Extended Breastfeeding

  • Post category:Weaning
  • Reading time:7 mins read

I felt a need say what a help La Leche League was for me with my second child. We had moved to live in
China and had been there a few months when I found I was pregnant. I was almost forty years old.
I had my first baby in New Zealand and had a marvellous midwife. I only managed to feed my first
child until she was nearly four months even though I had planned to feed much longer. Without my
midwife’s help I would never have breastfed for even the four months that I did, and because I had a little bit of knowledge already that is what helped me to get started with breastfeeding my second baby in China.

Sadly in Hong Kong women do not breastfeed their babies and though the Chinese government has been
trying to encourage mothers to breastfeed their children, the nurses and doctors have no idea where to
begin and so the babies are just kept in the nurseries  and given bottles then brought in to the ward to visit their mothers! I slept with one arm on my baby in her cot beside my bed so that they couldn’t sneak her off and feed her. I couldn’t speak the language and was the only white woman in the hospital so with my being the only one in the ward breastfeeding my baby I was a bit of a freak.

I was in the hospital a few days because I’d had a Caesarean. The medical and nursing help for me
after the birth was excellent and the nurses could not do enough for me. But if I had not had the
previous experience of breastfeeding my first baby (as short lived as it was) I would never have been
able to feed my second as there was no help for breastfeeding whatsoever in the Chinese hospitals.
If I sat up and fed my baby the nurses would come very grumpily over and roughly and loudly pull my
curtain round my bed and make tsk tsk sounds at me. It was so hot because the air conditioning vent
was outside my curtain and I spent most of my time with the curtains pulled. It was most uncomfortable.
I even had a nurse come and tell me off because I was not wearing a tightly fitted bra but I preferred not
to wear one at all under my gown because I had mastitis very severely with my first baby and thought it
best not to risk it. But of course they bind all the Chinese mothers to prevent their milk coming as
they’re not going to use it. Every morning they would come in greatly curious to see how this purely
breastfed baby was surviving and they were sure she was going to go into a decline through
Then at almost four months old (once I was home again of course) my baby decided to fuss and cry
when I tried to feed her. This is what happened with my first and I ended up giving her a bottle. My
mother in law was arriving and she was very anti-breastfeeding and I was afraid I was going to have the
same problem I had with my first. I was very upset. So I found a friend who was feeding her little boy;
they lived in a hotel near us. She was from the UK and she got information for me from La Leche
League about problems with breastfeeding.
As I remember there was some information about babies of around three to four months fussing and
beginning to get upset at the breast and the reason was that the milk supply was not enough. So I was
told to strip off and spend a day or two skin to skin in bed with my baby to get the supply going. It
worked too well and I ended up sick again with mastitis but that was much preferable to weaning my
Sarah and her daughter
In China breastfeeding in public was quite a bit of an experience too. I could be in a park with no one
about and the minute I sat down to feed I would have three or four spectators standing over me! It didn’t
bother me but my husband used to get a little put out. I did have a woman in the street approach me
and ask for help as she wanted to feed her baby and was having a real struggle. She was Chinese and
was having pressure from her family telling her that her milk was no good and the baby was starving etc.
I had the privilege of giving her some help and she did very well. I did find using a sling was a great
help. It was my best baby purchase.
I got many good suggestions from the La Leche League site and without it I never would have managed
to breastfeed my daughter for as long as I did. I fed her till she was well over two years old and had
intended to keep going until she decided she no longer wanted the breast.
Unfortunately I ended up in hospital with neurological symptoms similar to MS for a week and my
mother-in-law very kindly took my children to stay with her. She got my little one into a good night time
routine, sleeping in her own bed and without the breast so by the time I got out of hospital she was
already weaned though she did ask a few times for the breast but I had nothing there.
I tried to get back to breastfeeding but I was quite tired and was enjoying the rest so it never really got
back on track. I have been sad about that because I know it was something very beneficial for us both
and gave us a much closer relationship than I had with my first daughter. If I could have kept feeding
her for longer I certainly would still be feeding her now at the age of three and occasionally (especially if
she is unwell) she will say to me, “Mummy I really want your num nums,” and pat my shirt. But I tell her
it’s too late now and Mummy has nothing left any more. It makes me wish I was still feeding her.
Without the information from La Leche League I would never have managed to breastfeed my baby for
as long as I did because in Hong Kong the nurses and doctors didn’t have a clue – even the ones who
wanted to help and there were few of them. I would like to thank La Leche League and encourage any
other mothers who are breastfeeding their children to keep going and if they feel they would like to, to
breastfeed past the usual six months to a year. I think that extended breastfeeding is something that is
very misunderstood and very undervalued in the Western world.
By the way my friend in China who assisted me with breastfeeding is still feeding her little boy who is
almost four years old now and shows no sign of stopping yet.
There is a lot of information about getting breastfeeding started but I think the more information we can
get about the benefits and enjoyment of extended breastfeeding the better. I think La Leche League is
doing an extremely undervalued and important job.

