There is so much good done when a mother breastfeeds her child. Her milk contains all of the nutrients her baby needs, while mom’s body is bettered by a release of oxytocin, sometimes dubbed “the love hormone.” This helps her body return to normal, post-birth.
But, most importantly, breastfeeding creates a strong bond between mother and child. As her baby lays on her chest to feed, a new mom is able to spend quiet, close time with her little one before they begin eating on their own.
For most moms, breastfeeding comes to an end between three months to a year after they welcome a new son or daughter. There’s no formula for figuring out when it’s time to stop breastfeeding a child, though; it tends to come down to a mother and baby wanting to continue or not.
For 35-year-old Leanne Allerton, a mother of four from Grimsby, United Kingdom, breastfeeding her daughter, Poppy, provided many of the aforementioned sentiments. “It’s our time and it benefits her,” she said in a YouTube video. “It is just our routine and our life.”
The only perceived problem was that Leanne’s daughter was four years old and still breastfeeding in the video. And, after having built up quite a following on her YouTube channel, lots of people had plenty to say about her choices as a mom when she shared the clip. But Leanne wasn’t going to sit there and let others dictate how she would feed Poppy – she defiantly fought back instead.
For Leanne, putting her parenting tips and tricks online was nothing new. The mom of four began her YouTube career while pregnant with her first son, Franki. “I’ve vlogged for so long now,” she says in her channel profile on the website. “I’m pretty much vlogging about my life!”
Her channel has garnered her plenty of fans and followers, too. Since joining YouTube in September 2006, she’s racked up more than 21,000 subscribers. Her videos have a whopping 14,218,501 total views. Leanne covers all manner of topics from speed-cleaning a home, to splitting household chores, to the grocery hauls she makes to support her family of six.
But it would be a story about her children — along with Poppy and Franki, she also shares sons Georgie and Bobby with husband Lee — that made the most waves on her channel. On May 6, 2017, Leanne uploaded a video about her breastfeeding journey with her daughter. In it, she summed up her history with breastfeeding her sons, too.
“I thought I’d do a breastfeed update while I’m sat here,” Leanne said to the camera as she fed Poppy. “Poppy is going to be four in November. She’s a big girl,” she added with a laugh. “She likes to try and grasp any opportunity to [breastfeed] during the day when I’m sat down.”
But Leanne set a schedule for when her daughter could breastfeed, and all day long was no longer an option for the preschooler. “I make it pretty clear to her throughout the day that when she wants to be fed that bedtime is the time where we have it.”
“It’s clearly a comfort thing for her,” Leanne then said, reflecting on her daughter’s penchant for feeding. Still, the mom and daughter concurred when Leanne said, “But it’s just… it’s nice, isn’t it?” and Poppy nodded her head in agreement.
Leanne then reflected on the time she spent breastfeeding all of her children. “I think I’ve been breastfeeding for about… I think I’ve been feeding for about nine years. How crazy is that?” The time she spent breastfeeding each of her children varied greatly, too.
“I fed Franki for just over one year,” she said, tallying up the time she spent. “I fed Bobby for about two months. I fed Georgie for four years and Poppy for, so far, three and a half years.” Like many viewers, she couldn’t believe how long she had been breastfeeding her children – especially Georgie and Poppy.
“I did not ever think that I would breastfeed for this long with any of my kids,” she admitted. “I just want to follow their lead and when it’s time to stop, they’ll let me know. At the end of the day, everyone’s different. To be able to feed [Poppy] for longer as well has made it amazing, really.”
But not everyone watching the footage thought Leanne’s experiences were amazing. As the video racked up over 1.6 million views, the backlash came pouring in. The verdict? Many in the mom-of-four’s YouTube audience thought Poppy was too old to be breastfed.
Leanne told the Daily Mail that she could only take the comments in her stride. “I post breastfeeding videos when I feel like talking about things because there will always be someone out there who is going through the same thing,” she said. “You get a lot of nice suggestions but also a lot of abuse – those I tend to block and delete.”
“I think it’s absolute rubbish that breastfed children are less confident or independent,” Leanne went on, addressing the comments she received on her YouTube video. “People who say that have not experienced what we experience – I just think it helps settle kids down.”
“People say to me that Poppy relies on me too much but it’s not about that,” Leanne said in disagreement with those who questioned her parenting. “It’s about our time and it benefits her. It is just our routine and our life and it’s just the way it is.”
Rather than concede to the other side’s point of view, Leanne only went on about how much she loved her experience – and how different life would be without it. “I will miss it when Poppy and I completely stop,” she said. “It has also been a massive part of our lives and when they stop it is another part of your babies growing up.”
And, one last note to her detractors: Leanne, who still runs her YouTube channel to this day, said she felt a great sense of satisfaction for the many years she has spent breastfeeding. “It’s quite a large chunk of time,” she said. “I am quite proud of myself. I am happy that I have done it.”