Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Extended breastfeeding around extended family

Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public ("NIP"). See the bottom of this post for more information.

toddler nursing extended breastfeeding

We're visiting family this summer, and I wonder how uncomfortable it will be for Mikko and me to still be breastfeeding at three years old.

I've written before about some of my discomfort at nursing in public with a toddler, and that discomfort only grows as he does. I've been the recipient of only one unfortunate remark, and I now know many people online and a couple in person who have nursed or are nursing past two years or more.

But most of the older nursing toddlers I hear about feed once or twice a day, and it can be more easily confined to the home. Mikko still, at three years old, is going strong. He would nurse all day if I were willing — sometimes I am, sometimes, increasingly, not. It's hard for me to untangle how much of my discomfort is internal, a natural winding down and a looking ahead (perhaps) to the next nursling, and how much is external, the influence of our culture that claims (wrongly, I know!) that breastfeeding a toddler is something approaching obscene. How much of it is "wanting my body back to myself," as I sometimes hear mamas say? It's not something I've strongly felt on a personal level. Mikko's so cuddly, so touch-intensive, that I can't imagine that denying him access to one body part is going to give me that much more personal space.

But when we're out at a restaurant, and the waiter's approaching, there is a part of me that tries to distract and unlatch him until the server's left again. When we're out with friends and Mikko proclaims — loudly! always so very loudly! — "Need nummies, Mama! Nummies!" — I cringe a little, wondering what they think of his demands. When I pick Mikko up from preschool, he always wants to nurse right there on the chairs by the door — he'll even point exactly in which one we should sit; and I try to put him off until we can get out to the car (even though I loathe nursing in the car, too), because I hardly want to be on display to every other parent walking through the door to pick up the preschoolers. Those preschoolers who probably all stopped breastfeeding long ago. I don't know this, but I've never seen any of them being nursed at school; no, that pleasure has been reserved for Mikko and me, the lone nursing dyad hanging out on the toy trunk or the comfy chairs over by the book shelves.

I try more delaying tactics now, with very limited success. He's not patient, not for a three-year-old, not as a three-year-old. He doesn't understand why I wouldn't feel comfortable feeding him anywhere, and what's a good way to explain this? How can I transmit a comprehension of my own discomfort without passing along the shame inherent in such squeamishness? How can I tell him "here, but not there" is acceptable to nurse without suggesting there is something dirty and private about a three-year-old on the breast? How can I work through my own hang-ups without making them his? I have to stop myself now from using language I hate, language of "You're a big boy now, and big boys don't [X]." Big boys don't cry; they don't hit; they don't get angry; they don't wet their pants; and they don't breastfeed. Because it's hogwash — big boys do all those things. And I never want him to feel ashamed for something that's natural and lovely and right, as breastfeeding is.

I don't, though, think it's against the long-term breastfeeding credo (if there were such a thing) to impose limitations. I understand when mothers talk about asking for courtesy ("don't stick your hand down my shirt in public"), set time limits (until the end of a song), set frequency limits (morning and night), practice "don't offer, don't refuse," or distract and delay. It's just — none of those tricks are working for me right now.

Mikko is determined, and stubborn, and needy. Oh, so needy! He doesn't just want breastmilk and Mama cuddling on a whim, a take-it-or-leave-it sort of thing; he really craves it, and he gets very upset when denied, even if for a minute.

I kind of laugh when people call "don't offer, don't refuse" a weaning tactic, because in my case, I don't think I've ever offered, not since those first couple newborn feeds or occasionally when I'm trying to trick him into winding down for the night — other than that, he's been more than happy to request, again and again and again.

Asking him not to pull my shirt up is an ongoing battle, along the same lines of fighting off twiddling. (Yes, I do see the combative language I'm using there, and that's accurately how I feel about it, though I wish I were more Zen.)

But it's asking him to please just wait that's always the biggest disaster. As soon as I do, it's full-on agitation. This ranges from whining to pleading with me to, most distressing, genuine weeping. Of course, when it's the latter, how can I not give in? When it's one of the former, we attract perhaps more attention than if I'd just nursed in the first place. When I've asked him to wait at preschool, I've had him throw tantruming fits where he won't leave and is half-crying and half-shouting, to the point that the teachers come over to us to see what the commotion is; I shamefacedly attempt to explain, but I'm not sure which I find more embarrassing to admit: that he's crying because he wants to breastfeed now and I don't, or that I'm still breastfeeding him in the first place.