In July 1997 Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. La
Leche League is active in Hong Kong with regular meetings and Leaders who speak; English, Chinese
or Spanish.

Find out more from the website of LLL Hong Kong – www.lllhk.org – Ed.
Reprinted from Aroha, Vol 12 No. 2, March/April 2010

Continue ReadingExtended Breastfeeding

Childfree Wedding Invite

  • Post category:Challenges
  • Reading time:13 mins read

“A good friend of mine has invited my husband and me to her wedding in a few months’ time. The invitation, however, is not extended to my 13 month old, from whom I have never been separated for more than an hour or two. My little boy is still nursing frequently and I am not at all happy about the thought of leaving him with anyone in order to attend the wedding.

I have tried to explain to my friend why I don’t want to leave my toddler but it was clear from her reaction that she didn’t understand – she appeared hurt and offended. I really do value our longstanding friendship but equally cannot contemplate separating from my toddler at this stage. What have other mothers done in similar situations?”


Janette Busch, Christchurch – Some mothers have coped with this situation by having a friend, relative or usual babysitter close by looking after the baby (in a car, at a playground, etc) and then this person contacts the mother if the child needs her. There are often quite large gaps between the ceremony and the reception that mum can visit with the child so the actual time away need not be very long.  Expect too that as long as the bride sees the mother at the ceremony and the reception at least once she will have no idea if the mother was away for a short time.

Verity Osborn, Christchurch – I have been in a similar situation with a good friend and her wedding. My little girl was 10 months old at the time and also a very frequent feeder.  My friend had been a very good friend to me over the years but had not had children and did not quite understand my need as a mum.  I met a compromise by attending the wedding with my parents in tow as my husband was a full time university student and could not assist because of exams.

I attended the ceremony while my little girl slept in the buggy and my parents took her for a walk in the surrounding suburbs and park.  I then fed her and spent some time with them before being dropped at the reception where I had a celebratory drink and some nibbles and went back to my parents who patiently waited nearby at the ready. I managed an hour or so at the reception before the wee one had just had her fill for the day.

My friend was happy to see me there and appreciated the effort I made. I felt I had made the effort for my friend and my little one was not compromised. Not the ultimate way to attend a wedding but it was the just the way it had to be at that time in my life. My parents were very obliging and realised the situation I was in and wanted to help for a few hours of one day.

Anita Edwards, Upper Hutt – For me there would have been two options and of course hindsight makes it really easy to say now!  My kids are now five and ten years old.  I am a long term breastfeeder and the five year old is still having a two minute suck at night (bar the odd night I am at a meeting).

I would have to think whether our friendship had a future, not just a past, she may understand once she has kids or she still may not.

I suffered long term post natal depression with both my children, so my early on experiences of not leaving them are somewhat skewed from that. I think that it would have been good for both me and my oldest (I got a bit more relaxed with my second child), if I had gone out occasionally and left him with people I trusted. With my PND the trouble was that I didn’t trust anyone (not even my husband!). Once, for my husband’s work function, we hired a room at the same hotel and my brother babysat for us, so I knew I could pop back easily if needed and not be missed from the event.

