“I know some people find our choices strange. I never intended to breastfeed for so long.”
So says Samantha Williams, a mum who’s currently breastfeeding her three children – who are now five, three, and seven months old.
The 42-year-old, from Gwent, Wales, normally tandem feeds her children, so her five-year-old son, Trevor, or three-year-old daughter, Claire, will feed at the same time as her baby, Ethan.
After appearing in Sunday People newspaper, in which she spoke about her family’s extended breastfeeding ways, Williams has attracted attention from around the world.
“People think we’re weird and we’re setting our kids up to be weird. They think the normal thing is for the mum to cut the kids off at around the age of one and be done with it. I’ve been told the kids will be too attached to me for their own good,” she said.
“And some people think I’m being selfish – that I can’t let go of my babies. I ask them … [do] they really think you can force a child to breastfeed if they don’t want to? You can’t really force a child to do anything after about 18 months, let alone latch on to a breast.
“It’s their choice and they love it.”
Williams said she’s pleased to hear that the Duchess of Cambridge is breastfeeding Prince George, as she hopes it will encourage other mothers to give it a go.
In 2012, UK breastfeeding rates fell for the first time in a decade; the National Health Service (NHS) reported that 5700 fewer women initiated breastfeeding than the year earlier. Around 70 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfeed at birth, but that number is down to around only 17 per cent three months later. (Australia's rates are better at birth, when 96 per cent of babies are initially breastfed, but this falls to 61 per cent at one month of age, down to a low of 15 per cent at six months of age.)
Williams said she’d noticed a lot of benefits to breastfeeding her brood: “They are incredibly healthy. They don’t have any allergies. They have strong immune systems and none of them are overweight. If they get sick, they snap back to health quickly.”
Williams’s husband, Eddie, says he doesn’t care what others might say about extended breastfeeding; it works for their family, and that’s what counts.
“It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. If you like a food and it’s not harmful – eat it. What’s the problem?” he said.
“Trevor will occasionally come into our bedroom, he’ll see the baby breastfeeding and think, ‘I fancy a bit’. It’s not like he’s having it for breakfast, dinner and tea.
“He’s got a normal diet for a five-year-old. Sometimes he likes to do something that is really friendly and cosy and makes him feel close to his mum.
“I can’t see a single negative effect it’s had on the children … [Samantha] is raising our kids in a healthy, positive way.”
Williams said that the older children don’t breastfeed in front of others, as it seems they’ve realised others don’t do it in public. She explained that Trevor only feeds around once a week, and that he’s almost self-weaned.
The IT worker said she believes the family’s habits have done no harm to their children, and that she hopes she’s done them a lot of good.
“I would like to encourage mums to learn more about [breastfeeding] for themselves, and not to worry about society judging them for doing something that is perfectly healthy and natural,” she said.
“But I’m really proud of my family and I’m not ashamed of what we do. I hope my story can help empower mothers. I’m thinking of them, not the few silly people who will find be offended by it.”
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