SHE’S 46 and still breastfeeding her 22nd baby – but the mum of Britain’s biggest family says she’s finally ready to stop having kids.
That’s because she’s turning her thoughts to grandchildren instead – calculating that her mammoth brood could provide her with at least 70.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun, Sue Radford declares: “No more babies, breastfeeding and sleepless nights. It is great to be getting my body back.”
While she is still breastfeeding her youngest child, Heidie, 20 months, Sue admits she is now counting down the days until she can stop because she has finally "had enough".
"When I was pregnant with Heidie, I knew she was going to be the last,” explains Sue.
“I didn’t want to be pregnant again and so I think that is probably why I have carried on breastfeeding her for quite a long time. I wanted to savour it.
“She is 20 months now and she is still breastfeeding. I am trying to stop and I won’t feel bereft when I do as I have had enough of it now.”
'We're being careful'
Although she sounds adamant, Sue admits that she won’t be sending husband Noel, 50, to get the snip – just in case.
“We are just careful,” she says. “I am 46 now and so the chances of anything happening are slim anyway.
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"It was a joint decision to stop at 22 children and I’ve started to take some of the baby clothes to a baby bank.
“I’ve also dwindled down the prams too and I’ve only got one now. I am not upset about this. I keep thinking ‘thank goodness I am getting rid of them’. It’s time for a new stage in my life.
“I’ve been happy to be a stay-at-home mum but when Heidie goes to nursery, I will be going back to work to help Noel with our family bakery.”
Yet as Sue points out herself, there will always be the arrival of grandkids in the Radford clan if she wants a cuddle with a baby.
She has already got seven grandchildren and four step-grandchildren, but reckons she will have around 70 when all her children start families of their own.
She laughs: “I don’t think our kids will each have as many as us but even if they maybe have about three each, that is around 70!
“The great thing about being a grandmother though is you get to hand them back!”
The eldest two Radford children, Chris, 32, and Sophie, 28, who have three children each, have moved out, leaving Chloe, 26, Jack, 24, Daniel, 22, Luke, 21, Millie, 20 (who has one child), Katie, 19, James, 18, Ellie, 16, Aimee, 15, Josh, 14, Max, 13, Tillie, 11, Oscar, ten, Casper, nine, Hallie, six, Phoebe, five, Archie, four, Bonnie, three and Heidie, one, at home with Sue and Noel.
Baby no 17, Alfie, was sadly stillborn in 2014.
“We never thought when we had Chris that we would end up having 22 children, but we are very proud of what we have achieved,” admits Sue.
“And we have definitely become more laidback over the years as parents too. We were much stricter with Chris and Sophie, but we’ve learnt you can’t let things get to you!”
How Sue and Noel’s own 28-year marriage has not buckled under the strain is impressive, but she admits they do bicker like any other couple.
“Of course, we have disagreements like any one else,” she says.
“But we are still in love as we were when we first got together. A lot of people will think that many children would put a massive strain on you but we are definitely stronger.”
She says she "doesn’t dare" calculate how much the couple have spent on bringing up their big brood over the years, but Christmas alone costs £7,000 and her weekly food bill is around £400.
A Sunday fry up consisting of 48 sausages, 4 kilograms of beans and tomatoes, 24 eggs, two loaves of bread and eight litres of juice will set the couple back more than £50.
A family Mexican, meanwhile, will set them back 5kg of chicken, 1kg of cheese and four packets of tortilla wraps and they will also consume 16 pints of milk and get through 24 toilet rolls, three tubes of toothpaste and 80 yoghurts over the course of a week.
So has she ever been tempted to put a lock on the fridge to stop the kids raiding the food – especially during the home-schooling lockdowns?
“A lock would have been great,” she says, laughing as she does. “But no, I didn’t have one even though they were eating me out of house and home!
"Our food bill went up massively during that time but oh my goodness no I’ve never done the calculations on how much we spend! I wouldn’t want to go there!”
And whilst Sue has found the past 18 months of the pandemic tough, the biggest test of their family life was a recent health scare involving Noel.
After deciding to take up running again, he decided to get himself a health MOT and to his horror, discovered that if he didn’t change his lifestyle, he could face heart problems.
“I never thought for a second there would be anything wrong,” admits Sue. “He was going to do a 5k race and he thought he would get checked to see if he was fit and healthy to start running again.
"He works hard and he looks healthy. And so when the results came back, I was very shocked. But thank goodness he did.
"We’ve got a lot of children who are depending on him to be around. He is on a health kick now and he is exercising more and cutting out different foods.”
Noel’s health scare is featured in Channel 5’s new series of 22 Kids and Counting, which kicks off tonight.
Over the years their frequent TV appearances have brought the Radfords a weird kind of fame – but Sue says the past series are like treasured family albums.
She says: “We still love doing it and it’s nice to be able to have these memories. We watch some of the older programmes and we can’t believe how much the kids have changed!”
We are a normal family with more kids than normal!
And while many consider their lifestyle unusual, Sue insists there’s nothing strange about her supersized family.
She says: “We are a normal family with more kids than normal!
“We do get stopped when we are out. Normally people want to ask how to get their baby to sleep though the night! The answer is ‘you don’t really do you?! You just have to have sleepless nights'!”
But not everyone is so kind to the Radfords. When Sue recently uploaded a photograph of a new £749 Emma mattress on to her social media feed, one enraged user raged: “Disgusting waste of money, you should remember where you came from and start giving back instead of flaunting your wealth."
Sue and Noel, who have never claimed benefits and fund their family life through their bakery business, TV filming and social media work as influencers, say they try not to take any notice of the trolls.
“We don’t look at the negative comments,” adds Sue. “If we did, it would get to you. We just stay with the positives and do our thing.”
As for what the future holds now there won’t be any more baby making, Sue’s one big dream is to have no more home-schooling lockdowns.
Echoing the feelings of millions of parents across Britain, she says with a shudder: “I would hate it if we had another lockdown.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that this winter. Not only do I hate home-schooling but it’s awful for the kids and socialising too. We don’t want that again!”
22 Kids and Counting returns to Channel 5 on Wednesday 5th January.
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