I knew I wanted to try to breastfeed my babies when they were born. Luckily I was able to and, as a result, they thrived. What I didn’t know is how long I thought I’d continue. My goal was a year, but after the first birthday I kept nursing. My kid started walking and talking... and asking to nurse. We got some stares, sure, but then their second birthdays came and went. And, honestly, I never felt like I should apologize for breastfeeding my 2-year-old kid. It just felt like the “natural” thing to do, so I did it.
To call breastfeeding “natural” is not accurate, though. True, moms and babies have been participating in breastfeeding since the dawn of mammals living on this planet, but I was not born knowing how to feed my infant. I had to figure it out and I needed some pointers. I took an in-hospital class for new moms in the maternity ward, where we sat around, exposing ourselves, trying to get our kids to latch on. Nothing about that felt natural. But once I got into a groove with nursing my newborn, it was like we were two puzzle pieces connecting. It eventually did feel natural. The closeness during our breastfeeding sessions just felt right. Why would I ever want it to end?
The reason to wean did present itself, though, when I entered my second trimester with my second baby. It was getting increasingly uncomfortable to nurse my toddler before bed. She transitioned from nursing to bottles and sippy cups and, as a result, never looked back. Six short months later I was breastfeeding again. And would, again, continue to do so for two years.
I didn’t know a lot of other moms who breastfed for that long, and I guess there is something surprising about someone who looks more like a child and less like a baby reaching into her mother’s shirt to try to fill up at the milk bar. But, honestly, it doesn’t matter what it looks like to others. It mattered what it felt like for me and my kid, and breastfeeding both my children way into toddlerhood didn’t interfere with any of their development or social skills.
So here’s why I refuse to apologize for breastfeeding my 2-year-old kids:
Because No One Knows What’s Better For My Child Than Me
While this tenet doesn’t necessarily apply to all parents, especially those who are abusive and/or incapable or providing adequate care for their children, it rings true for me. Whether it was maternal instinct kicking in, or just because I’m very tuned into people’s emotions, I had a good sense of when my baby was OK and when she wasn’t. Extended breastfeeding didn’t have any apparent negative effects on my toddler and she was socializing fine at daycare. Her verbal and motor skills were developing normally. She appeared to be a well-adjusted kid, albeit one who interrupted our nursing sessions occasionally to ask me questions.
Because It’s The Right Thing For Me…
While I didn’t love everything about breastfeeding — like not being in total control of my time, and feeling like I was inert when I was sitting and nursing and not being otherwise productive (luckily, I got over that one) — I knew I didn’t want to stop. Not yet, anyway. It was an easy thing to do for me and my child that kept us connected, especially since I was back to work full-time and she was with sitters and in daycare. This ritual was just for us, and I needed it, as a mom.
Because We Need To Normalize Breastfeeding
I don’t think there would be as much discussion about the proper age to wean breastfeeding children if our society would do a better job accepting breastfeeding as everyday behavior. We all eat. This is one way to do it that is nutritious, low-cost, and convenient, provided the mom doesn’t have any challenges, such as undersupply or oversupply. Breastfeeding a child, no matter the age, should not cause anyone to blink an eye. It is up to that mother to do what’s best, and it honestly doesn’t affect anyone who isn’t latching on to her.
Because My Kid Eats & Drinks Just Fine
Nothing got in the way of my children devouring solids or hydrating with water, just because they were nursing past the age of 1. I mean, how can I really compare lasagna? As older kids, they nursed for comfort and connection, not just nourishment.
Because My Kid Doesn’t Fall Apart If I’m Not There To Nurse
I was away for a week for work around my son’s first birthday. It was the longest I had been away for work and I was so stressed that he would clamor for me, missing our nursing sessions. Turns out, he was fine, and we fell back into our routine when I returned. He didn’t need to nurse, but it was something we both enjoyed doing if we could
Because I Feel Like Moms Are Always Apologizing For Being Moms
While I do feel there is less judgment of moms now than there was a decade ago when my first child was born (although, that may be a symptom of me getting older and running out of f*cks), motherhood is still something society loves to have opinions about. As a working parent, I have definitely felt I was judged, either by people who thought I was ruining my kid by being away from her all day, or colleagues who resented that I had to adjust my schedule at times to accommodate daycare pick-ups and sick children (despite me always finding a solution for getting my work done).
Well, sorry. Not sorry.
Because Breastfeeding Offers A Closeness We Actually Need
As a working parent, I treasured my time nursing my kids in the morning and the evenings. While at the office I pumped and I hated it. I stopped pumping after they turned one, though, and we could introduce cow’s milk. But they still nursed a couple of times a day… before I left for work and to end our evenings. I was gone for so much of their lives during this time. Breastfeeding provided us a way to bond. We didn’t have to do anything but enjoy the calmness and each other’s closeness.
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