I breastfed my daughter until now, she was 2-years old and 8-months and it was beautiful. It was natural. It was authentic. It was normal.
Many women hate nursing toddlers, but people accuse women of doing so for selfish reasons. Toddlers fuss, they have teeth, and they become demanding, and frankly, women are sick and tired of having their nipples stretched, scratched, bitten, and twiddled. Many moms are ready to wean way before their child is ready, but they put their child’s needs before their own.
A breastfeeding mom is a mom who sacrifices. She sacrifices her body, her time, and her social life. She suffers persecution for being a nurturing mother.
There is no need to call breastfeeding past the age of 1 “extended.” It is not an excess, and it is arguably the best thing a mother can do for the health of her child. It is hard and frustrating to nurse a toddler, and mothers who breastfeed should be supported and not ridiculed.
But in my case, I would love to nurse my daughter until she wants and needs it.
Before she was born I had hoped that I could even breastfeed successfully, I honestly hadn’t known a single person that had. Fortunately for me, we got the hang of it right away. I didn’t know what attachment parenting was. I didn’t know what was natural and good, I just knew what was acceptable to mainstream society.
When we reached a year, I heard stories of people stopping cold turkey. I would look into the eyes of my tiny little baby one year old while she nursed happily, while she needed me, and knew that forcing her to stop breastfeeding right now would be extremely traumatic for both of us. Nursing was her nourishment and comfort and sleep-inducing magical potion. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it.
I believe that people don’t hear about women breastfeeding this long because women purposefully keep that information hidden for fear of judgment, for fear of rejection, for fear of shaming and humiliation. We, as mothers, are doing the very best we can, and to hear people say we are traumatizing our children, or abusing them, or doing it for or own satisfaction, is very disheartening, not necessarily for ourselves, but for humanity. Breastfeeding is natural. Breastfeeding full-term is natural.
I had researched and learned the benefits of breastfeeding, of healthy attachment, of child-led weaning, of respecting a child as a whole person. I decided then that I would nurse until she was done. Breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization for 2 years and beyond
Breastfeeding is best for you and your baby. We know that. There is no denying the amazing benefits.
Every day thrice a day I nurse my nearly 3-year-old to sleep.
Sometimes she doesn’t fall asleep while nursing and she can put herself to sleep, but 95% of the time she falls asleep while I’m nursing her.
I do it because it’s peaceful and it’s easy.
Because it’s what she needs from me right now.
Because I made the commitment to put her needs first.
I do it because part of the magic of breastfeeding is its ability to put babies and toddlers to sleep.
I do it because this time I have with her is so limited.
Because I don’t want to push her into independence.
I do it because it’s what she desires and I don’t want to watch her struggle.
I do it because it would crush her if I stopped.
The connection I have with her was built at the breast. I have watched her grow and physically change at the breast. I loved her from the moment I first laid my eyes on her, but I fell deeply in love with her through nursing. She comes back to me again and again because of the bond that breastfeeding built.
I am everything to her, as she is to me.
Our breastfeeding relationship has never been just about the milk. It took me about two days into motherhood to realize nursing solved everything. This continued to be true at two months, six months, one year, and beyond. Two-year-olds have huge emotions. Nursing is soothing to her soul and to mine.
I do it because it’s the most effective way for me to reconnect with her on an especially hard day.
Because sometimes my patience runs too thin.
Sometimes I don’t resist the urge to hurry her along, to help her with everything.
Sometimes my frustration gets the better of me.
Some days we clash more than we connect.
Sometimes I forget she’s just a small soul trying to learn how the world works, and where she fits into it all.
At the end of the day, when I’m lying in bed going over the day’s triumphs and defeats, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing it all wrong – if I made too many mistakes. But then I look down at my sweet tiny girl, peacefully asleep at my breast and I know without a doubt that when it comes to nursing, I got it exactly right.
One day nursing will no longer be the answer to everything, and when that day comes our relationship will change. She will need me less, and I’ll have to let her go.
But today, right now, I choose to cherish this and hold on to it as long as I can.
Whatever it is that you’re doing to help your child drift off to sleep, rest assured you’re doing it right.
If your child is unable to fall asleep without you, don’t let anyone make you feel like you’ve given your child a crutch. The nature of the relationship between a mother and her child was meant to be one of attachment. One day your child will stop needing so much from you at bedtime. We cannot force our children to need us less, we can only force them to stop asking.
Choosing to be gentle with your child is always the right choice.
Our babies won’t remember what we did or didn’t do at this age, but they will carry with them always the way we made them feel.
So nurse your toddler, hold your toddler, rock your toddler to sleep – hold them in your arms. Whatever it is you’re doing that allows your child to fall asleep embraced in your love – just keep doing that.
I promise you won’t regret it.
You know what is the best thing? When I nursing her, she looked up at me and said “I love you, mommy.” It hit me and my heart melts.