It’s a really tough call and if you do choose to leave your baby with someone, he won’t be damaged from the experience even if he cries for a bit and is upset, but find someone that you trust who will follow the timeframe you choose for how long to leave it till they contact you. And maybe have a few practise tries, it does get easier and the time apart from my kids always makes me appreciate them even more. Good luck with your decision, you aren’t alone in not wanting to leave your child.

Catherine Butler, Martinborough – This can be a tough one. So often, before we have children ourselves, we really don’t even begin to understand how important a part of our lives they can become, and how sometimes a seemingly independent toddler really still needs his Mum very close, to check in with for those regular feeds.

We’ve been to a few weddings with our now two year old. Fortunately she was invited and was able to be a part of the day quite happily and slept in my arms/her buggy for a lot of it, even sitting quietly at the top table for one. So if you do get the chance to broach the subject with your friend, try to find out why she doesn’t want your little one there. I know I was sort of anti-kids at my own wedding many years ago. I was afraid of having loads of screaming toddlers running round the place on my “special day”. Maybe you could reassure her of your little one’s behaviour if that is the case.

Another idea, if your friend is determined, is to have a relation or friend your little one knows well (or even your husband if there is nobody else you would feel happy leaving him with) mind him someplace nearby (e.g. hotel room) and you can go and meet them throughout the day to give him a little feed.  More recently we attended a wedding and my parents were able to come along and stay in the hotel (bit pricey, I know) and minded my little girl for the church part. We checked in with her throughout the day when she wanted to, and I nursed her to sleep in their hotel room that evening and went downstairs to continue dancing.

I appreciate this is a really difficult situation; you don’t want to offend a good friend, and yet leaving your son for a whole day-night would seem catastrophic to him. This would ideally be something your friend would come to understand, and you could come to an agreement with her as to how you could manage to attend the wedding and have your son with you (or nearby).

I really hope you can work it out. I’d also recommend wearing an outfit you can feed easily in eg, a two piece, or dress with loose top you can strategically drape a wrap or scarf over.

Alicia Poroa, Christchurch – It can be challenging when faced with the differing needs of those we care about. I experienced a similar situation with a cousins’ wedding and I did go along with my two littlies, but this was after I expressed that I could not leave the children with anyone and come to the wedding.  They decided they would rather have me at the wedding, than not and allowed the children to attend.  I expressed to my family my fear of leaving the children and the anxiety that I would face if I did leave them. I also acknowledged some of the concerns that my cousin could have regarding having the children attend.  An example of some concerns could be the cost of extra catering, children affecting the ambience of the wedding, that you may not enjoy yourself and the seating plans.

What you could do in regards to the probable concerns is assure your friend that you have thought these out and ways to overcome them. For example, having your wedding guest partner (assuming you are taking someone) take your wee one out for a walk or play when it gets too much, like during the ceremony. Or having a stroller or baby wearing sling or pack for settling and showing her that you are a talented breastfeeder who can feed inconspicuously at the best of times (if that’s a concern).

I think that if you give her a chance to think it over and acknowledge her fears, the situation will mend itself with time. It could be that she has so much to think about, the stress and overload is a barrier to making a decision that works for you all.  If this is an enduring friendship then you will get through it and still have your relationship. Another experience that I will share is that sometimes relationships change after having children as well. I hope you have a lovely time with your little one whatever the decision.

Joy Elliot, Upper Hutt – I see this as being similar to having to work. Try to take the emotion out of the situation and not be offended by your friend’s reaction by thinking about what options could work for both of you. This way you can respect your friend’s view and still love your toddler and yourself.

Maybe have a friend take your toddler to a park or fun place nearby and when they need feeding have your friend pop back with your son so you can feed him in a foyer or similar quiet place inside the wedding/reception venue. If it is at night this may be trickier. You may need to think about going to the wedding/reception and leaving early so everyone is happy. I hope you find a happy solution for all of you.

