Friday, July 13, 2007

Thoughts about Breastfeeding After It has Ended

Last Tuesday, July 3rd, my youngest child turned 2. He is a sweet toddler. His temperament is wonderful except when he is tired in the late afternoon. He doesn't communicate with words much yet, but we have a speech therapist who visits once a week for 30 minutes to work with him. His lack of speech/communication issues is one of the reasons that I was still nursing him up until the day he turned 2.

Yes. I breastfed my child until age 2. There. I said it. Draw your own conclusions and then read why I feel compelled to justify this decision.

His older brother breastfed until he was 21 months. That was close to 2 years old. I kept nursing the younger brother because it was the strongest communication we had between us. I knew exactly how to calm him down and get him to settle down for a nap or for the night.

Yet, why should I feel so guilty admitting it?

I have always been pro-breastfeeding. I am not a breastfeeding Nazi like I used to be when I was nursing my first--I have met far too many women for whom breastfeeding did not work out even though they were desperate for it to work. But for me, breastfeeding was always the priority. My boys never tasted a drop of formula. It was difficult--especially with my first. All I can say is thank goodness for Lansinoh and the fact that I learned how to nurse my children while laying on the bed.

It is recommended that mothers try to nurse their babies for the first year of life. The World Health Organization even recommends two years. My goal for my first was 12 months. And then I took it month-by-month until I could tell that it was time to stop. My goal for my youngest was 18 months. And I stopped last week at his 2nd birthday.

Nursing in public has not been an issue with me with the second child. I kept to dressing rooms and out-of-the-way places with my first, but I was nursing my 3-day old infant in a restaurant without a second thought. We have nursed at the play area at the mall. At the circus. At the zoo. At church. At Christmas parties. Etc. Yet I did not nurse in public past 12 months.

The surprising fact to me is that I have felt guilty admitting to breastfeeding my toddler. Especially after 18 months, I never brought up the fact that I was still nursing. Honestly, I may have thought people would judge me for admitting it. I do not know of anyone who made it to 2 years (I just haven't met them yet). But why should I feel this way?

In the early months, breastfeeding is all about nourishment. In the last months, it is all about comforting.

Instead, I want to hold on to my memories of this time of my life. It opens a new understanding of what it means to provide nourishment to someone and, later on, comfort. It makes me reflect on the image of God as a nursing mother. A man can never understand that.

To nurse, you have to take care of yourself and be willing to provide for another creature. It means that you have slow down and stop something because your baby needs you. It forces you to pay attention and read the signs. As you look at the face of your baby and see the contentment that relaxes him or her to sleep, you see that you have a power in your milk.

I am excited to see how my toddler will grow. It is a bittersweet time as I have finished nursing. At my son's 2 year old checkup yesterday, I sheepishly told my pediatrician that I had nursed until he was 2. He said, "Good for you!"


Mary Beth said...

I say, good for you, too! :)

gard10 said...

My last two children of four were nursed until they were 3yrs, and 3yrs and 3 months.

It wasn't until they were all grown that the older siblings admitted telling the littler ones that 'Mommy needed them for ba milk", thus clearing the path for their own play.

(I wondered why the third took so long to wean.). With the fourth, I finally said, "Mommy's tired, you need to just drink now"

MOM L said...

I nursed my third for 3 years, and my fourth for 3 years, 3 months.

I wondered why the third took so long to wean, having started shortly after her second birthday.

It wasn't until they were all grown that the older siblings admitted they would send her into the house saying, "Mama needs you for ba-milk".(thereby freeing up their play time.)

With the last, I just finally said, "Mama's tired now, you need to just drink from a glass"

Just let yourself be, nurse when you want to as long as you want to.

Mom L