Why Breastfeeding Beyond Six Months Isn’t Po...

Why Breastfeeding Beyond Six Months Isn’t Pointless

I sucked my thumb when I was a little girl. Well I actually sucked my thumb until I was 26!!

I only stopped because I was pregnant and knew it would just be wrong for me to still be doing it with my own children.

The reason I carried on for so long was because it was my most favourite thing in the world.

I think knowing how much I loved sucking my thumb has really helped me to understand why my babies have loved breastfeeding so much. My boob gives them that same comforting feeling. Yes it fed / feeds them but it is also SO much more than that.

breastfeeding beyond six months

I don’t think I realised until actually having children that breastfeeding was about so much more than providing your child with milk for them to grow. It becomes apparent within a few weeks of breastfeeding a newborn that they don’t just feed for hunger. They feed for everything and understandably it can be quite a shock when you were expecting them to follow the kind of feeding routine that bottle-fed babies have.

I breastfed Cherry for 18 months and I’m still breastfeeding Tiger now at nearly ten months. I’ve never had a feeding routine for either of them and both of them fed / feed as often as they like. I’m not going to lie, of course there are days where I feel touched out but those days really are the minority in what has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, I totally get that, but for me it just worked and if I’m honest it hasn’t just been because I felt like I was doing the best thing for my children. I also felt like I was doing the best thing for me.

Breastfeeding it really hard work for the first six months. Your boobs leak all the time, they feel engorged, you are more likely to end up with mastitis or blocked ducts, your baby can stay awake feeding for seems like the entire night sometimes, you have to spend hours on the sofa while they are having growth spurts, your baby can take a long time to feed meaning that you feel like ALL you do is feed them, you have to pull over on the side of the road during car journeys because they are screaming for the boob, you have to master feeding in public, your baby might have colic or trapped wind, they cluster feed all evening and you dream of being able to have a bath. It’s hard work and no-one can deny that.

But then after six months, in my opinion, it no longer feels like work at all, it feels easy and it becomes the most useful parenting aid out there. Here’s why:

It’s usually after six months that teeth start cutting through the gums at a rapid rate. If you had breastfed up until that point then stopped and your baby had never took a dummy then I can imagine trying to comfort them would be fairly difficult. Tiger is cutting three of his top teeth at the moment and as a result is spending a lot of time on the boob, it helps him to fall back to sleep when he’s woken up from his nap early in pain and it helps him to smile when he would otherwise be crying.

It’s also usually after six months that babies start to catch sickness bugs and other horrible virus’, breastfeeding then becomes a lifesaver. Neither of my kids have ever refused the boob and not only does it provide them with essential fluids, it helps them rest, sleep and feel comforted.

Feeds become much quicker, Tiger can drain a boob in a few minutes. This makes night-feeds easier and it also means if you are walking through Ikea and your baby decides they want some milk then a quick sit down on a tiny chair in the kids section while your toddler plays and you can be back en route to the cushion section in minutes. Yes that was me at the start of the week!

Your boobs don’t get that full feeling, unless you dramatically cut down on feeds, and after six months I no longer needed to use breast pads as my boobs stopped leaking. Leaking boobs isn’t fun so this is such a big plus point for me.

You can play games whilst feeding. Cherry loves to join in too, she will come and say funny things to Tiger while he is on the boob and he finds it hilarious. Of course we do that when he’s not on the boob too but I love the fact that he is laughing whilst doing something he loves at the same time.

Your baby can go for hours without a feed if he has to. This gives you back a bit of the freedom that you might be starting to crave. The older they get, the easier this gets as they will also be drinking from cups and eating food meaning you can even go out all day. It also means no more car stops on the side of a road or even no more feeding in public if you don’t feel confident enough to do it.

You witness very funny moments, like your baby starting to pull up your top to find your boobs. It can feel like your baby is obsessed with boobs, because they are. That’s why dummies were created, as boob replacements.

If they fall over or hurt themselves then it can comfort them in an instant.

It is a cure for EVERYTHING.

So Dr Christian Jessen. Breastfeeding beyond six months is more than just ‘fine if you are eating a healthy diet’. Breastfeeding past six months is your reward for making it that far. For all the reasons above (that have nothing to do with nutrition) it is anything but pointless but then you wouldn’t know that because you are a man who doesn’t have any children.

  1. *Applause!!* Here here!

    We had such trouble establishing BFing so by 6 months I felt like we’d only just got the hang of it. No way I was giving up then! 2 years on and we’re still at it. And I’ll tell you what, there’s no better way to stop a potential toddler meltdown right in its tracks.

  2. Polly Davies

    23 January

    well said!! I breastfed number 1 and 2 for almost 3 years each, it was the best {and easiest} thing. I loved the bond it brought us, and the fact that it could comfort them if they were ill, upset, hurt… Number 2 only breastfed for 6 months, she had terrible colic, no matter what I cut out of my diet it didn’t ease for her, she was loosing weight and really not thriving, switching to a soy formula made a huge difference – but it was such a faff, making bottles etc and not being able to comfort her.

    Extended Breastfeeding is such a great thing, I can’t believe he would suggest it is pointless after 6 months!

