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Monday, October 08, 2007Aside: That may be my record for most uses of parenthesis in a post title...
Now that I'm nursing a toddler myself (Emmitt's over a year and he walks, I guess that makes him a toddler, right?) I'm interested in seeing how my thoughts and opinions have changed over the years.
I remember when I had wrapped up pumping with Elnora (at 13 months) and was writing this blog. My best friend and her cousin were over and somehow the subject of toddler nursing came up. As someone who swore she'd only nurse to six months while pregnant with my first, I had to laugh when I heard those familiar phrases pop out of their mouths.
"If they're old enough to ask for it, they're too old to nurse."
"If they can walk, they should be done breastfeeding."
"I just don't get that, nursing a two year old is gross."
They weren't being malicious, they were mostly just repeating things they'd heard over the years. Neither had kids and I was the first of their friends to venture into baby rearing and breastfeeding.
It was funny to find myself defending toddler nursing and trying to educate them on a few points.
"Well, Elnora didn't talk until she was around two, so I guess that was her cut-off age?" (said with a wink.)
"Then again, she walked at 10 months, so I guess I should have weaned sooner? Would have sucked to have had to pay for formula those last two months."
"Did you ever stop to think that you don't just suddenly nurse a two year old. You nurse a baby who grows older day by day. On what specific day does it suddenly become "gross?"
They thought about it for a minute.
"But it just seems so weird!"
I pointed out that sure, it was weird, because we don't see it very often. Then again, it happens far more often than they'd ever imagine and really...there's NOTHING wrong with it.
It struck me as funny to hear how my own opinions had changed. I still couldn't picture myself nursing a toddler, but I had absolutely zero issues with it if someone else was doing it. (I get a little uncomfortable with the idea when the kid is approaching school age, but hey, to each their own.)
That's why I was interested to read a post over at Compulsive Writer this week called "Nursing Toddlers is the New Black." In it, occasional Lactivist commenter Azucar shares her own experience of nursing a toddler and points out that she did it long before Gwen Stefani made it "cool."
When I told my mom and dad that I was planning on going until El Guille was at least two they were pleased. I kind of joked with my dad that at least Guille would stop by the time he went to school. "Why? The longer, the better." said my dad, quite seriously. School age is a little over the line, for me anyway. My in-laws weren't as openly supportive. My mother-in-law thought it was a little strange, but she's a really good person who believes that I'm the mother and I make the best decisions for my babies. I love her for that.
Some people think that when you're nursing a toddler it's like nursing a newborn: every two hours and time intensive. It's not at all. For us, we nursed twice a day, occasionally three times, from age 16 months to 22 months. At 22 months, he refused to sit still and wanted to play first thing, not nurse. Hey! Fine by me! We kept our bedtime nursing for the next seven months. He gradually slowed down, dropping a session here and there: he went to every other day, to twice a week, then once, and then it was over. El Guille weaned himself: no tears, no drama, and no big deal. So much for the "If you don't wean before a year they'll NEVER stop" crowd. He stopped when he was ready, and that's what I wanted for him.
It was a great post, I found myself nodding along in agreement. I may not feel like long term toddler nursing is for me, but I do wish people were a little more understanding of the choice and respected the mothers who decide to follow their children's cues on the issue.
She wraps it up with a great point:
Here's the deal: until moms start coming out of that back bedroom and telling other people, extended nursing is going to seem strange. There's nothing wrong with nursing into childhood, it's how humans were biologically designed. I know it's not for everyone, but it is natural. I want other women to understand that it's ok to listen to your heart and make decisions that might seem unusual to other Americans.
I've honestly been amazed to find out how many people I know who have nursed toddlers in the last year or so. When I was growing up, the only time I'd ever heard of it was the "crazy mom" down the street who was a LLLL and nursed her boys until they were 3 or 4. I stand by my opinion that she was a little "off" though I no longer think the toddler nursing is cause for that judgement. ;)
It's been especially interesting to learn about extended nursers in my industry. My regular readers know I travel quite a bit speaking at conferences and seminars and teaching small businesses about online marketing. My work with the Lactivist has led to a ton of interesting discussions with folks I've known professionally for years. I remember doing a radio interview last year and finding out that the wife of someone I respect immensely was still night-nursing their 2.5 year old. I've had emails from readers of my industry site sharing their stories and of course conversation about "what I do for a living" has led perfect strangers to share their own stories.
Heck, one of my regular commenters here (Hi Abby!) is a woman I've known through church for years. I had no idea she was a staunch breastfeeding proponent or a supporter of toddler nursing until she showed up here and started sharing her thoughts.
It's out there. People are nursing well past a year. Not very many of them, but far more than you'd imagine.
So what about you guys? How many of you still have issues with toddler nursing and are willing to fess up? How many of you have found yourself supporting it (or doing it) after years of spouting off lines like I listed above?
What changed your mind?