Sweet, little nurslings
If there is one thing that I just love about being a mama (and there isn’t just one thing- there’s a gazillion, but this is one thing in particular that I love), it’s the sweet simplicity of nourishing my darling babes through breastfeeding.
Last week, Caden and I celebrated 13 months of being a happy little nursing couple, and I anticipate many more “anniversaries” to come.
I was blessed to be able to nurse Abbie until she was 20 months, at which time I sadly weaned her (of my own choosing, not hers- she would have continued on for quite some time, I think). Naturally, the first question that statement usually stirs up is “How long is it appropriate to keep breastfeeding? Isn’t it weird (wrong, strange, adjective of your choice) to nurse a toddler?”
The answer, of course, is no, not at all!
By the time I weaned Abbie, she was speaking in full sentences, could lift up my shirt, tell me exactly what she wanted and which side she preferred. Did it feel strange? Nope!
When I was first pregnant with her, my original goal was 1 year. Although I had romantic and idealistic notions that went far beyond that, I also knew that I knew nothing about being a mom, and didn’t want to arrogantly presume anything (though I suppose even presuming a year suggests that I thought that much would be easy).
When we hit a year, I hadn’t even introduced her to any form of milk yet, she still loved her milkies 4-5 times a day, and I saw absolutely no reason to cut her off from something that gave us both so much enjoyment. And so we went on… in fact, the only reason that I finally weaned at 20 months was simply because it appears that I am one of those moms that just cannot get pregnant while nursing.
(To be a bit vulnerable, this breaks my heart just a little and really forces me to trust and rely on my sovereign and fully trustworthy Savior. As we are hoping to have many children, as many as the Lord gives us, it is a struggle for me to continue on with extended nursing, knowing that it is preventing more babies from joining our family anytime soon. On the other hand, I feel a strong desire and compulsion to continue on with nursing and to give my children the absolute best for as long as I feel that they need it. Can you understand the tension? I’m sure I’m not alone in this struggle!)
So what makes me love nursing so dearly and believe in it so strongly that I am willing to allow a greater age gap between my children, and have walking, talking toddlers pulling at my shirt? Here are just a few reasons:
- Convenience– Unless I had to, I absolutely cannot imagine that hassle of buying formula, mixing it up and heating it, sterilizing bottles and nipples, etc. Breastmilk is always the perfect temperature, the perfect consistency, and perfectly available. I have breastfed pretty much anywhere you can imagine (in the car at the border line up, in a Home Depot aisle, on the bus, while answering the front door, in a bathroom stall) – you name it, I’ve nursed there! And if we end up out somewhere long than we anticipate and don’t have baby food with us, at least we’ve always got milk!
- Nutrition– It doesn’t get any more natural and perfectly nourishing than breastmilk. Of course, good milk is made by a good diet, and our own nutrition really does affect our milk. So as long as I keep eating well, I know that my baby is getting the healthiest milk possible, full of all the right fats and protein and cholesterol and vitamins.
- That lovin’ feeling– Don’t you just love nursing hormones? I can be a totally frustrated, angry mom one minute, practically losing it with the kids and ready to pull my hair out, and then I sit down to nurse my sweet baby and within moments, I’m crooning softly and gently stroking his forehead. Seriously, it’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!
- Avoidance of allergies and sickness– I have often been amazed at how I can be sick with a horrible cold or flu, and my babies seem to escape it. I learned early on in nursing Abbie that a mother’s milk has natural antibodies to whatever the mother is fighting, which increases the baby’s resilience and helps to prevent them from getting sick. As well, breastmilk boosts a baby’s immune system (especially through healthy bacteria in the early days and weeks after birth), and reduces the chances of severe allergies developing.
- An excuse to stop and enjoy– One of the things that I think is so helpful for me as a really busy, go-go-go kind of person is that I have to actually stop and sit down and just snuggle my baby several times a day (or 9 times a day when they’re newborn!). Even now, Caden and I have our special times in the morning when he wakes, in the afternoon after his nap, and in the evening before bed, with the occasional other feed mixed in here and there. It is so good to have an excuse to just stop and enjoy him, or sit on the couch and read to both kids as I nurse.
If you need a few more reasons, here’s a fabulous list I found of 101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child- the most thorough one I have ever found!