  3. Fiona

    23 January

    Great post! I’ve just made it to the two year mark with my daughter, and she’s not showing any signs of stopping yet. Luckily she has reduced a bit which gives me a bit more freedom to do things by myself every once in a while 🙂

  4. fritha

    23 January

    such a lovely post Jess! that guy is such a silly (must be craving some attention I’m guessing?) but I totally I agree with everything you said. I felt to that bf was so much enjoyable after 6m and we are still bf now. btw I also sucked my thumb for ages (until i was 15 i think) xx

  5. steph

    23 January

    Love, love, love this 🙂 J’s just turned one and I’m still feeding him and you’re so right, it really does feel like a reward for having got past the first 6 months! Despite the fact that I know J doesn’t ‘need’ my milk, it’s an incredibly special thing for both of us and I think I’ll see it as necessary for as long as he wants it. Xx

  6. Double Trouble

    23 January

    Awesome post, agree with everything you have said. I’m still nursing my 18 month old and it does her so much good, she nurses for comfort more often than not which can get tiring but it’s definitely more rewarding.

  7. mirari

    23 January

    i loved to read this…
    we’re still breastfeeding (or just for sleeping and/or for comfort) and my daughter’s 36months!
    you forgot to say it’s also healthy for us as it protects us from breast cancer. because… boobs are for feeding and not for a nice neckline.

  8. Lauren

    23 January

    Awesome post. My husband is about to turn 26 and he still sucks his when he is super tired. I am still bf my almost 8 month old, to sleep, to stop her crying and because she loves it. She needs it to go to sleep too. Much as I don’t want to be a part of the boob mafia I really do sometimes want to tell people how amazing the connection is and how it is normal and natural! The world averag age to stop is 4 years, so if we over here in the UK average out at 6 months for stopping then there must be parts of the world that do it so much longer. Nothing wrong with that at all!

  9. Great post. My baby is almost 9 months and I’m still feeding her. When I was pregnant I never thought how long I would breastfeed her for. Most of my friends with babies the same age have stopped or are in the process of stopping due to going back to work. I think my friends & family all expect me to switch her to formula soon but I’m not sure why I should (apart from anything else like you say it is so easy and she refuses bottles). I’m not due back at work until May when she will be 12 months. Until recently my plan was to have stopped by then as I can’t imagine going back to work and still feeding her (although I’m sure by then it would be just morning & night as she only has an afternoon one extra at present). Recently I’ve been considering carrying on past 12 months but I’m unsure (I’m only going back 3 days, and she would only need to drop one more feed so not unrealistic but I’ve never thought about going back to work and still breastfeeding). She rarely gets ill though which I can only assume is due to breastfeeding. Sorry for waffling!

  10. Carolin

    23 January

    I completely agree with you. Breastfeeding is so much more than providing food for you baby. It really helps create a special bond and it is the best comforter in the world. I fed Amy for 20 months and nothing would sooth her as much as a breastfeed…

  11. Lori

    24 January

    This is such a lovely post, unfortunately F self weaned pretty much by six months but I did love the special bond it created and he then decided he wanted a dummy! So I guess the sucking is like cat nip for kids and super soothing. Well done for you guys carrying on for so long x

  12. Lia

    24 January

    Lovely post 🙂 It was completely unprofessional of him to say that and with all things breastfeeding related, someone, somewhere is going to be upset and feel like they are doing something wrong – it’s such a shame 🙁 I’ve had nine years now FULL of breastfeeding arguments, through three pregnancies and beyond, and they have almost, always been started by someone spouting nonsense in the media – it gets me so mad!

    I really hope it doesn’t discourage people to stop before they feel the time is right for them.

  13. laura redburn

    24 January

    this is so sweet 🙂 i can’t identify in that i don’t have a child myself, but i fully support mothers who want to breastfeed longer! especially if it feels right, for both you and baby. i find it weird when people are weirded out by mothers who do it for longer than ‘normal’!

  14. Brilliant post Jess and such lovely photos. I completely agree with everything you said, I think breastfeeding is one of the most amazing things I have done too. As well as benefitting the baby I know the lovely breastfeeding hormones help me out too, snuggling down for Cait’s feeds and feeling that rush of love is such an antidote to the stressy moments of parenting a baby and a toddler, I don’t know what I’d do without it 🙂

    Lissy gave up just before she turned one, flat out refused to feed anymore (not sure if it was due to my pregnancy or anything, but I was really sad!) I am determined to try and feed Caitlyn longer.

    L x

  15. Katie

    25 January

    I love this Jess. Sometimes its hard to find a pro breastfeeding post that isn’t at all preachy or condescending but this is perfect.
    I had terrible time BF my eldest but a much better time the second time around. I stopped at around 9 months for a variety of reasons but you are right, after the first few months it was SO much easier. I actually think it helped save my sanity at times as bottles/sterilising/making up milk is hard work, and with 2 it may have pushed me over the edge 😉

  16. Circus Queen

    25 January

    Six months is when most breastfeeding mothers and babies often find their stride so it would be a shame to stop then!

  17. Carie

    25 January

    Hear hear! And beautifully put! There’s just so much more to breastfeeding than that misinformed gentleman seems to be aware of. It’s such a shame that all the media is interested in is the inflamatory extremes not the vast majority of us toddling along in the middle loving and feeding our babies the very best we can.

  18. Hannah

    5 March

    So encouraging. But also daunting. I couldn’t make it past 12 days let alone 6 month’s… For number two I want to feed long term. But I am also in the process of planning support for it this time. Any tips,advice would be gratefully received and hopefully someday soon I will be able to proudly achieve what all of you wonderful ladies have managed to achieve.

    • I think planning support is so important, I don’t think women are made aware of just how difficult and how much hard work it can be so then when it is it feels like something must be wrong. I would say to be prepared for it to take over most of your life for the first few months, it is full-on but on the plus side you get to eat more than 500 extra calories a day! Plus it’s free and for me I always found it so much easier then having to sterilise bottles etc, especially when out x

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