I nurse a toddler.
I’d like to say before I had kids I was “normal”. I went to work. I wore cute clothes. I ate at restaurants. I went out with friends. I was a pretty typical almost 30 year old. And then I had my first son.
He came flying out in the car on the way to the birth center. In the black night, with only the car lit by my husband’s (recording) iPhone, I remember my midwife placing him on my chest, telling me that the “healthiest ones come fast”. I will never forget speeding down the highway, feeling of his head caught between my underwear and legs, I was too terrified to pull him out and introduce him to this world. My midwife came running, pulled him free and placed him on my chest. We all stayed in the parking lot for a little while, laughing, crying, and processing- all coming down from the shock and disbelief of it all. We pretty much knew that night that he was going to be a special kid.
Special he is. Like first children seem to do, he’s taught me a level of love I never realized was possible and has molded me into the woman that I am today. He wasn’t an easy baby. He had colic and relfux- he came into this world screaming and he did not stop until he was nine months old. Breastfeeding was my way of stopping the madness, calming the storm, and allowing us to both rest. It was our coping mechanism.
When all of the children in our play group were weaned, my little one was still going strong. I waited and wondered when he would choose to stop. I was eight weeks pregnant on his first birthday. I assumed he would soon stop, my milk with dry up, and we’d transition peacefully into having a “toddler” and an infant.
When his brother was born seven months ago, N was a little tentative of the new relationship. I allowed him to nurse when he wanted to over the first few weeks and then began to set boundaries like all of the books said. I didn’t want to tandem nurse and I really didn’t want to nurse a toddler. I simply wasn’t one of “those women”. I cared about what people thought. People in my world didn’t nurse two babies and they definitely didn’t breastfeed two year olds.
The past seven months have been wonderful. The youngest arrived in the middle of a sunny afternoon, peacefully at home, and could not be more laid back. My toddler showed very little signs of jealousy…until this week.
The boundaries have been about the same since his brother was born. We were down to one feeding in the morning, once at nap time and once before bed- and all shorter than five minutes in length. I would remove him when I was done- and many times have to stand up and walk away while he sat and cried for more. I was teaching him about boundaries.
If he hurt himself he could have some comfort and if we were having a tough time working through a situation (normally behavior related) he would sometimes be allowed to nurse after it was resolved. I had it completely under control.
And in all honestly, I was done. Totally touched out. I had a baby that I fed on demand, that was hard enough. But determined toddlers don’t just cry when they want milk. They ask for it by name. They cry for it. They whine for it. They reach down your shirt. The reach up your shirt. They do it with clean hands, and hands that have been digging in dirt for an hour. They do it at home, and when you’re standing in line at the grocery store. Yes, I taught him what behavior was “acceptable”- but he is two. His job right now is to push the limits and boundaries.
On Friday, he went over to his sleeping brother and bit him. It was completely unprovoked and completely out of character. Once I gathered myself, wiped my frustrated mama tears away, I tried to calmly ask N what had happened. What was happening in his sweet little mind? We were all so happy as our little family of four. We had weathered the infant storm. The boys rolled around the floor together, took baths together. Why the sudden acting out?
Then, just like toddlers do, N turned everything that I thought I had under control on it’s head. “Alex more mama milk,” he said.
“Alex gets more mama milk?” I asked.
“Yes,” he nodded with big tears streaming down his face.
And so like you have to do sometimes at a mom, I stopped the boat and I turned it all the way back around. I sent a big middle finger to all of the books and articles I read. I said “screw it” to all of the people that I know think it’s crazy that I am still breast feeding my son and I pulled him close.
We still adhere to the same feeding “sessions” but I allow him to nurse as long as he likes. I make eye contact, I stroke his hair, I tell him that our time together is special (which I’m sure he hasn’t heard or felt since his brother was born). We have also moved the laid back baby to his crib (for at least a little while) at night and now N has some one on one mama snuggle time before he goes to his bed.
So in that one moment, things changed. I have changed. I’m nursing a toddler and I’m not going to say it and roll my eyes and act like I wish he would wean. I’m not going to push him away or get up and walk away when I know he’s headed in my direction. My son is special- he made that known on his birthday and he is his own person. My job as his mom is to love him every moment of every day and make sure he knows that his needs are valid and are accepted. He is 26 months old and still needs to nurse. He has used it as comfort since the day that he was born and he will use it until he no longer needs it. I am his mama and I know what’s best.
