By Alyce Collins
THIS MUM who breastfeeds her FIVE-YEAR-OLD son wants to show other people that it is normal for a child to breastfeed for as long as possible including naked in the bath because nursing an older child is easier as she can explain how to feed directly.
Stay-at-home mum, Amy Hardcastle (27) from Lancashire, UK, is encouraging more and more mothers to feel comfortable nursing their children, regardless of the child’s age as she happily breastfeeds her son Max (5) on a regular basis.
Amy hopes to break the stigma on extended breastfeeding and show critics that it’s completely natural and not something to be considered weird as it’s good for the child and encourages closeness.
When Max was first born, back in July 2013, Amy didn’t initially feel comfortable breastfeeding her newborn, however she slowly gained the confidence enough to do it in public whenever Max needed it. At six months old Amy began weaning Max onto baby food, alongside her breastmilk as she felt like that was a good length of time to feed him breastmilk exclusively.
However, Amy decided to join some local support groups and she got involved with a breastfeeding festival which educated her on the incredible benefits of breastfeeding which made Amy question why she should have to stop so soon.
“He was exclusively fed breastmilk until he was six months old, then introduced to food like any other child after that,” said Amy.
“We almost quit breastfeeding at four weeks old with latching problems, but someone helped me out just in time.
“I have breastfed Max for five years, and he breastfeeds now a few times a week, but neither of us have decided to stop nursing yet.
“I try to explain that just because something isn’t the cultural norm here, it doesn’t make it wrong. Breastfeeding makes complete sense since my body continues to produce milk to sustain and nourish my child.
“I have a keyring with little celebratory hearts for the first three years – I need to update it now.
“I had no idea about breastfeeding before I had Max. My mum and I guessed that six months was a good length of time, then I got into support groups and involved with the breastfeeding festival, so I learned more about nursing until the child weans themselves.
“Once you’ve cracked breastfeeding it’s just about going for as long as it works for both of you. Non-human primates stop breastfeeding around the time of the first permanent teeth, which is around five to six-years-old in human children.
“When he was younger I used to breastfeed in public, but now it’s rare that he would want to nurse when we’re out as he is older. It’s always at home now.
“When he was younger I only ever wore clothes that I could easily feed him in, so it was easier then.
“If breastfeeding him was no longer working for me then I would stop. I chose to night wean him because I pulled muscles in my ribs from straining to feed him and lie comfortably in bed.
“I have no problem nursing during the day, so I’ll keep going until he wants to stop. I don’t have a problem continuing until he’s fully done. I have friends who were also happy to continue to carry on until the child weaned and they stopped much younger because all children are different.
“I don’t give my son breastmilk over food, if he’s hungry then he eats and if he wants to nurse then he does so. Breastmilk never stops being good for you and it’s mostly about comfort and closeness.
“It actually gets easier to breastfeed as they grow older. You don’t have to breastfeed every two hours, so I was able to start wearing more maxi dresses or clothing that aren’t breastfeeding friendly because I knew I wouldn’t need to nurse him until we got home.
“You can also talk about it with them, I can let him know if my breasts are feeling sore or if I’m feeling touched out and need to say no or ask him to wait until later.”
Amy wants to encourage others to see breastfeeding as normal and not to think that beyond a certain age it becomes wrong or weird.
After posting breastfeeding pictures on her Instagram, despite getting mostly positive feedback, Amy has received some negative comments and complaints, but she doesn’t let this affect her because she is happy to breastfeed Max for however long he wants.
“I have almost all positive comments and reactions from people on my Instagram, I hear about people gossiping and complaining about it though. But that just comes with the territory of doing something out of the ordinary,” Amy said.
“From time to time I get something nasty or aggressive come through, but I just don’t think about it too much and block it out.
“I want to normalise these things that people aren’t used to seeing and showing people that there are other ways to do things.
“Solidarity for any mums who still nurse their toddlers and children should be validated.
“As long as we are both okay with it then there’s nothing wrong with us continuing to do so.
“Objectively it’s a natural human function, but subjectively people have their opinions on it – none of which are relevant to me.
“I have a lot of support from my friends but there are people and family members who think it’s weird, and I get that. It’s okay to not be used to seeing a young child ‘still’ breastfeed, that’s why I talk about it because it does happen and it’s natural. It isn’t wrong, so I just try to normalise it.
“I don’t hate formula and I don’t judge mums who don’t breastfeed, but I do wish all of them had access to the support and information that they need to make sure they’re making fully informed choices. After that it’s up to them and what’s best for their family.
“When I was pregnant I didn’t know anything about breastfeeding or how long anyone did it for. I don’t think I had ever seen a baby being breastfed, so I try and share my story so that people can see it and decide for themselves with all the options presented to them.”
You can find out more about Amy’s breastfeeding journey by visiting her Instagram, @amy_.winter.