And so I wonder what it will be like when we fly to see my family this summer — to bring this around to the post's title, when I'm now wondering if it's out of place — my apprehension about the trip was my instigation to write about this topic, but I see it's a much bigger issue in my mind than one family vacation. But, anyway, our mothers have been out to visit us the most recently, and there was no way to hide Mikko's breastfeeding habits, considering they're constant! But our other relatives haven't seen him as recently. Our brothers, in fact, haven't seen him since he was a small baby. I keep wondering — will there be conflict? Will it be overt (I'm thinking my older brother in particular, who's got a mouth on him) or passive-aggressive, whispering about us behind our backs? Am I overreacting even to worry about their possible reactions in advance?

I think, too, of our tentative plans to add another member to our family. Will Mikko have wound down and self-weaned by the time we decide? Do I want to breastfeed through pregnancy, considering how sore my breasts were the last time? Is it even possible, or will my milk dry up and force a weaning Mikko's not ready for? I always intended to let nature take its course and give Mikko his full measure of babyhood, including mama's milk, so I already feel guilty at the thought of cutting him off before his time.

So there are two warring desires in me: the desire to give Mikko his due, to allow him the time and comfort he needs to stop breastfeeding at his own pace, especially since I'm well aware of the benefits, both nutritional and emotional, to long-term breastfeeding — and the desire to please other people, which, you know, is kind of stupid.

I don't want to parent to people; I don't want to parent in line with others' expectations and narrow tolerances — or, more accurately, with my perception of them.

Today, I was breastfeeding Mikko in a restaurant with a visiting friend, who is the mother of two grown young women. Maybe because she's a mother herself, I felt comfortable broaching the topic with a little joking reference to how my parents will take it when they see he's still breastfeeding. She smiled back at me and said, "Well, as I always say, I don't know anyone who's still breastfeeding in college."

She hadn't been sitting there judging me for my poor ability to set limits, for the spoiling of my son, for my crunchy-granola excesses. She'd just seen a young boy who was still nursing, and she knew some in her own family, and it was fine.

I know, too, that underlying my friend's statement is an awareness that mothers (particularly been-there-done-that mothers) have about how quickly this time passes. I know every time I write about something that will! never! change! it does. It does, and more quickly than I imagined. I know in weeks, months, maybe a year, but not likely more, Mikko will wean, and this agony will all be a dim — and foolish — memory. I'll wonder why I worried so much about breastfeeding my preschooler — and why I cared what other people thought of it — when really it was such a short time that he nursed after all.

I think — I think — the more comfortable I can be with the idea of nursing an older toddler, and the more confident I can be, then the more everyone else will feel comfortable about it, too. I don't know for sure if that's true, but I know that's how I felt when Mikko was younger. When he was a baby, I would absolutely breastfeed anywhere, at any time, for however long and however often we wanted. I figured everyone else could like it or lump it. As he's grown older, that confidence has faltered, and I want it back.

And so I will say it here first: I breastfeed a preschooler in public. And that's OK.

Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public!

Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org anytime to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.

Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.

This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts - new articles will be posted on the following days:
July 5 - Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World
July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child
July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.
July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives
July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It


Mallory said...

I feel like I could have written this post!!!! (With slight differences, of course.) I felt much the same way. It is so hard to be a nonconformist, sometimes!

Jenny said...

It's so good to read this, because it seems to be such a simple issue for some moms. They WILL nurse wherever, and they do not care what others think. This is at least the way it appears sometimes. However, I fall into the same camp as you and I think many moms do--knowing that nursing a toddler or preschooler is right and okay, but not being the type that wants to draw a bunch of attention, start a fight, or be on the news after getting kicked out of somewhere. This is an especially difficult issue when family comes into play, and I've blogged about it before (http://babyfingers.blogspot.com/2008/12/when-your-family-doesnt-support-nursing.html). Educating people on your reasons for continuing to nurse is wonderful, but in the middle of unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning? Maybe not the best time. And I DO think the nursing mom is in the right here, but how far is she willing to go to handle it? Will it be a recurring issue if she doesn't have it out right then and there? Finally, even if she does take a strong stand against the ignorant parties, it likely still won't get her the outcome she wants. People are stubborn and dumb ideas are ingrained in them. With a 3-year-old, one must also consider the impact of the family members' negativity. Kids pick up on that stuff.

