(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….