Rowena Harper, Hamilton – Gosh, what a terrible predicament. Although I can’t offer any advice from experience, perhaps you could tackle her wedding in two parts: the ceremony, where the odd squawk shouldn’t worry anyone (after all this is the bit that is theoretically open to the public in order to ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’) and the breakfast, with all the speeches, dinner and dancing.

Perhaps accept the invitation to the ceremony on behalf of you and your toddler (then you get to see the important teary bit), and decline the reception as you want to respect her wish to not have children attend.  You could also add to the reply that as much as you would love to attend, right now, circumstances dictate that you are not able to separate from your child. If she is adamant about having no children, she will accept your compromise.

Yes, she might not understand now, but good friends get over the bad times, and hopefully one day, she will be blessed with children too and might come to understand your decision.

Karen Silvers, Christchurch – I too have not wanted to be separated from my young children and found little support or empathy from others. This also applied to my desire to meet my children’s needs at night and to breastfeed them in general. One wonderful LLL Leader once told me that not wanting to leave my young children with anyone else was entirely natural – an expression of lactation aggression seen widely in the animal kingdom. What animal would leave their offspring until they can fend for themselves?

While it has been truly wondrous to watch my young children develop relationships with other adults, it never occurred to me that they should be left alone to do this until they were able to express their needs clearly. My children are both secure, strong and healthy, and I know that I’ll never regret putting them first at such an early stage of development.

My advice is to go back to your friend and tell her exactly how you are feeling and to say that it isn’t something you can really compromise on as it would go against your strong mother instinct. Acknowledge her wish to keep her wedding day child free but see if she is willing to work out a way for you to attend some or all of the celebration. Find out exactly why she is unwilling to invite children to the wedding. For instance, she might be worried that they will disrupt the service. If this is the case, you might decide not to attend or perhaps you could agree to take your toddler out if they get noisy. Other options include having someone to care for your toddler outside the ceremony venue or leaving them with family for the duration of the ceremony, and then either bringing them to the reception or returning home to them.
All the very best with this, and remember to stay true to yourself and your parenting journey.

Michelle Bennett, Christchurch – I can totally see both sides of this situation.  When I got married almost 3 years ago I asked my family and friends not to bring their children – my reasoning was that I had attended a wedding a few years ago where the children (niece & nephew of the bride) totally ran riot and diverted the attention of the guests away from the service.  My friends fortunately were fine with this.

I went to a wedding six weeks after my daughter was born and although my friends did not ask me to come without my daughter, I felt that it would be hypocritical to do so. My sister came along with me and my husband and I went into the church at the last minute and my sister just walked my daughter around in the pram.. We then went home before the reception and did her bed/feed routine and Mum minded her so we could go to the reception.

It is a difficult situation for you to be placed in but even if you did what I did and attended the service you can still see your friend get married even if you feel you can’t leave your son for the evening part of the proceedings. It is her special day as much as her decision may be hurtful for you.

Julie Moyle, Dunedin – I too faced a similar situation when invited to my own brother’s wedding. It breaks my heart to this day when I think about it.

I had to do what was right for my then baby and respectfully decline the invitation. This caused a lot of stress on our family dynamics with a major breakdown however I was simply not prepared to compromise the safety and security of our son. I pleaded for an allowance for our then eight month old, as did my parents but this fell on deaf ears.

If I was faced with the dilemma again. I would have no hesitation in making the very same decision, even with the same outcome. I am pleased to say the relationship has improved, and who knows, maybe because my brother now has children of his own?

Continue ReadingChildfree Wedding Invite

My Favorite Place

  • Post category:Sleep
  • Reading time:7 mins read

We were waiting for our food to be served at the restaurant and the children decided to pass the time with a game. One person had to guess a word chosen by the others, and the others had to give little hints.
“Mum’s favourite location” my youngest daughter said, ending the game on the first clue because everyone in my family knows the answer to that. My favourite place in the whole world is my bed. And like many mums (to the chagrin of many dads) my favourite thing to do there is to sleep. I dream of sleep, preferably in long unbroken stretches.

