

"There is no nutritional value in breastfeeding past the age of 12 months". Not only is this statement wrong (breastmilk has fantastic nutritional value for anyone who consumes it), it also implies there is no reason to breastfeed your child past the age of 12 months, which couldn't be further from the truth (the immunological benefits are vital to a child as their immune system does not fully develop until the age of six).

When I first heard the above statement, I didn't know any different, like so many other mums. I'd done a small amount of reading on the subject of breastfeeding, but it seemed "why breastfeed if it's no longer convenient, and there's perfectly good formula as a substitute". After all, aren't these the perks of a modern feminist culture, we don't have to breastfeed, we have all sorts of inventions to give us time to do other things? I even had an incredibly involved partner who was eagerly willing to take over parenting jobs whenever I wished.

Newborn Jamie
Yet as easy as I had it, it all seemed to backfire; the connection with my child dwindled, and I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. Though it happened so subtly, each day more formula instead of breastmilk, more time with other carers, and eventually I felt like a stranger to my child. I'd completely weaned him from the breast, and between daycare, and family members eager to care for him, I was barely spending any time with him anymore.

I loved my little boy dearly, but I wasn't 'in charge' as a parent. I put everyone else's opinions regarding my parenting above my own. I didn't trust my own instincts, desires and opinions, I honestly thought everyone else knew better, so I just did what everyone else told me to do. And before I knew it the motherhood I dreamed of since I was a child and had finally achieved, slipped from my fingers.

My journey out of post-natal depression and becoming 'in charge' as a parent started with a lot of research about parenting. I learnt formula is in no way 'equal' to breastmilk, the main point being it lacks the immunological benefits of breastmilk, protecting children against many illnesses and improving brain function. The skin to skin contact also helps maintain the bond between mother and child.

Things really took off when I joined in discussions with other mothers online. I heard from mothers and websites that were living and promoting my mothering dream – babywearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding well beyond 12 months, healthy vegetarian diets, non-vaccination, gentle guidance as apposed to punishment. This was the encouragement I needed; no, my parenting ideals weren't abnormal, mothers all over the world were parenting in the same way my instincts always veered towards. The support I had may have only been from strangers online, but it was enough to give me the strength to take back my relationship with my son.

After completely weaning my son at 12 months, I allowed him, now 15 months, to suckle again whenever he felt inclined, and slowly built up a steady milk supply. I looked after my son almost entirely on my own; I didn't want anyone else to look after him anymore, I wanted to enjoy him, as was always the plan, and my motherhood dream.

Toddler Jamie

This winter I have felt such pride. My boy, now 20 months, has never had any sickness past a runny nose. I have watched friends around me with their little ones continually sick, taking trips to the doctor and even hospital. I attribute my son's health entirely to his daily intake of breastmilk, and the unrivalled immunological properties it contains.

When I hear statements like "there is no nutritional value in breastfeeding past the age of 12 months", I am now educated and strong enough to stand up for myself; I don't rely on another persons judgment when it comes to the welfare of my children, and beyond any opinion I will always trust my gut.

My lesson was I must trust myself as a mother, stand up for myself in the face of opposition, and never feel guilty about putting my love for my child above anyone or anything else. There is so much parenting advice available it is mind boggling. The most important advice I can personally give is to let your love for your child be your guide to parenting, it will always steer you in the right direction.

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  1. Hey babe, great first post! I'm such a proud big sis!
    It's true that there are so many opinions out there about parenting and motherhood and so much judgement too. We each must do what feels right for us and our kids and not feel guilty about those decisions, and not judge others for choosing a different path. Afterall we're all just trying to be great parents with the very best of intentions aye. Ya won't catch me popping out the boob ever again! LOL

  2. Thanks Manda,
    So true, one size never fits all, as fantastic as our ideals might me. But whatever our situation, there is a common thread that will always see us right - our innate maturnal instincts - as long as we have the courage and support to believe in ourselves and our abilites.

  3. You are so correct. I always use my intuition now as I've learned that mum knows whats best. Thoce parents rooms at the malls are the best thing for us breastfeeding mothers :)That's G and A on the thumbnail photo. Love the blog, keep up the great work:)

  4. Thanks so much Gspeed! In my opinion and my experience, and I'm sure yours, intuition is the most important part of being a mother - it will always keep you and your family safe, well and happy. I can't stand seeing young, first time or inexperienced mums get pushed around or manipulated by those around them that they thought they could trust (especially doctors and family members). Intuition will guard you and your family from those dangers.

  5. Great post and a beautiful blog. I breastfed my first child till just was 2, when she self-weaned by kissing me and saying, 'bye bye baboo' (her word for breastfeeding). I was 20 week's pregnant at the time. My second child fed till she was 4 and I'm now 7 months into feeding my third child.

    It's interesting that you mention postpartum depression in association with weaning. With all my children I have been struck by mild depression 6 to 9 months after they were born - correlating with the introduction of solids (I also think sleep deprivation is a contributing factor). Thankfully a mild dose of anti-depressents helps me.

    All the best, Sarah

  6. Thanks so much for your compliments Sarah! And thanks for sharing your story, it's always so helpful and interesting hearing how other mum's have managed motherhood. I think you've hit the nail on the head, weaning is actually a very emotional change, something no GP or 'professional' ever bothers to tell you.

    There's a whole mixture of emotions, from grieving over losing the bond between you and your child, missing that intimate time with your child, to dealing with not being needed anymore.

    I can imagine a lot of people wouldn't understand, but the bond between mother and child can be, I would say, the strongest emotion one earth!

    So glad you've found a way through PND, you sound like a very switched on lady!

    All the best to you and your family too,