Courtesy of Risa Kerslake

The Real Reason Why I'm Still Nursing My Toddler

In the throes of new motherhood I had one major goal: To make it one year breastfeeding. When we celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, what many didn’t realize was that I was celebrating something else as well: reaching that major breastfeeding milestone. And then we just kept going. I had no idea how long I would end up nursing, but I decided to just let her lead and see where she takes us. She’s now 2 and half and our nursing relationship is still going strong.

Our sessions have decreased in quantity — I try to stick with two to three times a day. But when she’s sick, teething, or having a hard time dealing with her toddler emotions, nursing is what we do. And anyone who thinks extended breastfeeding is just the mother tending to her own selfish needs has clearly never nursed a toddler. I’ve been bitten, pinched, and grabbed at, and my ears have rung at times with the echoes of her howling when I’ve told her she can’t nurse right now. Yes, it’s not for the faint of heart.

But there are good things about it, too. We’re continuing that incredible bond and it’s our favorite way to reconnect with each other. I’m still providing her with immunity and relief from her symptoms when she doesn’t feel well. She’s able to find ways of de-escalating from a tantrum, but nursing — if the time is right — is what stops her behavior in its tracks and resets her. Overall, I still love nursing her.

And it’s going to be coming to an end sooner than both of us are ready for. Nursing is comforting, and provides her with some great nutrition, but the real reason I’m still nursing her is because I don’t know if I will ever have this again.

It took me six years to become pregnant with my daughter. We did multiple in vitro fertilizations that taxed my body to its limit. I even had to take several injections and pills a day for the entire pregnancy just so we could make it close to term. When I delivered her, my body even fell short of that too, and I spent almost a week in the hospital until we could go home together. Nursing was something my body could actually do and my daughter took to it like it was the most natural thing in the world. We had our setbacks, but breastfeeding came much easier than I was anticipating.

I’m not ready for it to be over.

Our nursing journey will need to come to an end and I’m heartbroken, because I may be ending something prematurely without even the guarantee of another baby.

My daughter is growing up and wants to do everything herself. She fights me to comb her hair and sit on the toilet, but when it’s just the two of us in a darkened room, rocking quietly in the glider, her eyes close, her hands brush over my chest and it takes her almost no time to drift off. Her nursing with me is all I have to slow down time. It’s the last of her baby things. She would rather run around and spin circles than lay in my arms. She no longer roots around and sucks on her fist and kicks her feet on a colorful mat. She’s a toddler who will be going off to preschool soon and when she nurses in my arms, I can be transported back to those early days after bringing her home. For a moment, she can be my baby again.

My husband and I are facing another infertility treatment, with doctor’s appointments, testing, and, yes, more shots. Our nursing journey will need to come to an end and I’m heartbroken, because I may be ending something prematurely without even the guarantee of another baby. It took us longer than anticipated to save up for this next treatment, but secretly, I felt relieved that I didn’t have to wean her just then.

We have only a few months left and I’m seeing no end in sight with her yet. I hate the idea of something wonderful being traded for the uncertainty of another baby. My mind wanders to the future, wondering if there will be another child, if that child will have difficulty nursing, if I’m going to regret weaning my daughter for all this.

I’m trying to live in the moment. I’m cherishing this time with my baby, who really isn’t a baby anymore, but still feels like it. I’m taking in those moments before she goes to bed, soaking up that bond we have that we don’t share with anyone else. I watch her as she falls asleep, her hand hugging my chest and I feel so lucky that I had a chance to experience this, when I thought I never would be able to.

She’s benefiting so much from my antibodies, and gets the hydration when she’s sick. Those are all reasons I give when asked why we’re still nursing. But the truth is, I want to just keep her as my baby as long as possible, for as long as she lets me.