Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Is breastfeeding the dairy free 'Baby' finally over?

BIG disclaimer: 
Sorry but I feel the need to state this at the outset, because breastfeeding is oft controversial: This post is neither a 'for' or 'against' breastfeeding post! It is what it is - a description of my own experiences which may or may not help anyone else in similar circumstances!!

Well that's it then... I think! 

I cautiously say I think I can safely say my days of breastfeeding the dairy free 'Baby' are finally over, but with 'Baby'* you never know! She was sniffing at my boobs again this morning, but I laughed and gently nudged her away. She didn't protest.

Over the last few months, the odd times she has tried (just to see if there's been anything there for her) her efforts haven't been met with any success. That said, she hasn't tried that hard and I've not encouraged her - half suspecting that if she persisted she might get somewhere!

You might be wondering what on earth I'm on about - especially if you've done the sums and worked out her age - I mean she's five and at school now. You may well be thinking:

'She can't still be breastfeeding, surely??'

Well to be honest, it's not been proper breastfeeding for some time now - just the odd suckle or two first thing in the morning whilst she's still 'coming round' from sleep. A few quick draws on the boob and she's been done! And then maybe the odd jump on my lap, when she's been tired or hurt herself and needed comfort or something like that. 

I could perhaps have got tough and stopped her earlier, but I let it drift - in the end partly as an experiment - because I was curious as to how long she would take over the process and partly because, as a hang-over from the last vestiges of her separation anxiety days. I didn't want her to feel as though she's been pushed away - that always seemed to make her anxiety worse and her behaviour more needy. These days, no-one would ever know she was ever anxious about anything - she seems so confident and sure of herself when she's out and about!! But the last vestiges still remain. If she wakes, in the middle of the night, she hates to find herself alone and creeps back into our bed!

I have to say, if you had told me that I was going to breastfeed this long a few years ago, particularly at the time I was struggling to feed my little one, I would have thought you were talking utter rubbish. Breastfeeding this long is certainly NOT what I originally intended, but then I'm not sure I ever really worked out when it was you were supposed to finish - they didn't touch on this subject, not even once at breastfeeding school!!

It's okay... I know now - it's whenever you/your little one feel ready, but why didn't they make that clear at the outset?? Where was the guidance for that?

Some of you may well think we're strange... abnormal even. You may have given up breastfeeding at three, six, nine or possibly twelve months with nary a backwards glance. Or maybe when your little one was days or even hours old. I used to think that too, before that extended breast feeder was me!!

Truth is, 'round the world, in various civilizations, breastfeeding for the first few years is actually the norm! We in the UK are the ones who are strange! And having dropped it, I kind of feel like we've lost the 'knowledge' of what to do in various situations. 

This post by a Canadian certainly opened my eyes... and had me in stitches at some points too! Another inspiring post, offering an African perspective, can be seen here.

I'm not saying it was all plain sailing - initially, when I was desperate to be able to breastfeed, it was a real struggle.

We had problems latching on, breastfeeding dairy free, there were painful infected cracks in my nipples that soon became craters. There was also a tongue tie to snip, a touch of mastitis and poor milk supply. Once all these problems were 'sorted' and I'd settled in to feeding my little one... oh, and got over the agony of needing-to-avoid-dairy, it became a normal part of life. She needed sustenance, warmth, comfort and I gave it to her. 

Later on, during weaning, when 'Baby' refused to take the alternative, (Nutramigen AA hypo-allergenic formula, in our case) I continued to breast feed, not having any idea at that stage, that various ways around this problem might exist. All I knew was that she needed calcium and that my milk could provide it for her, but I also knew that milk was a great safety net when she fell ill. Usually, when she could eat nothing else, my milk got her through and no doubt (filled with antibodies), helped her get well.

'Baby' was a hungry baby. In fact she was such a hungry baby, that I ended up switching to breastfeeding on demand to keep up my supply. And, demand she certainly did - day or night. Lack of sleep became a bit of an issue. There's no doubt that those night time feeds were a killer. She DID need them beyond six months, whatever my HV told me to the contrary. AND woe betide me, if I failed to supply! Ear splitting screaming would follow and living in a flat above a woman who had complained about the noise, before I'd even had a baby, well... I didn't like to argue the toss! 

Of course there were points where I got fed up and never thought I'd see the day where 'Baby' would come to an end! However, over time, as she needed me less, she'd ask less and I stopped offering it up so readily - especially as she got older and could have things explained. I made excuses, or said, 'Not now!' when previously (certainly when she was tiny) I'd have dropped all for a feed. 

More recently, I've had little chats with her now and then - about the fact she's such a big girl and doesn't really need it anymore. 'But I love it Mummy!' It's so yummy!' has been her protest. I still didn't push, let it lie, gave her time to absorb the information, think, decide.

Fortunately for me, The Hub has been very understanding and let me do as I thought best, and if family/friends thought it all a bit strange, at least they didn't say so to my face!

I have seen comments (usually from men) which accuse people like me of getting a cheap abnormal thrill from breastfeeding. This couldn't have been further from the truth. Although I had read that it was possible to get a 'pleasurable' feeling from breastfeeding, certainly in the early days it was anything but - I was in agony! And later on, it was just routine - what 'Baby' needed, 'Baby' got. There was nothing sexual in it for me; just the emotional pleasure that I got from being able to nurture my baby and give her what she needed.

