I’ve got a secret, y’all. I’m still breastfeeding my 3.5 year old.
It’s okay . . . take a minute to collect yourselves. Get your smelling salts. If it makes you feel any better, three years ago I would have needed them, too.
I don’t advertise that my little man is still occasionally nursing, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It wasn’t planned AT ALL. In fact, it’s rather amusing considering that I’m a far cry from a crunchy mama. I’m cool with regular old Goldfish, fruit snacks that aren’t made from actual fruit, and the occasional Kool-Aid pouch. It never crossed my mind to make my own baby food. I wouldn’t have used cloth diapers if you paid me. I know . . . it’s pitiful. I’m working on it. (I’m not working on it.)
My nine year old wasn’t the best breastfeeder. We had lots of little issues that didn’t help — C-section, jaundice, going back to work, pumping makes me stabby — the usual. I decided to quit my job to stay home with him, but it was too late. He was used to the handy dandy bottle, and I was confident that the breast pump was the fruit of the devil.
Then Came Little Brother
When I found out that son number two was on the way, I was PSYCHED to try breastfeeding again. I was absolutely certain things would be so much easier with my second child. I’m fairly certain that I got a smidgen more than what I wished for, good people. My little bear is a NURSING MACHINE. He refused all the bottles and pacifiers ever in the world. Yes, I bought them all. No, he didn’t care. He laughs in the face of your fancy breast shaped bottles, Amazon! <<insert evil baby laugh>>
Nursing is on trend . . . IF your baby fits neatly into the crook of your arm. Misconceptions abound when it comes to breastfeeding after those first few months. Many think there is no health benefit past the first year, which is solidly incorrect. I’ve built this little man an immune system of steel and continue to shield him for as long as he nurses. I’ve heard the complaint that breastfeeding an older child is selfish and that I’m forcing him to continue. RIGHT. I would buy him a pony and two Ninja Turtles if that would help him decide to stop. I still do this because HE wants to. I want a mimosa. My favorite untruth is that nursing becomes sexual once the child gets older. I’m sorry . . . I cannot type the rest of this sentence because I am doubled over laughing and using my hands to wipe my eyes.
Here’s the thing about my secret: It’s completely okay. My baby boy nurses like it’s his job. Nursing is how he loves and likes to be loved by his mama. I have held my baby in my arms since he was a screaming newborn with the cord still attached. Each day simply bleeds into the next. At no point does a mother wake up and feel weird. People around you may feel weird. But MAMA does not. Isn’t that all that matters?
On his first birthday, he was still just a baby, and I never even thought about denying him. Then 18 months came and went. I wasn’t bothered in the least. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “Today, this is inappropriate. Yesterday was okay, but today you are too old.” Nothing about raising children is ever so black and white.
I opted to just go with baby-led weaning, meaning that I would let him nurse until he outgrew the need to do so. I wouldn’t put my own arbitrary end date on nursing and would simply let him make the call. Granted, I was absolutely certain that would have been a long LONG time ago, but I digress.
It was no big deal during the first two years. At two, I felt the first twinges of embarrassment. He’s big for his age, and I started to feel funny when I was forced to nurse him out and about. Nobody said anything, but the stares were beginning in earnest. At 2.5, I institued the rule that we could no longer nurse in public. Also, I kinda wanted my boobs back. At this point, he’s certain to be a rocket scientist, and I’ve elimated every female health threat known to humanity, right? I began working hard to keep him busy and “help him” with that whole baby-led-decision-thing. He’s now 3.5. NAILED IT.
He has only nursed once or twice a day for the last year and I feel like I should at least get SOME credit for that. Sort of. Ish.
Here and Now
The bottom line? My little one hasn’t been ready to be done breastfeeding, and I don’t mind doing it. I love him with every facet of my soul, and I know him better than all the people. Extended nursing like this was NOT what I bargained for, but life happens, and it’s right with my soul. I know that it’s not exactly palatable to imagine a three-year-old nursing — but it doesn’t have to be. It belongs to us, and we are good.
It’s not easy to choose the route least popular in the face of motherhood today. To all the mamas forging your own paths, I’m sending hugs, high fives, and cookie dough to all of you! Soldier on!
I would love to hear about your own mommy secrets! What works for you that most people don’t do?