In case you weren’t aware, this week is World Breastfeeding Week, which is meaningful for our family since Cragbaby is 16 months old and still nursing away with no signs of stopping. So to celebrate, I wanted to do a post about breastfeeding – but not about the benefits of toddler breastfeeding, or how to find support in your area (you can find a lot of that information here, however). My intent is not to judge those that formula feed, nor is it to sound preachy towards folks that breastfeed for longer or shorter time than we have. Everyone is free to make their own decisions about what is best for their family with regards to this sometimes controversial topic, so instead I wanted to share from the vault of my own personal experience.
Though very fulfilling on both sides, our nursing relationship has certainly not been without bumps in the road – together C and I have endured 2 bouts of mastitis, one of which completely tanked my milk supply, numerous growth spurts with marathon nursing sessions, and of course all of the uncertainties and second-guessing that comes with being a first time mom.
We never would have made it this far had I not been able to utilize the much-needed support from both family and friends. Not that we are attempting to wean any time soon – but in the spirit of this week, I’ve been taking time to reflect on mine and C’s journey as a nursing pair. I’ve realized that what initially seemed so difficult and at times entirely unnatural has slowly morphed into a relaxed, cherished time for both of us to break away from the hustle and bustle of our day and reconnect. I remember in the early weeks my mother-in-law telling me that it gets easier after the first 3 months. And although I would have to heartily agree, I would be remiss if I didn’t add that in my experience, nursing past 1 year has been the icing on the cake!
It’s a well-known fact that for the first year breastmilk (or formula) should be a baby’s primary form of nutrition. (“Solids for fun until they’re one,” as my doctor put it.) We introduced solids slowly and I was vigilant about making sure C nursed before eating solids, so that he would fill up on the superior nourishment, and use mealtimes as merely “practice.” After C passed the magical 12 month mark and it was time for him to start actually relying on solid foods for nutrition, our nursing relationship changed. Our nursing sessions gradually shifted from something we needed to do to something we wanted to do.
For the past several months, nursing has been easy and stress-free. On a normal day, C will briefly (sometimes less than 5 minutes) nurse 4 times - at wake-up, before and after nap, and before bed. If we are out climbing all day, we might miss the middle of the day sessions entirely. However if C is teething or not feeling well, it might be closer to 6 times a day. I don’t feel the need to keep track of it because I know its all extra – extra vitamins, protein and healthy fats, extra immunity boosts, extra comfort, and extra snuggle time for both of us.
C and I may be traveling down the long road towards weaning, and I can’t predict when exactly it will happen – but I know it won’t be before he is ready. Before I got pregnant, I never gave a second thought to breastfeeding – I just assumed it was something some people chose to do for a few months, and a few weirdos did for a few years. Once I became a mom I realized that it was so much more than that. With the way the human body is sexualized in our culture today, its easy to see how people can think that nursing an older baby is weird, but when I see how content and blissfully unaware of trouble C is when he is cuddled up next to me, none of what society says matters because I have that deep, satisfying feeling in my heart that I’m doing what’s best for my baby.
Don’t worry, I’m not gonna be the person that makes everyone else uncomfortable by whipping my boob out to my 5 year old in the middle of the company Christmas party. What most people don’t understand is that the majority of the time it doesn’t go down like that – by the time your baby reaches the one year mark, both mom and baby have long since learned to be quick and discreet. Despite the way its most often flauntingly portrayed on TV and in movies, most people I know that nurse toddlers can do it in ways that don’t leave your average person feeling awkward or uncomfortable.
Although Cragbaby will probably never remember our countless hours of snuggling in the rocking chair, they are moments that I will never forget. And I’m hoping that what he will lack in specific memories will be made up for by a confident, secure child who never doubts the love both his mama and daddy have for him.
Can I get an amen from any other breastfeeding mommies out there? Whether the time you nursed can be measured in days, weeks, months, or years, every ounce of breastmilk provides loads of physical and emotional benefit to your baby! Please feel free to share a story, memory, or tidbit from your own personal nursing journey.