And so, I celebrate the 13 months we’ve shared so far, and look forward to continuing down this beautiful path. I’m not phased by the strange looks I receive, or the charming “Will you still be nursing when she goes to kindergarten?” kind of questions I received with Abbie.
I am in good company with much of the rest of the world, as I practice this gentle art of motherhood. In third world countries, it is not uncommon to nurse a child to 2 or 3 years old! In fact, the World Health Organization recommends that babies be breastfed up to 2 years and beyond.
Perhaps I should go buy myself a shirt I just saw recently… “Why yes, I am still breastfeeding!”
AWESOME post!! Thank you for telling us (again) about these benefits.
Oh my! Now you’ve got me missing it! 🙂 My 2 and 1/2 year old finished breastfeeding about a month ago. It was bitter sweet to have her done. I breastfeed all 4 of my children, but she was the longest.
Thank you! I am “still” breastfeeding my toddler but she is weaning herself and almost done. 2 was my goal (sounded normal to me, I was breastfed that long) but we went past it a bit. I would be willing to go longer if she needed me to. I don’t know many people who go past one. Its great to hear of someone else who knows the benefits. Enjoy this time!
What an awesome post! I had been working on a post about breastfeeding and then I saw yours! Beautiful! I love it! I have been trying to wean but I am not having any success and the more I think about it the more I don’t want to stop. We would like to have another baby soon and I am not sure if nursing will prevent it from happening or not, I guess that is part of the reason why I feel like I need to wean now…
You’re singing my song — I will miss nursing so much when I don’t have babies (or toddlers!) in the house anymore.
Because of a lack of education and support I began weaning my first around 6 months and finished at 9. By number two I knew better and finally had the confidence to follow my instincts. He ended up weaning himself exactly one day before his second birthday. Funny that you should mention t-shirts though. My son and I often got strange looks so I finally bought him a shirt that said “still nursin'” on the front and “jealous?”. I don’t know what other ppl thought but it made me laugh.
I’m so glad to see this post, too! I’m still nursing my babe at 20 months, and will keep going as long as he wants me to. I think the more we do it openly, and the more we talk about it, the less odd it will seem! I agree with the other commenter who said we need to just trust our instincts, and not let others decide what’s important for us and our babies.
Great post. 🙂
Great post. My kids are now 10 and 7 and the biggest thing I miss about them is nursing. I wasn’t even that good at it, but I so enjoyed those peaceful moments. I say, go as long as you can. It lasts such a short time anyway.
Great post! 😀
My oldest nursed until he was 3 1/2 and his little brother is “still” nursing at 36 months. They stop when they’re ready…when their need has been met. I have some of the healthiest and happiest children I know (and I’m not perfect!, but I think this bond has something to do with it).
Hmmm. I needed to read this. I currently have two nurslings. I’m tandeming my 14 month old and my 3 1/2 year old. I *never* foresaw this. It wasn’t a goal and to be honest. . .I’ve been having days recently when I’ve been thinking, “Will it EVER end?” At this point no one really knows that my oldest is still nursing–they just assume he weaned long ago. And I’m pretty much ready for him to be done, but it seems so very, very much needed on his part. My youngest is a different breed, I think. He doesn’t seem quite so deeply emotionally attached.
I’m rambling a bit here, but I guess I just wanted to say that it I needed the reminder that it won’t last forever and that it is so very precious. I want to enjoy it while it does last. Thanks.
This is well-timed for me- my little guy is 18mo and still needs & loves his “nuh”. I admit that the imagined peer pressure had been getting to me, but the last two people that I told about still nursing him responded with “Wow, lucky him!” comments, which was very encouraging.
I high-five each of your reasons. The cuddle factor is such a big one for me, and I tout the convenience to everyone. Honestly, who can believe that getting up at night to mix formula or wash bottles is easy compared to: “Locate hungry baby. Snuggle.”
What a great post! I weaned my son at 20 months, also, since I also have a hard time getting pregnant while nursing. My youngest just turn 12 months and I hope we will be enjoying our nursing relationship for many more months.
I loved so much nursing my boys–almost two years for the oldest and a little over three for the little guy–and I think in retrospect the child spacing was a very good thing for me.
Wow! Amazing! This is such an encouragement to me, a mom who has little support in breastfeeding, and my little guy is only three months! I wasn’t able to nurse my daughter long at all due to health issues and medication, and I am feeling so blessed to be able to breastfeed my son. I hope I will feel encouraged enough to do it for as long as he wants.