“My Story… ” Monday: G — You’re STILL Nursing??

(You can catch up on G‘s story right here: A Third Baby, Fighting Panic, Connecticut to Oklahoma, You’ve Got the Job, The Birth Story, 95 Degrees, She struggles to breathe, I struggle to walk., The Liquid Diet, Not Enough Oxygen, Getting Out of There, Let’s Party!, Fitting Our Lives into a Minivan, Finding a Home, Remarkably Unremarkable, The Fever and the Screaming, One Answer Leads to More Questions, Her Kidneys)

 

So, I’ve told you all my breastfeeding history before. I did not breastfeed my first child. My second little one had breast milk until she was sixteen months old (which was one year, adjusted.) You should know, however, that I was not actively pumping that whole entire time. I had produced so very much milk early on that I was able to stop pumping well before she was a year old and still have plenty. Also, since she was tiny and ate from a bottle, it was kind of a non-issue in the eyes of strangers.

 

G. was my first baby to exclusively breastfeed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– in my opinion, of the three, exclusive pumping was by far the most difficult. For me, since it went very well, breastfeeding was by far the easiest. Such is not always the case, but it definitely was for me.

 

Anyway, before G. was born, I decided I wanted to nurse her. Like many women, I was hoping it would go well. I don’t remember setting any firm goals for myself, but I know that I hoped to breastfeed exclusively until six months (meaning no supplemental formula or solids until then.) I also know that I had a more far-reaching goal of wanting to nurse her for the first year of her life.

 

I think many women are like me. You don’t really think beyond that first year. That’s the “big goal”, if you will. Some people have “mini goals” along the way. Others surely look beyond twelve months on into toddlerhood, but, for a lot of us, it’s just kind of a general, “I hope to nurse her for her first year” kind of ambition. 

 

At least, that’s how it was for me.

 

So, things went well. I nursed G. without issue for a year.

And then her first birthday passed. And I noticed this crazy phenomenon:

 

Nurse for 364 days and you’re a hero. Nurse for 366 days and you’re a freak.

 

Like pretty much all babies, G’s first birthday passed on by without any particular significance to her. She kept right on being the same, including still nursing morning, before nap, and before bed. And, since it didn’t bother me any, I didn’t fight this at all.

 

But other people seemed appalled. I remember making a really offhand remark about nursing G. before bedtime when she was fourteen months and a woman at my church curled her upper lip and said, “Wait– you’re STILL nursing?”

 

My cheeks flamed. And I stammered around. I wish I’d held my own better in that exchange, but I was so caught off-guard.

 

I know some of my best friends also found it odd; many of them had nursed, but had weaned between 6 and 9 months. When I visited with my still-nursing sixteen-month-old, they found me weird.

 

I’ve never been one to choose to nurse in public overly much (MY choice, not a result of anyone’s judgment or mistreatment), so I never had that whole “nursing a toddler” in front of people to deal with. But I quickly learned not to mention it much either. And that makes me pretty sad, to be honest.

 

So, yes, I was STILL nursing. Turns out my little G. happily self-weaned at almost exactly eighteen months old. She never showed any interest in it again, and I never had any discomfort, leaking, or problems. I would say it was perfect timing for both of us.

 

But that conversation needs to change. There was no medical or developmental reason that she needed to be done nursing. There is no compelling evidence that shows that a one year and one day old baby has different nutritional needs from a 364 day old baby.

 

And there is no reason to make a woman feel shame for meeting her baby’s needs in the best way she knows how.

 

Being a mom is hard enough without being criticized for “still nursing” an older baby….

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25 comments to “My Story… ” Monday: G — You’re STILL Nursing??

  • Marci

    I have no problems with folks nursing their babies for as long as they want. I think we all judge each other as moms way too much and we just need to support one another and give advice when it’s asked for. I will say, however, that I saw a post recently praising someone for still nursing their 6 year old…and I looked at my 5 year old (and even my 4 year old) and thought…ummmm no thank you. ;-)

    • Yeah… I’m going to go ahead and admit that the thought or nursing a kindergartener holds no appeal for me. Now, I have no experience with it. So perhaps I don’t know what I’m missing. But I’m okay with that. :)

  • Oh we are so kindred :)

    I exclusively breastfed my first kind of by accident. I was told to breastfeed without a bottle for the first 6 weeks of life and then for the rest of my 6 weeks of maternity leave, introduce a bottle. He refused to take a bottle no matter which one or how I tried. Absolutely refused. Then I ended up not being able to go back to work, so there was no need to keep trying.

    And I remember the night of his first birthday thinking “now what?” Do I quit cold turkey? cuz he wasn’t having it and what was the purpose of making him?

    He weaned himself two days before he turned 18 months. And it was easy peasy for both of us. just as it should be.

