Friday, 18 September 2009

Breastfeeding as a parenting tool

On Fridays I volunteer at a local breastfeeding cafe. I used to do that in London, alongside one of my tutors (I think I mentioned in my first or second post that I did a breastfeeding course with a charity). Anyhow, I have been supporting breastfeeding mums for around a year and a half and it has been one of the most satisfying things that I have ever done. I'm not discounting other volunteering work I do for the NCT, but seeing tiny babies grow into beautiful, healthy toddlers can't be topped!

After this intro, allow me to take my breastfeeding volunteer's hat off and talk about my personal experiences (as a volunteer you are discouraged to use your own experience - the aim is to provide evidence-based, unbiased information). So with my hat off, let's talk about why I still breastfeed my two year old (pictured above). If I have to explain it in a nutshell, I'd use the expression I once encountered in the BfN's newsletter and which forms the title of this blog.

How can breastfeeding be a parenting tool? First of all, let me add that Michela drinks cow milk and eats plenty of dairy,  so breastmilk is not a 'necessity'.

Tool no.1: if she is naughty and I am running out of patience,  I say that I will give the breastmilk to her dad instead or even have it myself (sounds silly but it works). Of course I won't deprive her, but the threat is enough. Tool no.2: breastmilk is convenient and full of goodness. This became more apparent when we travelled across France and all the hotels had no fridges so I didn't have anywhere to store cow milk for her (I did order it in one cafe and they brought over the UHT milk, which is foul tasting to say the least). And the goodness? Well, breastmilk is packed with antibodies that fight disease - they also protect your baby from short/long-term health problems (and the mum, too, for more info click here). Well, it did work wonders for us as Michela has been to the GP twice since birth for illnesses (once for an eye infection passed on by another baby and the second time when she contracted a stomach bug). She has had colds but they don't last long and they are never serious. While I was very ill with my cough and cold she just had a little sniffle.

Let me make something clear now, I am not afraid to mention the F word (as in formula) and will not judge mothers who cannot or don't breastfeed - with my breastfeeding helper hat's and the NCT's one on, I aim to support all mums' choices. The NCT publishes a really lovely sheet called Reasons to Be Proud, which shows the benefits of even just one breastfeed for mum and baby (list goes up to 2 years of age).

Back to my theme. I have listed discipline and health and I will now add sleep aid as tool no.3. The only way to get Michela to have a daytime nap is to lure her into my bed for a breastfeed. And of course, it's very handy in the evening - no sleep routine needed. When she is gone, my partner transfers her in her bed.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had gone back to work inhouse. Well, I could have breastfed her in the mornings and/or evenings and at weekends. At this stage, whatever the frequency, the supply is there. Whether she breastfeeds once a day, three times or more, milk is made on demand.

I'm sure there are other tools to be added, but these are the main ones and they make my life easier. The WHO and Unicef recommend breastfeeding until 2 and beyond. This is crucial in countries where unsanitary conditions make formula feeding a health hazard for the babies. Don't take my word for granted, click here.

So why were mums who breastfeed toddlers and older children treated as freaks in the TV programme Extreme Breastfeeding? The reason is simple, ignorance. When Michela was a tiny baby and I saw a woman breastfeeding a toddler at a drop in for mums, I thought it was freakish. Now I'm the freak. That's poetic justice for you!

My top tips: more than tips, I'd like to recommend this site for any breastfeeding problem (it's incredibly comprehensive and it was recommended to me by my BfN tutors). For an overview of organisations that help breastfeeding mums, read; for tips on positioning and attachment, read



  2. You are doing a great job by promoting breastfeeding! I have breastfed all my kids, I don't think there is anything as good as breast milk for a baby!

    Used Medela symphony breast pump quite a lot!