If you would have asked me in my 20s what my thoughts on breastfeeding beyond infancy was concerned, I would have mouthed off about how inappropriate it was, and some other such nonsense. I never would have guessed that I would find myself doing just that. It’s simply so taboo in our society, and it’s pretty stupid that that’s the case. And so here I am, with an 18 month old, walking, talking, tantrum throwing, eating solid foods with a mouth full of teeth, nursling.
Nursing a toddler is very different from a baby, which practically stays on the boob no matter what, at all hours of the day and night. Jealous, guys? We get it. It’s pretty freaking awesome that our bodies make and grow babies, and make milk to feed the babies. Not to channel Jack Nicholson ala Witches of Eastwick, too much. But you know, hey. It’s pretty cool. But a toddler who can tell you that no, they don’t want the left boob, they want the right boob, is far and away different from the babies.
It looks different every day. Some days, she doesn’t want it at all, it seems. Just before and after a nap, and that’s it. Other days, like when she’s teething, she wants it all the time. It’s not just a matter of going to sit down and have a quick sip and move on, either. My girl likes to sit in my lap, then stand in my lap, then sit back down, then put her feet in my face, then try to put her toes in my nostrils, then get mad when I stop her and slap my breast, then grab my earrings, then try to put her little fingers in my ears, then get mad when I try to stop her and hit my head, then while standing in my lap, slips and falls slightly, but hangs on to my nipple with her teeth, so I wince but straighten her back up and the cat runs by and she turns to look with my nipple still in her mouth – again with the teeth! – and then decides after all that, she’s finished and wants to go yell at the cat. Like, I feel related to a trampoline when it’s all said and done.
But then there’s the nursing to sleep or when she’s scared or hurt that is also great. I almost never have issues getting her to go to sleep. She just nurses and I pat, pat, pat, pat her bottom while she drifts off. I watch her face with the pink in her cheeks, and think what a sweet baby she is, but the length of her body, and her legs that dangle off the side of the couch makes it clear, she’s most certainly not a baby. She is, but she’s not. But I know that I am still meeting a need that she has, and it feels good to be able to provide that. I don’t need to have a certain income or education or social status or reputation to be able to fulfill that need.
I am doing what’s called “baby led weaning”, and if you google it, you’ll find a some forums and facebook page with a bunch of sanctimonious moms who are quick to cite a bunch of rules for feeding and how you’re doing it wrong. These sanctimommies are The Worst. So skip that if you’re interested and go right to the book. Baby led weaning is about weaning inasmuch as it is eating foods and how you feed. It’s baby led, and it’s weaning, which includes food. Obviously. Anyway, to that end, I have no idea when mine will be ready to stop. I have started to put some boundaries with her and breastfeeding, but not many, and it’s mostly to save my own sanity – like wearing a shirt with a high neckline so I don’t advertise that the bar is otherwise open. But outside of that, she will outgrow the need and you know, we will just see when that happens. I will be sad, but proud at the same time.
Since she’s technically a young toddler and still has some time left in this stage before she’s officially a Big Kid, I have a while till the end happens, and you know, every day is an adventure. But I feel very fortunate to be in the minority of moms who are able to breastfeed this long.