In retrospect, even in the years B.C. (before children) sleep and I have always had our issues. I  remember playing the game Trivial Pursuit, where one of the science questions was “How long does it take the average person to fall asleep?” It’s been years but I remember the answer because I was so shocked by it. In my pre-child existence, I always took a long time to fall asleep, about an hour. I’d run through all of the details of my day, think of alternate snappy answers to questions that I should have said, and review and rehearse upcoming interactions. But I knew that one hour was long for most people so I shaved my answer down to twenty minutes. The correct answer was seven. Seven minutes! To my childless self that was astounding.

Having children was a wakeup call for me to the womanly art of sleep management. No one knows sleep deprivation quite so intimately as the mother of an infant. No question that it’s rough in the early days.
Many a new mother makes the comment that they understand now why it’s used as a method of torture. Post-kids I could and did fall asleep in seconds. But I still could not rid myself of my love of sleeping and my addiction to large doses of it. I experienced withdrawal like a junkie, when my baby woke me up I was irritable and irrational.

Part of overcoming my addiction was education. Our culture – but not our babies – seems to view the eight hour uninterrupted sleep as a sacred right. Our babies are not designed that way, their little tummies need filling up and they have a need to check in and make sure we are close by.

I read some of Dr James McKenna’s work. He studies mother-baby sleep in his lab at Notre Dame University in the USA. His research quashes the myth of unbroken sleep. The truth is that all of us sleep in cycles that include deeper and shallower stages. Most of us do wake up in the night, but usually we go back to sleep without awareness of these wakeful periods.

Dr McKenna’s studies have shown how breastfeeding mothers and their babies who share sleep spaces develop a rhythm to their sleep patterns. Fighting this rhythm and trying to control it is what just about did me in as a mother.

Our nights would go like this:
• 11 pm; fall asleep with baby.
• It’s 1:34 and the baby is awake. Feed, change, make calculation about how much sleep I’d got…
• Jeez, it’s 3:32! More calculations. Not even two hours!
• Sheesh!! It’s 4:19!!! Mental calculator going again. Indulge in self pity for several sleep-wasting minutes. Have trouble falling back asleep because of resentment.
• For crying out loud, does that clock really say 5:22?!!!! Work self into a tizzy about how many wake ups I’d had. Try to decide if it’s worth it to even go back to sleep. On and on they went, these horrible nights,
and it was during the height of my misery that I knew I needed to do something. It was high time for some practical mother to mother support from some LLL mothers. They had some great suggestions which I’d like to share with you.

I wasn’t happy to take the advice of the sleep training set – though it seemed at the time that the world was divided into two groups, mothers who bragged that their babies slept through the night and people who advocated the cry it out method. What I needed to hear was that night time waking was normal and manageable – it just needed to be tweaked.

The best of the tweaks came from a mother who said, “You know, you could get rid of the clock in your room.” This was a stroke of genius. For me, a significant part of my night time waking issues was my own attitude about it and that clock wasn’t helping. Those nightly mathematical calculations were adding fuel to a fire that needed to be put out. Another mum gave me her tip, “Don’t change your baby’s nappy in the night. Most nappies these days are pretty absorbent and often last right through.” “If they don’t wake up fully,” another mum added, “they won’t poo.” I found that to be true for my babies also. All that changing just served to wake us both up further, so that I’d be trying to chill us both out from a full boil instead of keeping the flame low from the start. A midwife friend shared her tip of cutting two round holes in a sweatshirt to make access easier in the night also. And gradually my baby and I got unconsciously skilled at breastfeeding too, so that we could both do it almost without thinking about it, almost in our sleep.

When my second son was little, I overheard my husband bragging at what a good baby he was. “That child has slept through the night since the day he was born,” he said. Of course, this was completely untrue. The difference was that none of us was making a big deal about it; I’d developed the knack of breastfeeding in our semi-awake state. We all slept better. My bed stopped being a battleground and
sleep stopped being a contest I was determined to win.

