About a year ago I was visiting a friend of mine. She was nursing her toddler who was not even two years old at the time. I had my not yet one year old with me who was also nursing. I remember trying to “be cool” while she nursed this giant looking child. “I’m a breastfeeding advocate” I was thinking to myself. “We should nurse as long as we can. Women nurse past 2 years old even…. this is totally normal. We should do this. It has to be normalized.” And yet as I told myself these things I was still the tiniest bit uncomfortable and that surprised me!
The fact is that society doesn’t often get the chance to witness toddlers and even preschoolers breastfeeding. Why? Well the most obvious reason is because they don’t nurse as often as infants so when they are out shopping at Target or eating dinner at Chili’s that toddler doesn’t usually need to breast-feed. Coming from my own experience I decided with my first son to cut out nursing except during special times (nights and nap times or boo-boos) when he was 15 months old. Now with my second son this has been harder to enforce but I generally do not nurse him in public even though he does ask for it. He is now 22 months old.
I’m telling anyone who will listen that I- a breast-feeding advocate and nursing mother to a giant 22 month old- at one time felt uncomfortable witnessing a 20 month old breast feeding.
The romaticized image of women breastfeeding usually spans from birth to 6 months. For whatever reason 6 months (even less really) seems to be the “acceptable” amount of time a woman should nurse. Then she should cut the baby off, put them on a bottle, and go back to being her sexy and slender self. There are so many factors that are at play when you ask a woman why she has decided to wean and it is her choice to make. However it should be understood that societal pressures play a huge role in that decision.
Now when I sit to nurse my gigantic 22 month old I see him as my baby. It doesn’t matter that his legs drape far past the edge of the recliner I am sitting in. Or that his head is almost as large as his brother’s who is 2 years his senior. I don’t think about the fact that he can operate an iPad better than many adults or that he has all of his teeth. When he is laying in my lap (or standing up, or doing a head stand…) it all seems perfectly normal. He has grown literally right in front of my eyes. When he was a newborn he was just the right size. When he was 6 months old he was my roly poly baby. When he turned a year old and started walking he was still my little guy. Today at almost 2 years old I still consider our nursing sessions as important to us as they were when he was 9 pounds.
Will we make it to two years old? I can’t say. Will I attempt to go longer? I don’t think so. But then again, that two year old will have grown to his two year old self before my eyes. I won’t look down and see him as 6 inches taller than the day before and suddenly decide that he is too tall, too large, too gigantic to nurse.
I get it. I really do. That kid on that woman’s breast looks gigantic. It’s unusual and looks strange to see a child nursing who can almost tie their shoes. But that woman has performed that ritual every day of that child’s life. To her that child who can sing the alphabet is still her baby and still needs their special time together. These giant babies didn’t just get that way overnight. We nourished them. Maybe that’s why that baby is so huge; we just have amazing milk.