Until today all I’ve gotten is praise when I say I’m still breastfeeding my close to 18-month old daughter. We were fortunate that from hour number one, breastfeeding was easy. We had no latch issues, no supply issues, no problem pumping, no bottle rejections, no infections, and no pain. I received nothing but support and encourgement from family, friends and coworkers for choosing to breastfeed and doing it whenever and wherever my daughter and I wanted.
But today, I got a very different response from someone. They were shocked to find that my less than a year and a half year old was still breastfed. “You’re still breastfeeding! Isn’t she a little old for that.” Um….no, she’s not even 18 months old. “You’re feeding her real food, right?” Um…yes of course I am. She eats like a champ. “You should probably stop soon.” Um…who are you to tell me when to stop. “Most people stop at a year.” Um…actually the worldwide average age a child is weaned is over 4 years old!
Then she asked me “So how long do you plan on breastfeeding.” I responded truthfully, I don’t know. My plan all along has been to breastfeed as long as Maddie wanted it, given I could produce the milk to feed her. I wanted and still do want the process to be a natural one, led by Maddie herself. So to that end, I have no idea when I’ll stop. I don’t see myself breastfeeding a preschooler, but I’m not setting an arbitrary deadline either.
I will admit that in the beginning, when your babe is attached to your boob what seems like 24/7, there are times you can’t wait to be free of it. But breastfeeding a toddler is a lot different than an infant.
So what’s it like nursing a toddler?
- You nurse when you are together and it’s convenient. I nurse 2-3 times a day now. Once in the morning, once or twice before bed, and maybe overnight.
- Say goodbye to the pump! I went from 3 to 2 sessions per work day around 7 months, 2 session to 1 around 11 months and stopped all together at 13 months.
- You don’t get uncomfortably full, or leak through your shirt every time you think about your child. Your body makes milk only when it needs to.
- Your child can go without. Maddie can skip a nursing session or two if I’m away or I’ve had too much wine. She can (although rarely) sleep through the night without nursing.
- She doesn’t try to nurse in public or pull at my shirt anymore. Nursing has become part of our quiet alone time.
- She asks for it when she wants it and I can say no. Although I rarely do because she only asks for it when I have milk to give. It’s pretty adorable when I get home from work now. She says “milk” and runs over to the chair I’ve tended to nurse her in since birth.
- I sense I have more time of nursing behind me then ahead of me, and that makes me want to do it more.
Choosing to nurse your child is a personal decision, as is choosing how to wean. I was reminded today how judgmental others can be about a process that should be led by the mother and her child. If you choose to breastfeed your toddler, go for it. If you don’t, well that’s ok too.