My oldest child is 20 years old now, and I can’t count the number of unbroken nights of sleep I’ve had since his birth, and the birth of his siblings. For those of you beginning your motherhood journey, you probably don’t want to know that there haven’t been many. I am proud to say I am no longer keeping score. Though my bed still is my favourite place in the world, my children know that they are my
favourite people.

Co-Sleeping Safely
Make sure that your mattress is firm and fits tightly in the frame, avoid waterbeds, recliners, couches or armchairs.
Provide a smoke-free environment; exposure to cigarette smoke increases the baby’s risk of SIDS
Sheets should fit your mattress snugly.
Always place your baby on his back to sleep, including after breastfeeding.
No one who shares sleep with your baby should drink alcoholic beverages, take drugs, be exceptionally obese, be on medication that makes him or her less alert, or be too unwell or exhausted to be aware of the baby.
Consider keeping your young baby next to his mother only, because mothers seem to be especially aware of their babies in bed, keep an adult between any older child and your baby.
Make sure the sides of the bed are either tight against the wall or far enough away from the wall that your baby can’t become trapped. Or use a bed rail on the side of the adult bed.
Keep the bed low to the ground, maybe even on the floor, to minimise any falls.
Keep pets out of the bed the baby will be sleeping in.
Keep loose pillows or soft blankets away from your baby’s face, avoid nightclothes or hair ties with  strings or attachments that might pose a strangulation risk.
Avoid thick bedding and dressing the baby too warmly – close bodily contact increases body temperature.

Good Nights by Jay Gordon, MD and Maria Goodavage, and Sweet Dreams by Paul Fleiss, MD, taken from LLL information sheet Safe Sleep, available from LLLNZ
“Sleeping with your baby” by James McKenna, New Beginnings 2009; 26(1): 4-9

Dr Alison Barrett is an obstetrician, who still gets up in the night for babies – they are just no longer her own.


Continue ReadingMy Favorite Place

Complementary Feeding: Nutrition, Culture and Politics

Complementary Feeding: Nutrition, Culture and Politics

Written by the well-known author of The Politics of Breastfeeding, this book is based on a paper
written for the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), which works to halt the unethical
marketing of baby foods.
Gabrielle Palmer pursues her interest in the political aspects of infant feeding practice with
regards to the specific topic of complementary foods, the influences of cultural practices, market
forces, and government policy. She touches on anthropological evidence, history and cross
cultural migration, spotlighting both healthy and not so healthy aspects in a range of countries and
cultures. Much of the book deals with the politics of access and entitlement to food and water
resources. In many areas of the world food is produced but is unsuitable, is too expensive or not
available for local consumption. Nutrition support for mothers in poor and rich countries can lead
to unforeseen complications and have negative effects.
The author explains that local foods, prepared in traditional ways are usually the best first foods
for babies. She writes that commercially marketed ‘baby foods’ are unnecessary as
complementary foods and that recommending a set age for introduction of complementary foods
is not necessary. Babies will reach for family food when ready. The author also shows evidence
that cereals may not be the best first food for babies because most lack key minerals and children
may not be physiologically ready to digest cereals until around two years of age. Gabrielle Palmer
also explains that most complementary foods given to older infants and young children replace a
superior food, breast milk, with a nutritionally inferior food. There is also a very interesting
appendix on iron and iron deficiency anaemia.
This compact book of just over 100 pages is easy to read with key points summarised at the end of
each section, additional notes at the bottom of each page, appendices for fuller explanations,
extensive references and an index. There are several multicultural photos of young children
exploring complementary foods.
Although maybe not a core issues read, this book will give La Leche League families additional
support for valuing breast milk as the continuing superior infant food beyond six months of age;
for following their own babies’ cues in starting complementary foods and for using simply
prepared, local, family foods. It will also be invaluable to those interested in the politics of infant

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 13 Number 6

Complementary Feeding: Nutrition, Culture and Politics
By Gabrielle Palmer
Pinter & Martin, UK, 2011
Reviewed by Isobel Fanshawe and Lorraine Taylor, LLLNZ

Continue ReadingComplementary Feeding: Nutrition, Culture and Politics