My mom told me a few weeks ago that my brother (who is known for starting trouble by talking about each of us to the others behind our backs) told my other brother he was offended when I nursed my daughter at our mom's birthday dinner at a restaurant. Ivey was only 7 months old at the time, so I can just imagine what it'll be like when she's a toddler. I have not brought the issue up with him because we have more important things going on right now, like some health issues with our father, and I know I'm not going to change his mind about breastfeeding. He knows everything, of course, because he hasn't had a kid yet. Blah.

I think there are several ways of handling this, all admirable in their own way. While I don't think any mom should be quarantined to a lonely corner, I also don't think she should feel bad if it's just not the time or place to take a stand. This same situation with a bunch of strangers in a shopping mall is much simpler, but changing someone's mind is totally different from changing the law.

Cassie said...

I love this post. I can really look up to you for breastfeeding past two. My ds is 13 months. He still nurses a lot and it's fine. I am starting to get the hand down the shirt stuff... and the tugging at my shirt. When he wants it he wants it. I wonder if he'll be like Mikko at 3. I hope I have enough confidence as you to NIP. I feel like what you said, my confidence keeps going down because 'you're not supposed to nurse past one'...
thanks for sharing this post.


Alicia said...

I totally understand where you are coming from. My older daughter is still nursing at 4 years old, though not in public since about 2.5 years. Though I didn't feel like she was too old to nurse, I started feeling like she was getting too old to do it in public. Maybe like how there is a certain age when I will change her in and out of her bathing suit right there on the beach, and then there will be an age where it's more appropriate to change her in private. So we stopped NIP when I thought that she was able to understand and deal with waiting. It also helped that she was cutting down on her nursing because of my pregnancy. Now, I limit her so that she can nurse only in bed, and that seems to work fine for her. We talk about weaning sometimes, but she still feels like she will always want mommy's milk, and it upsets her when I tell her that some day she won't.

Rebekah C said...

I appreciated this post very much. Nursing a toddler in our society is such a loaded issue. I confess that I confined my nursing anyone past age 2 to the home environments. I mean, if I was at a friends house or with a group of people I was comfortable, fine. But I set limits: the grocery store is not where we have milkies because I'm busy shopping and you can wait until we get home.

We're not having milkies at McDonald's because right now, we're eating and you're playing but when we get home, we'll sit down together and have a cuddle.

So on and so forth. I have a 3yo who is still nursing despite the fact that my milk dried up months ago. She just can't give it up yet and well, it's her call right now. But we have rules and I have been very careful not to impose MY personal issues on her. I try very hard not to let her know that other people think it's strange (especially since I have no milk!) For us it's about timing, what's going on and the fact that she doesn't really need to suckle, there is no milk anyway (and dry nursing is terribly uncomfortable for Momma).

Lindsay said...

I'm going to my brother's wedding in a couple weeks, just a couple days before my baby turns 1(How did he get so big!?) and I'm worried about this too. My extended family is unsupportive of nursing in public at any age so I'm sure they won't be thrilled about me nursing a 1year old. But I have no intention of missing my brother's wedding or things like toasts, cake-cutting, etc just because Baby is hungry! I really hope no one makes a scene about it.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Yet again, it's like Mikko and Kieran share a brain- Kieran is an avid nurser, and I feel twinges of discomfort/nervousness NIP too. I do it though, b/c I want to normalize it, but we are "discreet" by my own standards. (heh)

Anonymous said...

I love this post because it is so honest. I think we all have these struggles - for me, it was that a prior surgery had left my breasts too damaged to breastfeed, so everytime I bottle fed in public I felt like someone was going to stone me!

But you know, I think that was my own guilt and regret and sadness more than anything coming from other people.

Your little boy is lucky because his mama is willing to openly and honestly explore her feelings; that measure of self-reflection will no doubt make you a more responsive and caring parent.

Jenni said...

