By Liana Jacob
THIS BRITISH mum who proudly breastfeeds her two-year-old daughter and posts pictures on social media despite receiving cruel comments that she is ‘perverse’ for breastfeeding a grown toddler insists she is no hippy.
Instead of being involved in alternative living, mum-of-two, Michelle Emerson (33), is a civil servant from the leafy Hornchurch area of east London who began breastfeeding her daughter, Emmeline, since she was a newborn in June 2016.
She has been breastfeeding her daughter five to seven times a day and has been doing so until now; Emmeline is now twenty-five-months-old.
Despite receiving criticism on Instagram for her breastfeeding pictures, Michelle insists that she will continue breastfeeding until Emmeline is ready to stop.
She is now confident enough to breastfeed her daughter in public, whereas when she breastfed her first daughter, Ellie (12), she felt uncomfortable to do so in a social environment.
“I genuinely don’t have a plan. I’m pretty much letting Emmeline guide me. I didn’t plan on breastfeeding this long but we’re still going strong,” Michelle said.
“Breastfeeding a toddler definitely makes for some inventive feeding positions we use. But I actually feel like we’ve become pretty proficient at it, so luckily, I don’t find it any more difficult than I did when she was a newborn.
“It’s easier now in some ways, because when you are able to talk and reason with your children, you can explain why they might need to wait to feed if it’s not convenient, whereas a newborn just needs to have it unconditionally.
“I breastfeed in public now and have done since she was newborn. With my eldest I never breastfed in public at all, which I think is down to confidence.
“I was only twenty when I had her, and I didn’t know anyone else with a baby; let alone a baby that was breastfed.
“With my eldest daughter I loved breastfeeding her but was quite uncomfortable feeding in front of people I didn’t know well, so would always choose to feed at home.
“With my youngest I have felt a lot more comfortable and have always just fed as and when it was needed.
“Emmeline eats a wide variety of foods, and in terms of drinks; she will only have water and the occasional cup of cow’s milk (and sips of our tea if she can get away with it).
“It really does vary from day-to-day, but in a twenty-four-hour period she probably feeds between five to seven times.
“I have never had any negativity to my face and have actually had some positive comments (from women).
“I am very lucky that two of my close friends are also breastfeeding toddlers, so I don’t feel too unusual.
“But I have had a few comments – in my private social media messages; from people not brave enough to publicly try and shame me – along the lines of me being ‘perverse’, and only breastfeeding for myself. They get swiftly blocked and deleted.
“I’m not sure what breastfeeding has to do with anyone apart from me and my family. I am doing what I deem to be best for my daughter, and as she is happy and healthy. I’m not sure what criticism could be justified. I’m always open to discussions with people though.”
Despite being flooded with negative messages, Michelle insists on posting her pictures to show people that even a ‘normal’ person like herself chooses to breastfeed her toddler.
“I think sometimes extended breastfeeding can have a ‘hippy’ or ‘earth mother’ reputation and I am neither of those things. I want to make other women feel like they are not the only people in this position,” she said.
“I am proud of breastfeeding and believe the more images of feeding in the public areas there are, the more normal it will become, and the stigma surrounding it will be reduced.
“I would just like to add how helpful it is to have a good support group around you when breastfeeding.
“My family and my partner, Daniel’s, family have both been amazing, and I am lucky enough to have some fabulous friends who have all been incredibly supportive; whether they are breastfeeding, bottle-feeding or don’t have children.
“I am also not anti-formula feeding, and truly believe every mother has to make a decision as to what is best for her and her baby, and that isn’t really anyone else’s business.”