Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why, Yes, I AM Still Breastfeeding My 2.5 Year Old-- Here's Why!

In May of last year I wrote an entry entitled "Why, Yes, I AM Still Breastfeeding My 18 Month Old-- Here's Why!" and here I am today writing a sister entry of a similar nature.  This time, I'm not going to go into the virtues of breastfeeding like I did in the last, mostly because, I know you don't need me to.  If you want to know the virtues of breastfeeding, just Google for a few minutes and you'll be able to find them all (or hell, just read that last entry I wrote!).  What I want to talk about in this entry is something a little more personal.  You see, this entry is pretty well timed given the drama that exploded last week over the most recent TIME magazine cover, featuring a young, thin, model-esque mom nursing her large almost-four-year-old.  Don't know what I mean? Here you go:

Evidently people have toddler nursing on the brain, whether they think it's total awesomesauce or they think it's the most disgusting and perverse thing they've ever seen.  It seems like a good time for me to share some of my own feelings about my own personal experience with toddler nursing.

Let me start by saying, in a lot of ways I'm a "boob nazi" and in a lot of ways I'm not.  For myself, I'm a boob nazi and always was.  I knew before Aias was born that I would nurse him, and I was certain I would go to any length to see to it that he was nursed.  Fortunately, this goal required next to no effort on my part.  My milk came in when it was supposed to, there was enough of it, Aias latched just fine and has always loved nursing, and that was that.  I pumped a bunch of milk because I was afraid of not having a supply on hand in case of whatever happening, but most of it was given away or tossed when Aias refused to drink out of a bottle.  We never had formula samples in the house or supplemented with anything, because we didn't want to. I took blessed thistle and fenugreek and made lactation cookies and all that jazz because I was hyperparanoid of not having enough of a milk supply, but within 3 months I didn't even bother with any of that, and life just went on, Aias nursing all the while.  If I'd have had supply issues or whathaveyou, who knows how this story would have changed, but this was simply my very fortunate reality.  It is for these reasons that I consider myself completely unallowed to judge anyone for their breastfeeding decisions, because I had it way too easy... I'm sure all people would breastfeed if they'd have had it as easy as I've had it.  That being said, beyond myself, the boob nazi disappears.  If someone wants to feed their kid formula, it really makes no difference to me.  If they want some information I offer it if asked, otherwise, I don't have any interest in ruining a relationship with someone I care about over what they feed their child for a few short years of the child's life.  I still boycott Nestle though, because some things are just not cool.

Now, back to toddler nursing.  Like I said, Aias started nursing right away and kept on nursing and kept on nursing... and kept on nursing.  You see, that's how toddler nursing happens: days become weeks, weeks become months, months become years, and the nursing just... doesn't stop.  It's really THAT SIMPLE.  The nursing just doesn't stop.  I think when people see a picture like the cover of that TIME magazine, it's jarring to them because they don't know that woman and they don't know her kid, all they know is BAM right before their eyes is this complete stranger looking like a model on the cover of a magazine except she just happens to have a gigantic child hanging off her boob. When you or someone you know is nursing a toddler, it's not like that AT ALL. Instead, it's subtle, it creeps up on you, and it's hard to think of it as anything but the status quo. All of a sudden the tiny baby grows and isn't so tiny anymore.  I realize if this is beyond your frame of reference and something you've not personally experienced, it probably seems really awkward, but when I see comments like "that's child abuse!" or "that kid is going to need therapy," I sort of just roll my eyes a bit.  At what point did it become child abuse, and at what point was there suddenly a pressing need to schedule future therapy sessions ? Was it completely fine on March 1st, and then March 2nd rolled around and it was suddenly not so fine anymore?  I digress.  My point here is, it's not like a parent ever has a three year old child they've never met before walk up to them and they start breast feeding them out of nowhere... this sort of thing builds gradually!

A truer symbol has never existed...