I felt many of those same things (my son was 2 1/2). I was newly pregnant and since my son adored nursing so much I figured I'd end up tandem nursing...but I spoke with other mothers who had done it (and also mothers who had weaned toddlers) and then thought about it a while. All the things you talked about--how he was demanding and nursing constantly, how I was starting to resent the nursing--were very true for me. The other moms I talked with said that if I weaned him he probably wouldn't remember by the time the baby came. So I made up my mind to wean--didn't do it yet, but just made up my mind--and it was a very peaceful feeling. That was what I needed to let me know that yes, it was ok to do this. Sure, it was hard for him (we did it over the course of about a month, with cutting down each nursing duration, then the frequency till it was just bedtime, then the duration again). On the other hand, I realized that continuing to nurse at that point was really hard on me--I was feeling drained (pardon the pun!) and I don't think it was just because I was pregnant. I was just ready to be done, and he was *able* to be done even though he didn't want to be. I had always thought that I'd follow child-led weaning but this was very much mother-led weaning, and yet it was still gentle and loving.
He still wanted to snuggle and pat my breasts for several more months--especially after the baby came and they were out again. The baby is 8 months old now (toddler's weaning was just over a year ago) and sometimes when I'm nursing he will come over and kiss my breast, or tell me that he "loves da nurn," but he's not upset about it. Once or twice he's asked to nurn and I let him try and he wasn't able to latch on, I guess he's forgotten. Sometimes I pump for the baby and my toddler snags the bottle and drinks it himself. That's ok too.
I guess what I'm getting at is that you should keep nursing if you want to (don't let family pressure you to wean if you're not ready) BUT, if you are ready, then even if your toddler isn't, I think it's ok at that age to put your needs up front. After all, if continuing to nurse is bringing resentment into the relationship, that's not healthy, and as good as nursing is, I don't think it can make up for the resentment. As mothers we are used to giving and giving and giving for our kids, but remember that sometimes you have to stop giving for a while so that you can fill yourself back up--because if you are empty yourself, you will have nothing to give. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn, but an important one.
((hugs)) on whatever you decide. :)

Anonymous said...

Would it comfort you if I were to say My daughter is 3 and nurses like a champ. She would be quite happy to have me sit and nurse her all day long. I too hear of other nurslings having only a few during the day. The only weaning I see is nighttime so far. BUT she added those nighttime nurses to her daytime :)

Would it also help to say I sometimes feel the same way about nursing K2 in public? I do inform her that it's ok for her, K1, Daddy and Mommy to see Mommy's Boob-e-ahs, but not ok for others. So she will place my shirt down after she is done.

At first I was shocked when K2 would state, "Mommy, I want a boo-e-ah." Then I thought, I want her to remember, It's important for her to remember. So every time she talks about it, it is validation that she does remember and it's apart of her as much as me.

Parenting is the most thought provoking process ever. Thank you for posting, because you've made so many other Mothers feel normal and safe.

eidolons said...

My almost-two-year-old is very demanding too when it comes to nursing. He goes through phases (I'm tandem nursing him and his infant brother) where he'll only nurse a few times a day - but mostly he'd just as soon be on a liquid diet. When I feel the need to tell him no, his whole world seems to just crumble. And then I feel terrible. I'm still trying to find a comfortable middle with him.

allison said...

While I do feel the instinct to tell you that you are in the right and not to worry about it, your concerns are totally valid. And while I respect your parenting principles, and I agree that often 'bad behaviour' is merely meant to communicate something, sometimes what it's communicating is that they want their way, and it's just reality that they're not always going to be able to get it. If you have decided that you're not going to nurse him until a specific time or location is reached, I think it's important to let him know that and offer him any other kind of comfort you can until that time or location is reached. This isn's ignoring his feelings or neglecting his needs -- it's teaching him something else that's important. Have you posted about that WTF scene in that movie Grown-Ups about the breastfeeding four-year-old? I immediately thought about you when I saw it (on the commercial -- I wouldn't see the movie if you hog-tied me and toothpicked my eyes open).

Kat said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with extended breastfeeding. This is one breastfeeding topic that certainly is not talked about much! While my daughter weaned at 18 months I was in the "I will let her self wean camp." However, by the time 18 months came around and she was showing less and less interest, I realized I was ready to stop. Even though we were both ready, it didn't make it easy. I struggled with the ever present mommy guilt: will she be OK, am I pushing her, I will miss it, etc, etc. But I knew it was the right time to stop. She would sometimes still ask to nurse at bedtime, but she tolerated my refusal and didn't put up a fight. I suppose if she had I may have decided it wasn't the right time to wean. But she stopped asking after about a week. I knew she had made the transition without difficulty!

This is such a tricky decision. On the one hand we want to respect our children's needs but on the other hand, we want to make sure they understand boundaries and limits. I think you will figure this out and you will know when the time is right to stop...and when that time comes, whenever that might be, I'm sure it will go smoothly :-) As for what people think, well, you can't please everyone and someone will always have something to say. So don't worry about it, exude confidence and enjoy your family visit!

Jake Aryeh Marcus said...

Absolutely been there, done that and there are no easy answers. I would say "do whatever makes you most comfortable" except you are faced with options all of which make you uncomfortable. I used to collect amusing answers to "when are you going to wean?" My all time favorite: "Until he has a girlfriend and then she can take over." But in the end you will beat yourself up about your choice no matter what it is - I beat myself up for setting limits I needed but my sons didn't want. Just know I'll support your decision. You have already given so much more than most mothers would or could. Give yourself a break.

