A mother who is still breastfeeding her five-year-old daughter claims her child has avoided the usual viruses children are exposed to at school because of the extended nursing.
Emma Shardlow Hudson, 29, from Grimsby, in North East Lincolnshire, breastfeeds her daughter Alex, five, and son Ollie, two, in between other meals and even feeds them both at the same time.
Emma says she’s convinced that her daughter has dodged many of the germs that are often rife in nursery and school settings because of the ‘goodness’ of her breastmilk.
Alex, who’s in reception, usually breastfeeds once in the morning and once in the evening for comfort.
And while Emma does often get positive reactions to her breastfeeding in public, she says it is the less frequent negative ones that stick with her – with some even saying ‘urgh’ to her.
Emma Shardlow Hudson, 29, from Grimsby, in North East Lincolnshire, is practising extended breastfeeding with her daughter Alex, five, (pictured left) and son Ollie, two (pictured right)
Emma says she’s convinced that her daughter hasn’t developed the usual coughs and colds that children get because of the extended feeding regime; Alex, five, will often have milk before and after attending school
The NHS recommends all babies are exclusively breastfed until at least six months old, while 73 per cent of new mums choose to nurse from birth.
Breastmilk is thought to reduce a baby’s risk of infections, type 2 diabetes, obesity and childhood leukemia, according the NHS.
New mums also benefit from breastfeeding, which reduces their risk of breast and ovarian cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
However, by the time a baby reaches their first birthday, just one in every 200 babies is still being breastfed.
Emma said: ‘It’s one of the biggest achievements of my life for sure, being able to nurture a child with my own body.
‘It’s a completely selfless thing to do, but it’s probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life too.
‘Before Alex was born, I wasn’t sure if it was a normal thing to breastfeed for so long.
‘But it wasn’t even a conscious decision to keep feeding for so long – I just thought why stop when it’s good for them? My attitude has changed over time.
‘When she started nursery there were quite a few bugs going around and she had nothing in comparison to her classmates.
‘My kids are rarely ill, and I’m almost 100 per cent positive that that is because of the antibodies in the milk.
‘She’s always been a comforted baby and wants milk when she’s upset but I do think there’s a lot about the antibodies which is really good for her.
Pictured feeding son Alex; professional photographer Emma now gives talks to others to try and encourage mothers who are struggling to feed their children to stick with it
Emma, pictured with her husband Stuart, a chef, and Alex and Ollie; she says the hardest part of continuing to feed is that people often make negative remarks when she nurses her children in public
While the overwhelming reaction to Emma’s decision to breastfeed has been positive, she says the abusive remarks are hard to ignore
‘It’s nice for me to be able to provide that for her. My husband Stuart is quite happy with it all. He can see it helps her so he’s like whatever’s best for her and you, which is what it is.
‘He’s not really got any massive opinion on it so long as everyone is happy. Obviously he knows the benefits of it. He’s really supportive of it.’
Alex is in reception class at school but to Emma’s knowledge is the only child who still breastfeeds.
She has had more positive reactions to breastfeeing in public than negative but says that it is the negative reactions that have put some of her friends off doing it out of the house.
Emma said: ‘Some people just tut and others actually go ‘ugh’ and walk away. It’s not happened often which is amazing.
Husband Stuart supports Emma’s continued breastfeeding of his children too, saying the main thing is the family are happy
Greatest achievement: The mother-of-two says she’s proud she’s still able to nurse her children
‘I have friends who don’t breastfeed in public anymore because they’re that scared which is horrible.
‘It’s only happened three or four times in those five years but if someone is not as confident as I’ve got over time with it they would probably find it quite off-putting.
‘Apparently that old phrase ‘if you’ve got nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all’ doesn’t apply to breastfeeding.
It’s something that should be so normal and it’s what breasts are for ultimately…
‘I have had people come over when I feed the babies in their sling and people come over and go ‘oh they’re so lovely, are they sleeping?’ and then go ‘oh, are you feeding!
‘That’s lovely’ which is really nice. Then they have a nice reaction so that’s the flipside.
‘I’ve had more of those comments than the negative ones but you remember the negative ones more – they make more of an impact unfortunately.
‘It’s something that should be so normal and it’s what breasts are for ultimately.’
The breastfeeding bond is something that Emma has inherited from her own mother, who breastfed her children until each was two years old.
Professional photographer Emma said: ‘I don’t see breastfeeding as something to be embarrassed about.
According to the NHS, breast milk is thought to reduce a baby’s risk of infections, type 2 diabetes, obesity and childhood leukemia
Professional photographer Emma says she had a strong bond with her children because of the feeding but admits that she found it tough to nurse them as babies
Daughter Alex could outgrow breastfeeding soon, says Emma…but currently still enjoys nursing for comfort
‘It completely equalises everyone because all women regardless of background can all do the same thing.
‘Lots of people stop breastfeeding at three months because they get recommended to stop, which I think is a shame.
‘It’s a completely personal choice but so many people who want to breastfeed get told they can’t when, with the right support, they probably could.
‘It’s having that all-round support and the confidence to keep going that has been so important to me.’
But although she finds breastfeeding a doddle now, she struggled when she began.
Emma, who gave birth to Alex when she was 24, said: ‘I did struggle to breastfeed at first. I had wanted a home birth but it was quite traumatic and we ended up in hospital.
‘The midwives are amazing about what they do but they do not have the time to give comprehensive breastfeeding support.
‘I couldn’t get my eldest to latch on properly, and the midwife just grabbed my boob and shoved the baby onto it and it was really painful.
Alex is continuous because it’s not just for the milk, it’s for comfort too – but I do think she’ll stop soon, she’s heading that way…
‘Luckily there was a breastfeeding support team who stayed with me for more than half an hour and really helped.
‘Without that I wouldn’t have been feeding her.’
Now Emma has hosted events such as the Global Latch On which encourages women to sit together and nurse at the same time, while providing support to those struggling.
However Emma thinks that Alex will eventually stop breastfeeding on her own.
Emma said: ‘Quite a lot of children have weaned by this point but Alex has always been a massive comfort feeder though.
‘She’s continuous because it’s not just for the milk – but I do think she’ll stop soon, she’s heading that way.’