I wrote this post, "I am nursing a 3-year-old," last year for Code Name: Mama's Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy. A year later and a couple weeks past Mikko's fourth birthday, I'm republishing it here to say that it's still true.
Three years ago today, Sam and I were coming to terms with the new person in our lives. Three years ago today, we were eating hospital food and trying to catch some sleep after two full days in labor. Three years ago today, I was just beginning to breastfeed and was in the midst of receiving terrible advice about it.
Three years ago today, I knew I was open to breastfeeding for a long time, but I didn't know how long. I didn't see anything wrong with it, but nursing toddlers did look big to me, compared with my newborn. I imagined I'd probably be nursing still at 2 years old, but 3 seemed a little far out.
But you breastfeed day by day, not a year's leap at a time. Nursing Mikko today, at 3 years old, is different from breastfeeding him at 2 years old by only one day, one moment. He didn't become a gangly toddler overnight, so I had plenty of gradual time to adjust my vision of what a nursling looks like, each day.
When Mikko turned 1, we mutually chose to continue, even though that first birthday put us past the magical 12-month mark. Turning 2 wasn't all that different from turning 1. He still wanted to nurse, and I had no objection.
Will Mikko still be nursing next year, at 4? There is a part of me that still feels a twinge of unease about that, but I know if the time comes, and he is 3 and 364 days, it will not be any different to continue nursing him when he is 4 on the dot. We adjust our expectations, and our prejudices, and those big kids who look so huge suddenly shrink in size when it's our little baby who has reached that age.
Today at Mikko's party, there were two women there nursing their newborns. I was proud to be among them still, planting a seed that even though my toddler must look gargantuan to their newborn-attuned eyes right now, maybe as those babies gradually get bigger, the mothers will keep responding to their growing babies' need to nurse. Maybe they won't feel bad about responding, or awkward in their social circle, because they know that I'll understand: Nursing toddlers don't become nursing toddlers overnight. They start as a baby, and they grow, right under your heart.