I would love to be able to say I’m a loud and proud breastfeeding mama. Don’t get me wrong, I am so incredibly proud to be breastfeeding my toddler just four months short of his second birthday. But I’m not loud. In fact, few people know that I still breastfeed my son (unless they follow my blog of course). In some ways I feel like a fraud. How can I be proud about breastfeeding for nearly two years, but hide it at the same time?
To be honest, I tend to not discuss our choice because I’m shielding myself, and my son, from unnecessary judgement. Simply sharing this post makes me a bit anxious. See, here is the thing… in 2017, in the United States, the average woman will breastfeed for only 3 months. Of course there is nothing wrong with that, but it clearly reflects our society’s attitudes surrounding the subject. I have encountered judgement in regard to the fact that we are still nursing. “But he has teeth!” Yes. Yes he does. “You are still nursing?” Yes. He is still a baby! But I’ve seen other moms be the target of hateful, ignorant reactions from friends, family members and strangers alike:
“You’ll turn your son into a sissy.” In 2017, who even refers to a boy as a sissy? And feeding him has no impact on anything but his health and his tummy.
“That’s perverted.” Our culture has sexualized breasts. Female breasts are designed to feed babies. Period.
“You only do it because you enjoy it.” It is not fun to nurse a toddler. It’s not. Sometimes it’s painful, and sometimes it’s frustrating.
“If he’s old enough to ask for it it’s time to give it up.” I just can’t even with this line of reasoning. Stop nursing because he knows he wants to nurse, and he can communicate that to me?
No. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until 2 if possible. Research shows that there are nutritional, medical and psychological benefits for both mom and baby. So why do I still nurse my toddler?
For our family, we rely on nursing to keep the munchkin healthy. Our son has an allergic reaction to cow’s milk. He breaks out in hives on his face and neck. He doesn’t seem to like the texture of other milks either. So, for now, breast milk is providing sustenance in addition to solids.
Nursing has kept my son healthy. I was incredibly sick with an eye infection, and an upper respiratory infection. The doctor warned me to stay far away from my munchkin until I was feeling better. How can a mom “stay far away” from a toddler? Instead I continued nursing and he never got sick. Not even a little!
Finally, nursing is an important part of my relationship with my baby. It provides guaranteed snuggle time throughout the day with an otherwise active, rambunctious little guy. If he is hurt, or upset, it is a source of comfort. When it is time for bed, nursing is a source of calm, and lulls him to sleep.
Nursing isn’t for everyone. Nursing a toddler definitely isn’t for everyone. It is, however, an experience that I wouldn’t give up for anything. I can only hope that, in time, Americans will remove the stigma associated with nursing, and nursing toddlers, so that mothers can feed their babies in peace!