Nursing into Toddlerhood – The Most Natural Thing in the World

June 21st, 2011 by Dionna | 11 Comments
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Carnival and Special Series, Compassionate Advocacy, Feed with Love and Respect, Guest Posts, Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting, Pregnancy and Birth

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Today I am happy to host a guest post by Kitty. Kitty is a recovering CPA who recently returned to work running www.HeirloomWoodenToys.com. Her children are now 16 and 13 years old, but they spent their first few years firmly attached to Mom, sharing the family bed, and playing barefoot in the mud! Here is her breastfeeding guest post, number 35 in our “Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy” series:
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Now that my kids are 16 and 13 years old, it seems like a long time ago that they were nursing babies. At the same time, it takes no effort to close my eyes and the sense memory comes flooding back, with all the emotions, physical sensations, intimacy and connection to the children.

We had lots of family support from the beginning; unusually, both my mother and mother-in-law had breastfed their kids in the 1950’s and 1960’s. We didn’t have a plan for how long it would last, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended at least one year, and that seemed like a logical time frame. Our local La Leche League group introduced us to the concept of toddlers nursing, but I have to say the idea of being able to have a conversation with a nursing child felt pretty weird to us.

So we started on this journey, and before we knew it, a year had gone by. Julia still seemed so tiny! She wasn’t even walking yet when we took her to Europe for two weeks around the time of her first birthday (joining Dad on a business trip). I certainly wasn’t about to give up the absolute best calming technique/ sleeping tonic/ snack bar/ thirst quencher I had in my mommy toolbox while out of the country!

The days and weeks went by, and it never seemed like either of us was ready to wean. She nursed less and less, but it was still so lovely to take those breaks in the middle of the day, or cozy down for a nap, or soothe her when frightened or hurt, that I really wasn’t motivated to push the issue. Motivation was just around the corner, though – when Julia was not quite two and a half, we got pregnant again.

I was open to the idea of tandem nursing, but honestly, nursing a toddler during the early months of pregnancy was so uncomfortable for me that something had to give. Julia was pretty verbal, so even at two and a half, she was able to understand that I needed a break. I told her that when the baby came, she could go right back to it if she wanted to. And in the process of figuring out other ways to get to sleep and to soothe her when she was upset, I realized that I had come to rely on nursing almost exclusively. It was really a good time to add to the toolbox, especially with another baby on the way.

John was born when Julia was three years and two months old. The diner was open again! Julia was fascinated by the process and asked to nurse a couple of times, but she had sort of forgotten how to latch on and felt funny doing it – she’d look up at me and giggle, like she was pretending to be a baby. We had some laughs about it, and she never asked again. She had moved on. I did see her “nursing” her dolls a lot that year, though!

With the second baby, I never even thought about weaning, assuming that we’d see this season of our lives through to its natural conclusion, whatever that might look like. Sure enough, during John’s third year, the nursing gradually wound down until one day I just said, “Hey Buddy, want to try going a day without?” He was willing, and we tried again the next day, and the next, and that was that.

The best part about nursing a toddler, in my experience, is that it gave each of us a chance to fully experience those very early years. Breastfeeding framed my children’s babyhood in a way that felt natural and healthy, and when it was time to move on, we were able to move on without a lot of grief – not that it wasn’t bittersweet – but we had fully completed the process and it felt right to stop.

As my children have grown, I’ve noticed that many other processes follow the same pattern. If I try to push them into something they’re not ready for, then we struggle. If I wait for them, honoring their need for a certain amount of control over their lives, things are much easier. Sometimes I’m the one who is not ready, and then I have to take a good look at myself and, if appropriate, I try to choose a path that serves my children’s need to grow over my own comfort level. This applies to potty training and sleepovers, bike riding in the neighborhood and Facebook, as well as the latest one in our house: the driver’s license. Yikes.

And was it weird to have a conversation with a child who still nurses? For me, it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

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Breastfeeding past infancy is full of laughter, joys, and heartbreaking tenderness. I am publishing a series of posts dedicated to the beauty of nursing toddlers in an effort to normalize this healthy and beneficial nursing relationship. But this isn’t just about me – I want to hear YOUR joys. If you are nursing a child who is older than one year, please contact me and tell me about your favorite moments. I will include them in the series and credit you, your site, or post it anonymously if you so desire. (This series was formerly called “The Joys of Breastfeeding a Toddler.” I changed the name to reflect the fact that we are celebrating women who breastfeed past infancy, regardless of the age of the nursling.)

11 Responses to:
"Nursing into Toddlerhood – The Most Natural Thing in the World"

  1. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    I LOVE this statement: “Breastfeeding framed my children’s babyhood in a way that felt natural and healthy”

    My thoughts exactly!

  2. gretchen   GRETCHENJACKSON

    LOVE THIS! I had NO idea going into it that I would nurse as long as I did; but it just always felt right. My Son ended up weaning due to pregnancy when he was 23 months. He may very well attempt to tandem as he still asks if/when my milk will come back. We will see what happens when baby sister arrives in 2 weeks… =)

  3. Brooke   whimsyvalentine

    So funny – I posted a similar thing on my blog today. I am so happy to see more mamas proudly nursing until their children are ready to be done, not until the doctor says to stop…

  4. What a wonderful post! Like you, I nursed my firstborn until partway through my second pregnancy. My milk dried up, and my 2.5 year old daughter stopped nursing. I was almost lost on how to comfort her as the breast was such a wonderful tool to have at all times! I thought she would surely nurse again once her brother was born, but she had forgotten how (in only 4 months). I am not worried about weaning her brother (he is 16 months old now), and I love hearing your experience that it was so easy once your son was ready.

  5. Kitty Morse   HeirloomWToys

    Sarah, I really had no idea how long it would go on! I think it was easier to stop when it “felt” like time to stop, rather than some arbitrary date on the calendar. So glad you’re loving the experience!

  6. Karyn @ kloppenmum   kloppenmum

    I fed all three of our boys into toddlerhood. One until he was nearly four. It was fabulous for bonding, incredibly convenient and a really special time in my life. Great post.

  7. MummyinProvence   mummyinprovence

    This is lovely – BiP is 14m and loves her boobie time … I have decided to let her self-wean but I am not sure how that’s going to play out. Thank you for making me realise that all my feelings are normal!

  8. Lori Ann   simplyla

    This is my very favorite type of post, I just love reading from Mamas who have been there done that… and had years since then to reflect on it!

  9. Lynda Clark

    I really loved this article as I also believe that the longer you can breastfeed a child, the healthier he or she will be and the stronger the bond between mother and child. In other cultures, it is quite common for children to nurse until 2-3 years of age and it is considered quite natural. I don’t know why in this country we look at breastfeeding in such a negative way, but I hope that more women are inspired by your post to breast feed their children as long as possible.

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