Anonymous said...

This is sort of off topic, but I firmly believe that the feeling of discomfort that most of us get with older nurslings is natural. Most every mom I've spoken with reaches a point where they just don't WANT to nurse as much. Which doesn't mean that they don't, but there's an almost physical aversion. I suspect this is the sort of sensation that leads animals to wean in the way that they do - abruptly and without notice. I'm not advocating that we model ourselves after housecats, but I think it's useful to know that it might NOT be your hang-ups, entirely. You're not imposing it on the situation.

I can tell you that looking back, I faced a lot of anguish about all of this that disappeared when it was ready to. When my daughter didn't need to nurse as much. My son is almost 2 and I'm just entering that territory again, but I'm finding it easier this time. Knowing that so much of this is normal and temporary helps me through.

Lisa C said...

I think that if you want to give others a positive view of nursing a toddler...don't cringe when he asks. I know that's hard! But if you appear to be fine with it, then I think it sends a better message than trying to get him to wait. I'm just saying. It's not like I'm a great example of this.

Good luck nursing around your family. That's one of my biggest struggles, but only because my mom flat out tells me I can't nurse without a cover in her house, and since I don't use covers, I have to go to a separate room. It think it would help to have at least one person on your side, though.

Unknown said...

Your struggle with this gives me courage to be able to face this in the future. (I already have anxiety about how our extended families will react to long-term breastfeeding, and my baby is only 5 weeks old!) I think you're right on when you say "the more comfortable I can be with the idea of nursing an older toddler, and the more confident I can be, then the more everyone else will feel comfortable about it, too." You're doing great. =)

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for this - I could have written it nearly word-for-word myself! My 34 month old daughter is exactly like your son and I'm continuing to struggle with these feelings and issues. Thank goodness for other mothers like you who make me feel less alone!

Melodie said...

I feel like I could have written that myself. I too have trouble explaining why we can't nurse here or there or around this person. She takes my word for it but I know she's confused. I can see it on her face and it makes me so sad to feel like I need to set boundaries at all. And who for? Me or her?
Oh and the asking to wait. See yesterday's post because that's what it was allll about. It's agony to see her in uch agony, knowing that she just wants my attention, that milkies will make it all better (even though they will also ruin her ability to eat her dinner up). Oh the life with a nursing three year old. I'm glad others know it as well as I do.

Sheila said...

>sigh< Extended family can be so difficult sometimes! We just got back yesterday from our own visit to my family. The whole time it was awkward (even though my mom is still nursing my 18-month-old brother!) just because I just had no sense of how various family members would take it. With the women, I knew it was fine because they all breastfed (and my aunt is a lactation consultant too), but what about my grandpa? What about my older brother who thinks kissing in public is gross? You know?

Well, I posted my NIP post today, and already I've gotten an email from my grandma. She says she strongly believes one ought to use a blanket because "not using one is not acceptable socially." I can't say I'm surprised -- this is the same grandma who insisted I wear certain kinds of trendy clothes because people would "judge" me if I wore my own style -- but I am a little hurt, even though she did mention that "among family it's different." I keep wondering if she thought I'd crossed a line when I was at her house.

Blarg ... how come people think it's okay to judge your parenting choices just because they're related to you?

Casey said...

In your post, I think you said that you wished you didn't feel uncomfortable about your son's nursing. I think you need to be a bit gentle with yourself. Your feelings are okay and valid even if you don't necessarily want them. Doing something different than the norm is hard and sometimes uncomfortable no matter the ultimate benefit. So, just like his feelings of needing to have milk are valid so are yours.

Krista said...

I'm tandem nursing my 2.5 yo son and my 4.5 mo daughter. My toddler would nurse as often or more than my baby if I let him. And about half of me wants to let him, but the other half resents his constant nagging.

I notice myself pulling out negative words sometimes, like "tyrant", "whining", and "selfish". Almost every day I can't understand why he can't wait. I wish I was more understanding, but I don't know how to be.

But I really don't want to wean him. It's not his time, and part of me is wondering if it was such a great idea to add to my family when he need is still so great. But I tell myself that we didn't know he would still need so much, so we made the best choice we could.

