Popular model, television presenter, and fitness video instructor, Nell McAndrew, 35, says she is determined to let her son, Devon, self-wean in his own perfect timing. McAndrew recently told Caroline Jones why child-led weaning and nursing in public, are natural, normal, and the way she's electing to raise her son (below). Others have pointed out that McAndrew would likely not be getting as much positive attention for her natural weaning if she wasn't already a well-known, and well-liked celeb. It seems when the 'average' mom sticks up for a normal duration of human nursing, she is oft made to feel out of place in our baby-unfriendly culture. But I feel the more who speak up, the better - be they famous or not. So, thank you, Nell - on behalf of your son for giving him a natural, healthy start in life, and from the rest of us nursing toddlers in a frequently myth filled world.
Some of the mums at playgroup have told me they think it’s weird that I’m still breastfeeding my son Devon at two and a half. I get negative comments all the time, but that’s their problem. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world – and it’s so good for my son that I don’t see any reason to stop.
I would never tell other women they have to breastfeed because it’s down to individual choice. And by the same token if a mum wants to carry on breastfeeding until their child is five, six or seven that that’s fine too. But because breastfeeding beyond about a year is still so taboo, people can make you feel very uncomfortable about it.
Now if people ask why I’m still breastfeeding I say, ‘Well why not?’ Instead of having to think up an explanation to satisfy them, I think they should give me some actual proof of why it’s a bad thing. They never can.
Anyway, if it was ‘wrong’ or ‘not natural’ to breastfeed toddlers, the body wouldn’t keep making milk. When you actually talk about it to other mums you find lots of women carry on breastfeeding for longer than a year. There’s nothing odd about it.
And it really annoys me when people complain about women breastfeeding in public. They should mind their own business – I just don’t see the problem. It’s such a normal, natural thing. I always drape muslin over my shoulder for some privacy, but have breastfed everywhere, on trains, cafes – anywhere. I’ve had a few dirty looks, but no one ever asked me to move.
It’s ironic when getting your breasts out in other areas is actively encouraged – something as an underwear model I’m well aware of! But I think of my breasts in a different way now – they used be a priority which is why I had a boob job at 23 to take me from a size 34B to 34D. Now they have a different function - to feed my baby - you suddenly realize that’s really what they’re there for!
Breastfeeding in public places should be welcomed. Cafes should go over and offer breastfeeding women a glass of water to welcome them – you get really thirsty when you breastfeed! And it makes good business sense. Outside of lunchtime, it’s mums who sit around together having coffees that bring good trade.
It would be great if women could feel more comfortable. And of course breastfeeding is the perfect credit crunch solution: it’s free! With all the financial problems now, if mums want to save money they should breastfeed.
For me it was a personal choice, and not something I was forced to do – and that’s important because when you’re a new mum the last thing you need is added pressure. My mum had four children and breastfed all of us, so I was keen to do the same. It wasn’t easy at first and after four days of trying, I was ready to give up. But my health visitor was great and showed me how to get Devon to latch on properly. Nobody had told me how painful it could be though – sore, cracked nipples were something I’d never thought about. You think ‘Is there no end to this, does it not get better?’ But it does once you get over the first couple of weeks.
I didn’t plan to still be feeding Devon now but it’s ended up being the best thing for us both. You read all the books, but at the end of the day it’s about what works for you. Plus, the longer I’ve breastfed him the more I’ve found out about the benefits and that’s made me want to carry on even longer.