My own experience nursing a toddler has been... well, it's been a lot of things. Primarily it's been uneventful, as I've nursed him since he was born and I've never parented him (or anyone) that I wasn't nursing.  Most of the time I barely notice that it's part of my day/life.  At times it's been stressful or annoying; not wanting someone's arm down my shirt, not wanting to be touched AT ALL for a few minutes, or being aggravated and somewhat embarrassed at having someone grab at me screaming milk (particularly in public).  Many, many times it's been a life saver, for example, if he has a tantrum or gets hurt, usually nursing will calm him down. 

You know what else it has been? AWKWARD.  Yes, you heard me, it's been awkward! Let me explain.  In the area I live in, lots of people breastfeed.  I don't know if it's the norm or what, but I feel like it's not abnormal here at all.  Up until Aias turned about 18 months old, most of the people I knew were nursing their babies, even people I didn't know but saw on a regular basis (at tot gyms, the playground, etc).  Aias turned 2 in November, and even then, I knew tons of people who were still nursing their toddlers.  Then suddenly, over Christmas break, Santa appeared to have come down the chimney and brought every parent I know the gift of WEANING.  We returned from the holidays and I'm not even exaggerating, a half dozen or so of the people I see on a regular basis greeted me with "Guess what-- [insert name here] WEANED over the holidays!!!"

How did I receive this news? With SHOCK (and perhaps a TINY bit of envy).  Of course, Aias isn't ready yet, and I'm too lazy to bother forcefully weaning him (that would require way more effort than I care to bother with, not to mention the benefit of it would be minimal at this point), so he still nurses.  The thing is, he nurses ALL THE TIME! I'm serious, he nurses probably a dozen times a day still, not to mention at least 2-3 times at night.  So here I have all these people with children that are weaning, and I am still out in public with my 2 and a half year old not only nursing all the time, but showing absolutely ZERO interest in ever stopping.  So the logical part of me constantly reassures myself this is completely normal. Not only is it normal, it's healthyThis is totally ok, it's awesome, good job! Of course, the not-so-logical part of me is in the background saying get your arm out of my shirt for the love of GOD! I just want to wear a turtle neck or something!

The most awkward part of all is that now that I'm nursing a toddler, the mothers around me that aren't nursing their toddlers, or who stopped nursing their babies at a very young age, or who never nursed at all, automatically seem to assume that I'm judging them for it, even when there's no way I could possibly even KNOW their situation without them telling it to me.  I feel like every time I'm nursing Aias at a group or in a public place, someone seems to have the urge to approach me, let me know they aren't totally grossed out by what I'm doing (!) and then proceed to tell me their reasons behind not still nursing their own child, or why they stopped nursing "so early," or how breast feeding was impossible for them for reasons X,Y,Z.  It's like to them, the sight of someone nursing a toddler is like an opportunity to confess their breastfeeding "sins."  Evidently I look like a confessional box, I'm not sure.  These people seem to assume that I must be a La Leche League leader or something if I'm still nursing a toddler, and that I must be thinking horrible things about all of them. Maybe they think I'm the breastfeeding police, I don't know!  The worst part? I'm not thinking these things AT ALL.  NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT!  If someone were to tell me they gave their child all root beer after 12 months, I really wouldn't bat an eye.  Quite frankly, it's NONE of my business!  My point here is, I'm just a REGULAR parent... I'm not trying to be a super parent, or "mom enough" or whatever.  Time just passed, and he's just... never stopped nursing!  There's nothing mystical, bragworthy, or superhuman about it. 

I could go on forever, probably in a million different directions both positive and negative, but all in all, I'm ok with Aias still nursing. He's a picky eater and at least I know he's getting some nutrients in him at the end of the day from nursing and that gives me some piece of mind, and he seems to really enjoy it, so I have no desire to take it away from him against his will.  That being said, if he decided tomorrow that he wanted to wean, I'd be about 20% sad (because it would be such a huge milestone and it would mean he's such a big boy), 40% ambivalent and 40% thrilled (can you be thrilled and ambivalent at the same time??). But honestly mostly I'd probably just die of shock. 

We'll see if I'm writing a similar post to this next year.  To be continued, I suppose...


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