Friday, April 20, 2012

More thoughts on breastfeeding a toddler

The perk of nursing with your iPhone handy? Capturing grins like this one.

Shira is turning two in a few weeks and I'm starting to get a lot of questions about breastfeeding. How long will you continue to breastfeed? Don't I want to stop? Is she going to permanently fuse to your breast? Fair enough. I don't think these questions are unusual by any means. Women just don't breastfeed toddlers very much in our culture, though that is starting to change. My friends and family have always been very supportive about my breastfeeding Alyce and Shira, but since for most of them it isn't the norm, I naturally receive a lot of questions.

A lot of people expect that I will stop nursing Shira once she turns two. Again, I understand why they expect it will come to an end. She's growing up and standing so much on her own in the world. It makes sense that she will no longer want to breastfeed one day, busy as she is. But right now she isn't ready and I have no need to enforce an arbitrary deadline on her. There are many reasons women need or choose to wean, but I don't have any of these reasons at the moment. I'm home with them full-time, so I'm always available. With the exception of that crazy week in Vancouver, it doesn't cause me any pain. She clearly still wants to breastfeed because she asks for it throughout the day and enjoys it when I am able to. (Also, in case you were wondering, you can't make a baby breastfeed unless they want it. They will absolutely not latch on if they don't want to.) There is no question in my mind that she still needs to nurse. This doesn't mean that I think harm would come to her if I decided to wean today. She would adjust and adapt just fine. But with no reason to stop, we'll continue on, my little nursling and me.

And of course, she's not the only who gets something out of breastfeeding. I love nursing her. It's my time with just Shira and no matter how much she will always love me, she will never snuggle with me again like this on a regular basis. I came to terms with that when I weaned Alyce at twenty-two months, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. In fact, it makes me quite sad to think about ending our breastfeeding relationship. It would mark an end to so many things and I would grieve this transition. (Many women suffer depression when they wean. You can find one women's story here). In a month from now I might feel very ready to stop, and I'm happy that I have the freedom to wait for that time to come. Who knows, I could feel that way tomorrow. Or, Shira could decide for the both of us. Either way, as sad as I will be when this is over, it will be ok. I find transitions of this sort so difficult, but I always get through them.

If you've read any of my blog before you're probably wondering if I will ever stop talking about breastfeeding. It's not looking good for you, I'm afraid. Breastfeeding your baby, or any kind of close relationship you share with your child, is transformative. It's going to change you, and if you're like me, you want to share that with the entire internet. You're welcome.

What about parenting has transformed you?

P.S. Here is an article by Dr. Jack Newman, a breastfeeding expert with some wonderful advice on nursing a toddler.

P.P.S. Another post on breastfeeding a toddler. And another one.


  1. I nursed Liam until he was about 28 months. He wasn't nursing much at that point really...just some 'social' nursing that was part of our bedtime ritual. But it was starting to get rather silly really. Most nights he'd latch on for a suck or two, then go do a somersault or something, then another suck, etc etc. The final straw was one night we were settling down to bed and he asked to nurse. When I offered my breast he poked my nipple in with his finger and said "Where's the nipple?", then pulled his finger away and sang "There it is!!!", all with a cheeky grin on his face. That's when I was done. :) I re-fastened my bra and we cuddled up together, and that was it. I don't think he even asked to nurse after that. It was another example of the way that it was easy to get him to transition when he was really ready for it.

  2. My older two were nursed till they were 17-18 months old...I only stopped each time because I was 5 months pregnant with the next one! :) The more experienced I become as a mother, the less I feel compelled to explain why I do things a certain way (did you see the insane immunization thread I "innocently" started on fb today??)...I just feel like I don't have the patience or need to justify my choices to other people. I feel like saying, Hey, you've had your turn! Let me have mine the way I choose! Haha. I'm overtired so maybe that's why I sound so snarly...I love your posts about nursing your toddler; sounds like you're both content with the arrangement, and that's about the best thing you can ask for, for mama AND child. Blessings!

  3. Stacey, that made me laugh out loud. I think that is a sign of transition, for sure. As hard as it is sometimes, letting the girls reach their own transitions has always ended up best in the end.

    KGH, yes, I saw that thread! Yikes. All things considered, it seemed like a respectful discussion. And yes, I care so much less now about what people think, but I still like to talk about it because it's such an important part of my life. Yes, I think it's best for both of us! Shira certainly smiles a lot, so I think we're good.