    All of that to say YES! I concur. Why is there any reason to judge? You know your child better than I do. I’m going to trust you know how to care for them individually better than I ever could…

  • Susan

    funny thing. I never nursed and get the same kind of feedback in the opposite direction.

  • Lisa

    Exactly!! I appreciate this post very much. My son is 15 months old and I am still nursing him. It’s usually just before his naps and before bedtime at night. I still enjoy that cuddle time with my little guy and he likes the comfort. And it’s good for him. :)

  • Thank you for this! It was perfectly said. My guy just turned one and I am already getting snarky comments from my husbands family about the fact I am still nursing. It is frustrating, and annoying. But more so, it makes me stick with my goal, to nurse until he decides he is done. He will know, and tell me.

    Again, thank you.

    • Oh, the snark. I hate it! Good for you for continuing to meet your son’s needs– despite the annoying comments. No one seems to talk about those young toddlers. There needs to be more discussion and normalization, I think. :)

  • Julie

    I nursed my last baby til she was 2 1/2. I intended to stop at 18 months and then again at 2 but somehow kept going until she was 2 1/2. God has the best timing not us.

  • I don’t understand why people have to judge everything. Drives me crazy. My last baby nursed until just over a year and then he was done, all on his own. I never got any flack from nursing but I’ve heard some pretty sad stories of people really being mistreated for nursing longer then “they should be nursing.” I agree with Julie, God has the best timing! Great post!

  • Becki

    My oldest was exclusively nursed – she wanted nothing to do with a bottle!! When she was 16 months old her brother was born. I nursed them both – talk about the reactions from people!! Unfortunately he had very strong reflux and I had to wean my daughter at 19 months so my son could get some of the benefits that she had enjoyed.

  • Yeah now that I’m an old lady I feel really guilty for giving my older friend crap for nursing her 18 month old. But when I was 22 I just could not deal with the toddler whipping up her shirt shrieking I want boobie! In retrospect I think I should’ve encouraged her to train the kid to be more subtle.

    • Oh, I recall thinking that any kind of extended breastfeeding was disgusting in my much, much younger years. Time and experience change things. :) (And there’s also a difference between your friend’s toddler whipping up her shirt and a toddler who’s nursing at home before bed– not saying either is wrong, but it IS different.)

  • I nursed all three of my sons the youngest until he self-weaned at 2 years old. His older twin brothers I nursed for only the first 3 months, regrettably as they were alergic to both lactose and soy so they had to have a very expensive formula.
    I don’t understand the controversy?? We are mammals, this is how we feed our babies. Why is it okay to use breasts in all sorts of advertising including selling beer which we don’t seem to be uncomfortable with, but it’s not okay or makes us uncomfortable to see women breast feeding? And we have created guidelines for how old a child can be to be breastfed in order to not make others uncomfortable?? Really?? My twins are 20 and my youngest is now 18 and I thought by now this would be a non-issue. I think this is a culteral problem and maybe in the time of record pediatric obesity, diabetes etc. we need to get our priorities straight. Nature has it right and I support any woman who breast feeds for any legnth of time, it can only enhance her and her childs health!

    • Sometimes I think we’re just looking for controversy– but you’re right: we’re mammals, and this shouldn’t be such huge issue. It still makes me sad how ashamed I was made to feel…

  • Dawn

    Thank you for bringing this up! I nursed both of my children until they were 2 and a half years old. Neither self-weaned, I sort of wish they had since it would have been easier. So many people criticized me or gave me nasty looks. But I did my research. Most places in the world, they nurse much longer than we do here in North America. They do what is best for their babies. I learned to ignore the stares, ignore the criticisms, and do what was best for my children.

  • Laraba

    Wow, that’s weird. I can’t imagine people going bananas about a 14 month old still nursing. Why is one year some magic number?

    I’ve never made it past a year, personally, but I have plenty of friends who have gone far longer. LIke many previous commenters said, lets not judge others!

    One thing I do battle is how to balance the needs of the older children with the needs of the baby. I have had milk supply issues starting at 6 months of age for the last 4 kids. I just start to dry up. I am thinking more rest and drinking water and eating well would help but I am so busy with the older kids that I haven’t done well with maintaining milk supply. So with our current baby (age 2 months) my goal is 6 months and I’m guessing he’ll go on formula around then. I am not of the view that breastfeeding is more important than anything else to the point that I’ll give up on other vital things in our household.

    • I don’t like when people make a single facet of motherhood into the entire yardstick against which we measure– nursing included. I think you and I agree on that. :) I have no idea how “one year” became the turning point, but it is a very real phenomenon.

  • [...] Unremarkable, The Fever and the Screaming, One Answer Leads to More Questions, Her Kidneys, You’re STILL Nursing?, Fearless at 14 [...]

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