Welcome to the April Carnival of Breastfeeding on the topic of "Extended Breastfeeding" hosted by Blacktating and The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. Read to the end for links to the other participants' posts.
When I started breastfeeding, I planned to go as long as my baby wanted to … but I sort of thought it would be shorter than it's turned out.
At six months, I was staunch. How silly to stop breastfeeding just because my little one might technically be ready for solids (which he wasn't really, but that's another matter).
At a year, I was determined. Why did I have to stop just because my infant was becoming a toddler or starting to speak? (Which, again, he wasn't yet, but he's caught up since…)
At a year and a half, I started feeling squeamish about nursing in public — but continued since he still needed so many frequent nummy breaks.
At two years, I started to wonder. How long exactly would he keep going? But it didn't matter. He still wanted it, and he was still a baby to me.
At three years, I was undeterred and unsurprised. It wasn't as if he had flipped a switch overnight, after all, just because he'd had a party and some cake. He still loved nummies, all day but, thankfully, increasingly less often during the night. How could I expect him to know three years old was beyond the pale of what most of his fellow citizens would consider too old to nurse?
And then I got pregnant. I had assumed, with our plans of wide spacing between our children, that I would have weaned long before I became pregnant again. And it was a long, hard decision to go ahead and try to conceive, knowing my pregnancy might affect my milk supply, my physical comfort, and therefore Mikko's ability to find comfort and nourishment at the breast.
And it has been hard — both harder and easier than I expected. I'm in my third trimester now, and breastfeeding throughout this entire pregnancy has hurt a lot more than I was bargaining for. I lost my milk early on as well — and with it, that easy supply of calories, nutrients, and antibodies it was supplying my growing and picky boy.
And there was grieving on Mikko's side, too, but not as much as I'd feared. He's found it challenging to get to sleep at night, and to stay asleep without a full tummy. He clearly missed the milk when it first disappeared, but now he's come to terms with it, and it hasn't stopped his delight in crowing, "Nummies!"
But it's still not easy. It's made me miss those days when nursing was a transfer of milky satisfaction, when it was a pleasing and comfortable way to snuggle close with my little guy, to soothe injuries and fears, to nurse him (literally) through sickness, and to lull him to sleep. It's been challenging to keep breastfeeding in the midst of the pain, and there are certainly days I look at his three-year-old face and think, It's not like you need this anyway — aren't you too old?
But he's not. He's still a nursling, and the appropriate age for one. I know, looking back, that I will never consider three years old to be mature. I'll look back at pictures of his chubby, chubby cheeks, his mop of curls, and his pert little nose and I'll know — he was still a baby, even then.
The things that have changed in this pregnancy are things that were starting to change anyway. I'm less inclined to indulge in nighttime feedings. I'm less inclined to nurse in public. As someone who is an unwavering advocate of the right to breastfeed anytime, anywhere, and as someone who believes that asking someone to eat in a restroom is gross, I have to admit — I've become a bathroom breastfeeder. I take my big little guy into restroom stalls with me so he can grab the few seconds of comfort he needs, and so I don't have to worry that people are staring at the preschooler breastfeeding from the mama who's great (oh, so, very, very great at this point) with child. And we've been trying to avoid the subject with our families, as well, so we don't have to hear any criticism.
I still believe in extended nursing (or full-term or long-term or breastfeeding past infancy, or whatever you'd like to call it), and I would stand by any parents who wanted to nurse an older child in public, or stand up to their families, or otherwise challenge the status quo — but the longer I'm at this, the less I feel like I have to be the freak in the food court, the sole example of extended nursing to a society that's not accepting of the practice. Sometimes I wish I cared less what strangers think — but then I imagine one of them saying something to my child, and hurting his feelings. And since this has happened to some extent already, I feel that keeping our nursing relationship private at this point is best for both of us.
In two months, my big baby will be four, and we will have a newborn and can begin the adventure of tandem breastfeeding. I wonder what then — will I be comfortable tandem nursing them when our families visit the new baby? Will Mikko soar back into all-day attachment with the refreshed supply of milk? Or will he wean — abruptly or gradually, soon or a long time from now? Every day brings us closer, I know, and at this point I'm still willing, in an unhurried and unworried way, to wait until he is ready, until he chooses to make the transition from nursling to not.
In the meantime, I'm looking forward to my milk coming in again after the birth. Heaven knows which of my two babies will be more ecstatic when that happens — or if I will win that competition myself.
I look forward to feeling a sharp milk letdown again, to hearing the liquid pouring from me into my babies' mouths, to having it all feel good again.
But not just for me. I look forward to it for my boy, my soon-to-be four-year-old. Who doesn't know he's "too old" to nurse. Because he's not.
Have you breastfed past infancy or plan to? What are your joys and pains of nursing into toddlerhood and beyond?
Please visit our other Carnival of Breastfeeding participants:
- Extended Breastfeeding?
- Mama Alvina @ Ahava & Amara Life Foundation: Breastfeeding Journey Continues
- Elita @ Blacktating: The Last Time That Never Was
- Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC: Old enough to ask for it
- Karianna @ Caffeinated Catholic Mama: A Song for Mama’s Milk
- Judy @ Mommy News Blog:My Favorite Moments
- Tamara Reese @ Please Send Parenting Books: Extended Breastfeeding
- Jenny @ Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: The Highs and Lows of Nursing a Toddler
- Christina @ MFOM: Natural-Term Breastfeeding
- Rebekah @ Momma’s Angel: My Sleep Breakthrough
- Suzi @ Attached at the Boob: Why I love nursing a toddler
- Claire @ The Adventures of Lactating Girl: My Hopes for Tandem Nursing
- Elisa @ blissfulE: counter cultural: extended breastfeeding
- Momma Jorje: Extended Breastfeeding, So Far!
- Stephanie Precourt @ Adventures in Babywearing: “Continued Breastfeeding”: straight from the mouths of babes
- The Accidental Natural Mama: Nurse on, Mama
- Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Gratitude for extended breastfeeding
- Nikki @ On Becoming Mommy: The Little Things
- Dr. Sarah @ Good Enough Mum: Breastfeeding for longer than a year: myths, facts and what the research really shows
- Amy @ WIC City: (Extended) Breastfeeding as Mothering
- The Artsy Mama: Why Nurse a Toddler?
- Christina @ The Milk Mama: The best thing about breastfeeding
- TopHat @ the bee in your bonnet: From the Mouths of Babes
- Beth @ Bethstedman.com: Extended Breastfeeding: To Wean Or Not To Wean
- Callista @ Callista’s Ramblings: Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding
- Amanda @ Postilius: Nursing My Toddler Keeps My Baby Close
- Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes: Tandem Nursing- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- Zoie @ Touchstone Z: Breastfeeding Flavors
- Lauren @ Hobo Mama: Same old, same old: Extended breastfeeding
- Tanya @ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Six misconceptions about extended breastfeeding
- Jona @ Breastfeedingtwins.org: Breastfeeding older twins
- Motherlove Herbal Company: Five reasons to love nursing a toddler