I have seen other comments (usually from women) accusing people like me of being needy - of needing to be needed. I honestly don't think this was true either. As she got older and I realised that she really didn't need my milk any more (by this time she was happily drinking the junior version of Alpro soya milk) she just seemed to need my milk as a way to connect back with me, keep me anchored down all to herself. And I was content to let her, if she felt the need, although I didn't make any more offers.

Some deride extended breast feeding, thinking it will make the poor child needy and over-dependent on their mother, or cause them to be laughed at. Well for one thing, I've never been one for feeding in public (witness the lack of breast feeding photo here), unless I have to, and regarding the other, well, it's true that 'Baby' often prefers me when it comes to giving comfort. However, as I have been her major care-giver throughout her life so far, I don't think this is abnormal. She seems happy and well-adjusted enough - often dismissing me at the school gates, so she can go on her own little independent way. This, when some of her classmates have been clinging on to their mothers and crying! And I refuse to let it show, if I feel brushed off somewhat - it's time to let my little bird fly.

I used to worry a lot about what people would say - in case I was written off as some Earth mother hippy type (I am not, but who cares if I am). I have to say, I no longer worry about what people think. I just do what I think is best for 'Baby' and me! I think that's one advantage of having to work and even fight my way through the process of motherhood and being dairy free - I've learned to trust my instincts and stand my ground a whole lot more. 

And curiously, not being sure how I would feel, once breastfeeding was over, I find that I feel no regret, no hand wringing, no sighing for times past. I find instead that I am content that things are as they should be... 

And now that I no longer need to be dairy free for the purposes of breastfeeding, now what, for me?

Well avoiding dairy has never been about conscience or of seeking to live a 'healthier' life-style - that is a luxury for other people to consider as far as I'm concerned. I might still use almond milk and eat Coyo coconut yoghurt, as I really like them, but on the whole I've had enough of limiting my diet. I certainly would like to be able to reintroduce cow's milk back into my diet - if only to widen my choices again and not be worrying about traces. However, I have heard of mothers who have breastfed for a while finding themselves unable to tolerate cow's milk any more. I am curious to see what the end result for me will be. I think I will begin slowly, with the milk ladder, spread my wings, take my chances and see...

My only hesitations concern whether having more milk, cheese etc. in the house will lead to cross-contamination slip ups. With 'Baby' still being dairy free we don't want that! Also, up until now, it's always been her and me dairy free against the world together. I don't want her to feel stranded and... on her own - like I fear she often does at school. Maybe I'll have to be a secret dairy consumer - you know, late at night, or whilst she's at school! But really, I'm just hoping that it won't be long before she'll join me - on the other side and be able to enjoy it herself! After all, there have been some promising indications recently... and five is the age that they said it might happen!

Here's hoping!!

If you've been through the same and have any tips for me, I would love to hear from you!

* 'Baby' is clearly not a baby anymore and hasn't been for some while. She only remains 'Baby' for the purposes of this blog, where she has been known as 'Baby' from the beginning!

Related Posts:


  1. Congratulations to you both! What a wonderful journey you have been on together.

    My df little girl chose to wean on her 4th birthday last week. We didn't think it would actually happen as she loves mummy milk so much and as little brother is feeding too there is plenty of milk, but it all seems to be going surprisingly well. I am a little bit sad as it has been more of an abrupt ending than I was expecting and I'm getting far fewer cuddles than this time last week!

    No milk ladder for me as bubba also has a milk allergy along with soya and several other allergies including some we are still finding out about. However I might be able to eat tapioca now which will allow me to eat a few more of the dairy free / gluten free products.

    Good luck on this next step of your dairy free journey together - you've done an amazing job nurturing your 'baby' for all this time and letting her decide when she was ready x

    1. Thank you!

      I wasn't looking for anyone's approval with this one, but must admit I'm pleasantly surprised by the support I've received for this one - loads of great comments on our Face Book page!

      Well done you too! And for not letting it put you off doing it a second time!

      Hope you find the answers you need for your other little one!

      Big hugs!!


  2. Fascinating post! I know what you mean about 'breastfeeding school' not telling you everything- I had it in my head that at 6 months weaning time that was it- had no idea babies continued to need milk feeds for many months after first introducing solids! Much less did I have any idea how to stop when the time came at 8 months when our own dairy free baby decided she was far more interested in the world around her than me. Weeks of painful engorgement later...

    After 8 months dairy free I have found I am somewhat lactose intolerant now. It has got better, but I would recommend against leaping on a pile of cheese at the first opportunity and to reintroduce gradually - it made me very ill! Now I find cheese & yogurt etc fine but still can't drink milk. To be honest as we cook family meals the same for everyone we don't have as much dairy in our diet now to make sure baby A can eat it. Let us know how you get on!

  3. Hi Carly!

    It's interesting to hear that I'm not the only one who wishes they went into more detail at 'breastfeeding school'. I don't know whether it is just because they don't want people to be put off, but it doesn't help when you hit a problem and have no idea how to deal with it, does it?

    I'm also interested to hear that you became lactose intolerant so quickly! I had heard that it took a couple of years to lose the lactose enzyme. There are products which can apparently assist with lactose intolerance, I wonder if these might help?? I would be interested to know if you've discussed it with your dietitian.

    Will defo keep in touch with how it goes - we may be able to help each other! Thanks for being in touch!