A mother who still breastfeeds her two boys, ages five and six, has said she won’t stop until they decide they’re ready, despite one son claiming he wants to be nursed until he is ten.
Sheryl Wynne, 39, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, says breastfeeding her school-age sons is ‘completely normal’ as it has strengthened a lifelong bond between them and made them ‘closer’.
The mother-of-two breastfeeds both Riley, six, and Mylo, five, before school, evenings and overnight — and even nursed them in kindergarten.
Sheryl states that “mummy milk” is the “ultimate parenting tool” because it helps calm children and comfort them when they are angry or sick.
However, Sheryl says she gets negative comments from strangers and even family members who wonder if the “way her kids behave” is because they’re still breastfed – but Sheryl states that “those are kids.”
Though she originally planned to stop breastfeeding the boys when Riley was three, she wants them to be part of the decision — and he’s said he won’t stop until he’s ten.
Sheryl, a hypnobirthing teacher and doula, said, “I’m always thinking about when I’m going to stop.
“It never felt right to end it unnecessarily. It’s what they ask for and it’s biologically normal even if it’s not in society.
“We started the conversation when Riley was three when they didn’t want any more breast milk and Riley said when he was ten and I told him there was no chance.
“The choice isn’t just mine, it’s a relationship because it’s something we do together.
‘It’s not that I don’t have a choice, often they ask for it and then I tell them to get out. I wonder if they would stay there all night.
“It has brought us closer. It’s the fact that they know they can always come to me and be comforted.”
She continued: ‘We can do that without breastfeeding, a lot of people who don’t breastfeed will still respond to that, but it’s part of my toolbox.
“It’s part of our relationship and that’s my main motivation to continue breastfeeding.”
Despite negative comments from family and friends, Sheryl sees breastfeeding as a way to connect with her sons, even comforting them in the school yard.
Sheryl said, “It’s about comfort. When they are sick they want to be there to help them calm down, but we don’t live in a society that supports that after childhood, that’s why we don’t see it.
“They want to be with me and cuddle, even when they’re not breastfeeding.
“I’ve been pretty lucky not to get negative comments from strangers, but relatives and people I know have asked me if I think I should stop.
“They wonder if my children’s behavior has anything to do with being breastfed. It’s hard work, but those are kids.
“People think they are experts in other people’s children, but I don’t do it blindly, even though I follow my instinct in many ways.”
She added: “Riley and Mylo pick up on people’s opinions. My oldest wouldn’t ask for it when we’re gone because he knows other people will see it, but he’ll do it behind closed doors, but my youngest is confident.
“Before kindergarten, Mylo would ask for mommy’s milk in the morning on the playground.
“He took me to the bank and I had to dig deep into myself. I wanted to tell him we weren’t doing it there because people could see it, but I didn’t want to pass on my concerns to him.’
Sheryl says she was determined to breastfeed Mylo because she was struggling to feed Riley after a difficult delivery.
She added that breastfeeding helped her overcome the trauma of childbirth and strengthened her bond with her sons.
Sheryl tandem fed the pair until they were too big to feed at the same time.
Sheryl said, “Breastfeeding helped me maintain that connection, and I had it in my head that I wanted to breastfeed tandem. It felt magical and encouraging to support two babies at the same time.
“I had a traumatic birth and that experience made me feel like a failure. I felt like I hadn’t done it right, so I needed the breastfeeding relationship to succeed.
“It wasn’t until I started breastfeeding Riley that I learned what it was about. It was much harder than I thought.
“Physically it wasn’t bad, but emotionally it was tough. It might have been easier if I’d known more about it.
“It’s hard to give all of yourself to this little person and not give yourself a break.
“Getting where I am today wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gone through with my healing birth with Mylo. Everything changed after that.
“When I was pregnant with Mylo I thought I wouldn’t be with Riley for much longer because the milk had dwindled, but when I got Mylo and the milk came Riley was like ‘oh wow’.
“If I felt full of milk, I would ask Riley to breastfeed and he would help with that.”
Sheryl hopes she can naturally debunk some of the myths surrounding breastfeeding, the practice of breastfeeding until the child chooses to wean.
Sheryl said, “I don’t feel like I ever made the decision to breastfeed. It’s what I always imagined and it felt very natural.
“I remember playing with dolls when I was little and pretending to breastfeed them because I thought that’s what you do and that’s where milk comes from. That’s what I wanted to do.
‘It was a really nice experience for all three of us to do that together. Riley reached out and stroked Mylo’s head or held his hand and that’s how I felt it should be and I had a lot more confidence in my own body.’