I know he needs it because my milk dried up while I was pregnant and he still nursed constantly. I finally night-weaned him at 20 months because I needed sleep and he was still nursing every 1-2 hours and staying latched for 45 minutes at a time. But now that his little sister is here he has tried to revert back to night nursing. Sometimes I let him, sometimes I don't. But it's the rare morning that we get out of bed before he nurses at least three times.

It's hard around family because the older generation doesn't understand. Most of my siblings respect me, which makes it easier. But once I was nursing BuggaBoo in front of my grandma and she asked why he was still doing that. My mom quickly stepped in and assured my grandma that he didn't do it "too often." Which is a straight-out lie since she knows he nurses all the time.

I think my dad views it as spoiling, especially because he doesn't agree with our parenting practice of not spanking. He is often rude to my toddler because he acts like a toddler (*gasp!* The horror!). Whenever my son asks to nurse my dad will purposely try to distract him. Sometimes I appreciate the distraction, but I don't appreciate the intent behind it.

Look at me, rambling and rambling. I should be doing this on my own blog. I guess what I'm trying to say is you're not alone, your feelings are normal, and I don't know what to do with extended family to make you feel 100% comfortable. I don't think there is anything you can do. I try to accept it and have fun while I can.

Anonymous said...

For me nursing is an emotional experience as well as nourishing my baby, I like a quiet corner. I have 3 little'uns and I we are usually done nursing by one year, so I don't know about nursing toddlers. I do know that all of my children have to know their limits/boundaries and they may not get what they want right when they want it. If they ask for a drink of water I am not going to jump to get it. If we are not in a comfortable spot to nurse, it will wait and they will learn to be patient and not throw a fit about it. As for visiting your family, this is your choice and is really between you and your child, everyone has an opinion, but that is THEIR opinion. You are not hurting anyone, you are caring for your child.

Unknown said...

Wow, this is so me!! I have gone back and forth with my comfort of having and "older" nursling--starting at about 13 mos I felt like we were gettin past when it was socially acceptable (gag now) until I hung out with some extended nursing mamas. Now I'm nursing a 3 yr old and I go through the same mental gymnastics you are describing here. Mine still asks in public occasionally and is able to be put off until we get home (if he presses, I make it about not wanting to have my shirt up in public not about the act of nursing, but this will be confusing soon since #2 is due any day and I will be lifting up anywhere and everywhere for the infant!). But I have the same internal turmoil about WHY I care and not wanting him to pick up on any discomfort I'm feeling. Yesterday we had two big things with nursing--I asked him what mama milk tasted like and he popped off and said with such giddiness "strawberries!!" and that was such a gift to receive from him. And then after THAT VERY NURSING SESSION he walked away and asked if he was a big boy, and if he had to stop nursing now that he was a big boy and the baby would be nursing all the time. That made me so sad--I hope that thought wasn't anything he was picking up from me, and if anyone else is giving him this message Mama Bear is pissed!!! I'm sure things will be even trickier when we are out and he wants to also nurse when the baby nurses so we'll see how I handle that. All I can think of is we need to shore ourselves up with as many supportive people around us as possible so we can try and drown out that internal voice (from the external pressure or perceived pressure!) making us doubt ourselves and know that meeting the needs of our big toddlers (and our mama hearts) comes first.

Heather @ Life, Gluten Free said...

Great post. Thanks for writing this! This brings awareness and community. My daughter is 3.5 and we are still nursing. I've noticed too that I have odd feelings about it when we're around people, because I feel like they must think it is wrong. But I don't really care... it is not their opinion that matters and I am not parenting for them. I am parenting for the benefit of my daughter.

Mama Mo said...

I agree with the words of this post, but I have to tell you... the picture you included has literally changed my life! The first time I came across this post, I was struck by how comfy Mikko looked, all snuggled into your breast. He was nursing and resting, all in the same place! I loved it, and the image stuck with me. A few days ago, while I was juggling my 10 month old twin boys, trying to find a comfy position, I thought of that picture. And I figured, if Lauren can do it, so can I! So I sat one baby on each of my legs and had them sit/lean in to nurse. They turned their heads and snuggled in like champs. And now, I've manged to modify that to where we are all laying down on the bed, babies on either side of me, nursing, snuggling, and sleeping. I have to stay that way, as I'm fairly pinned down, but I don't mind napping with my warm lovely nurslings. In fact, we all get more sleep at night as I get more proficient at slinging babies. Thank you for the inspiration!

Lauren Wayne said...

Mama Mo: That is so cool! Mikko taught me almost all the positions we use. :) I'm impressed with your adaptations to tandem nursing twins and glad you're enjoying the snuggles.

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