Wow… I am almost rendered speechless by this post, “I nurse a toddler”. I feel as though this is my life (with a few different details). My first born was not born in my car, he was a long, painful 38 hour labor of love; But when he came into my world he changed everything. If you asked me before he was born how long I would nurse for I could never have guessed the truth. When I became pregnant with my second son everyone was already shocked that I was still nursing my first. They were even more shocked to learn I had no intention of stopping. After a devastating miscarriage, the pregnancy with my second soon was scary and I know my first could sense the tension. Not only were we tense while pregnant but we bought a new house 2 weeks before my due date. Tense parents, new house, new baby. I had no intention of taking aware my son’s one true comfort. My son is now over 3 years (39 months!), with a 3 month old little brother. Well guess what world, they both nurse. And both shall continue to do so until they are ready to stop.
Thank you for this post, it is a good reminder that we as mom’s all do what is best for our children.
I just wanted to say thanks for this post. I’m currently nursing my 21 month old and am 15 weeks pregnant. I always knew I wanted to nurse. Never really had a plan for when or how to stop. She loves it, so do I (though pregnancy makes dampens my enthusiasm a bit) but no matter, here we are. Never thought I would nurse this long. Never thought I would nurse while pregnant. Never thought I would tandem nurse, though that seems where we may be headed. Just trying to be relaxed about it all. When I think too much about it I freak out a little. When I just go with the flow, it flows. But like I said, thanks for this. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one headed down this path.
I enjoyed the post, it makes me feel not so alone with nursing a toddler. I had Irish twins. I got pregnant two months after giving birth to my second son. I cried myself to sleep – another baby! Yikes! My doctor strongly encouraged me to stop nursing because she believes it could cause problems – early labor, low iron, and take nutrients from the baby. I was worried for a minute. But then I thought this is B.S. Tons of women nurse pregnant. So I continued. I felt like my son was getting ripped off if I cut him off at 2 months. I had my perfect baby girl on time and we’re still nursing strong/tandem. It’s not bad at all. If anything, it makes my life easier. I can stop two crying kids at once. Love it. Mama of 3 – 3yr, 18mo, 6mo.
I stopped nursing my 22 month old daughter when I found out that I was pregnant because I thought I “had” to. I still regret that decision. She wasn’t ready.
Our stories are eerily similar: first son born (almost) in the car on the way to the birth center; second sone born at home; less than 2 yr age difference. I am struggling with continuing to nurse my older son not bc of any societal or family pressure to stop but bc for some inexplicable reason I really stopped enjoying nursing him once I had my second. I have felt tremendous guilt about this and I have tried “gentle” weaning by limiting the number of sessions and length but that has not gone well! I thought I would easily tandem nurse but it has been hard. Setting the limits left both of us feeling distant and hurt for different reasons: his un-met need and my guilt for choosing not to meet his need. I needed to read this article and it was sent to me by a fellow nursing mom to help encourage me through this rocky period. I decided to revert back to nursing both babies on demand and told myslef I would check in with how I was feeling about nursing my toddler in a month and go from there. I loved to get this perspective.
I nursed my twins until they were 3 and I was almost two months pregnant with baby 3. No regrets and baby 3 can nurse as long as he wants to as well. I don’t read books about child raising. We just do what works and if something we are doing doesn’t work, we change it. I didn’t sleep train anyone and they eventually sleep. I didn’t really do baby food (I guess what I do is called “baby led weaning”.) You can find an “expert” saying whatever you want to do is the “right and only” way to do it.
I really appreciate this article. I feel blessed to be able to comfort, bond, and nourish my 30 month old (2 1/12yo) and my 6 1/2 month old with breastfeeding. But, I am feeling pressure to ween my oldest. He is sweet to his little sister, but he is having some behavior issues that I am sure stem from competing for his mama. I just cant stop now. I am afraid I will have to soon, though, because I am so skinny. It’s not the breastfeeding that is making me so skinny, I always have been. But I need to gain some weight.