Nineteen Months and Still Nursing

When I became a mother, I knew I wanted to breastfeed.  I had researched it extensively, and found that breastfeeding provided many benefits to my child, the greatest of which, was improved immunity.  In addition, it is a tenant of attachment theory to which I am a subscriber (for those of you interested in attachment theory, please refer to the work of Dr. Robert Sears).  It was important to me to foster secure attachment through nursing my child. I hoped to nurse for at least a year, as is recommended by many breastfeeding proponents.

What I didn’t anticipate was my daughter’s intense need to nurse.  She nursed frequently for both nourishment and comfort from the earliest days of her life.  Nursing is a great option, and for my child, I wouldn’t make any other choice, but it requires a great commitment on both the part of the mother and her partner.  For me, it meant giving up a great deal of physical freedom, time, and the ability to take time away from my daughter, V, for any length of time (she was, and still is, a frequent nurser).  However, I was in it for the long haul.

And, nineteen months later, I still am in it.  During a recent conversation with my sister, a mother of a 4 month old daughter, I explored some of my conflicting feelings about nursing my daughter as she approaches the age of two.  As my daughter is becoming increasingly independent, and more able to separate from me, I am finding myself more and more excited to carve out some of the time that I previously devoted to nursing to do other things.  I am looking forward to the time when I might be able to have a late night date with my husband with my child in a sitter’s care (by late night, I mean, home by 10 pm!).  I am looking forward to maybe taking a day where my daughter spends the whole day with her dad or a grandparent, and I do not have to worry about whether she will need to nurse.  I am looking forward to a night where I can sleep all the way through, because despite my best efforts, my daughter still requires nighttime feedings.  I am okay with the situation as it is, but there are times when I look forward to regaining my body and some freedom.  And, though I shouldn’t care about it, I will have some relief about not having to answer the judgment laden question…”Oh, you’re STILL nursing?  How long do you plan to do THAT?”  UGH!  To those folks, I answer, “But the World Health Organization recommends nursing until at least two, and often beyond…”  Like that changes their opinion.

Things I love about still nursing my daughter:

*Built in downtime where I can rest during the day, napping, reading, watching some tv, while my daughter snuggles and snoozes on my lap.

*It is a source of comfort and security to my very independent, very precocious little girl.  When she is hurt or frustrated and sad, she finds comfort in cuddling close to mommy and getting her “Chi” (I have no idea why she calls it that!)

*As my daughter increasingly becomes more independent, it is a lovely time for both of us to snuggle and cuddle together.  It gives her a chance to touch back to babyhood, with confidence to return to the new challenges she is facing, secure and supported.

*When my daughter is sick or teething, it is the one source of nourishment she NEVER rejects.  During the few colds she has endured, it was the only food she would take.  After immunizations, it is the only thing that will soothe her.

*It is portable and I don’t have to worry about detaching her from a bottle!

*It won’t last forever.  Even though I sometimes feel I would like a day away from nursing, I know the day will come when I would gladly wish for the nursing connection I share with my little girl to return.  Like every phase, she will grow out of it.  She already has reduced her feedings drastically, and when distracted, will sometimes forget her midday feeding entirely. She won’t be nursing in school; she will grow and thrive and separate like every child does.  And when she moves away from nursing, it will be on her own terms, not because I’ve forced her to give up something that gives her security or damaged her trust in me to meet her needs.  That makes me feel good about still nursing my daughter, no matter what anyone has to say about it. I know extended nursing is not for everyone, but it works for my daughter and I and my mommy gut says that means it is the right answer for us!

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10 responses to “Nineteen Months and Still Nursing

  • Megan

    As you know, I have 4 babes and have nursed them all. I’m a huge proponent of child-led weaning and that is different for all kids (among my 3 older children, between 12-22 months) and I think the best thing to do is follow your baby’s cues, not listen to people who say “you’re STILL nursing?”. I also don’t understand why other people care so much about MY nursing decisions either. That never ceases to amaze me.

    • pmlevitt

      Amen, sister! I do think it is different for all kids, and all parents too. If I was working outside of the home, for example, my situation would be a lot less flexible and my nursing decisions would be influenced by that. Or, if I had another child on the way, that would affect our choices as well. As we have the freedom to decide, I am all for child-led weaning, because in asking for her “chi” V is communicating that she still needs something that nursing gives to her. And as her mommy, I’m listening to that. I totally hear your point about other people caring about your nursing decisions…I think some people feel insecure about making different choices, some people just have to be an authority on everything, and other people just are too darn interfering and have no filter! Others are stuck in that 1920′s/30′s, everything you do that communicates you love your children=spoiling them for life; for those folks, I recommend reading current child development theorists!

  • Juliana

    C nursed for 21 months, though for the last couple of months it was only once a day (bedtime.) With both girls, I assumed stopping was going to be traumatic for both of us. But both times I was pleasantly surprised that they gave it up very easily at the end and so did I! :) And there are still plenty of cuddles, we just do it differently now. We rock in the rocking chair and cuddle in bed. With A, I stopped because I was trying to get pregnant again. With C, I stopped because I was pregnant and getting to a point where it was not safe anymore. Plus, I was starting to resent it and I just knew it was time. I’m sure you and V will know when the right time is for you too! Congrats on making it so far!

  • pmlevitt

    Julie, you make a good point about feeling resentful. Because, let’s face it, there are all times when nursing moms feel this way. If those feelings start surfacing more often, it is not working anymore. So it’s good that you listened to your body(you have to do what is best for the new little one too!) and your heart when making this decision. You spent a lot of time and energy nursing your little ones, and I am sure that it has made a difference in their lives!

  • Sara

    Hurray for “extended” nursing! Although I gotta say that I wouldn’t even begin to think about it as extended nursing until after 2! Both of my babies nursed until after I was pregnant and like Julie said, stopped easily when my milk started changing (and my energy levels!). There is an in-between though which I found worked best for me and my toddlers- nursing only at certain times. This gave both of us that special bonding time and me the freedom that I sometimes needed/wanted at that point. With our latest addition, I’m aiming for 5 years of nursing… they let kindergartners bring milk for snack, right?! Okay, maybe 4? :) Keep up the great work momma!!

    • pmlevitt

      Your post made me laugh! V nurses at naps and bedtime, but will ask for her chi if she feels frustrated or when she is teething. I get some freedom, more than I used to! It’s all a phase, right, and it only lasts so long, so I want to enjoy it while it does last. Have fun with your little one and enjoy the nursing snuggles…

  • Tania

    Hi Pamela, came your way via She Writes; I am a fellow poet and mother blogger. I just want to second all the comments here in support of extended nursing. I’m plunking in a couple links to posts I wrote when I still had nursers–my youngest (of three) is five now; I think each child nursed til somewhere between two and three, much to the chagrin of a good handful of family members.

    For comfort, here’s a link to a post from my blog Feral Mom, Feral Writer on weaning (or not!): http://poetrymom.blogspot.com/2008/11/it-is-possible-to-nurse-2-year-old-and.html and an essay on hormonal thinking as influenced by breastfeeding: http://fertilesource.com/2009/10/thoughtloops-of-a-breastfeeding-mom/.

    Pleasure to meet you, and happy nursing. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to nurse my children. Not everyone can.

  • anopisthographiste

    I remember before I had kids when my mother-in-law (via translation, since we don’t speak the same language…one of the reasons we get along so well!) told me how her youngest used to stand at the door when she was with friends and call her so that he could nurse. I thought that was so bizarre.

    Then I had my own kids, nursed all three. Worked full time (pumping). Two out of three of my kids nursed well past age 3, although in the end it was just every now and then and more for comfort then for anything else. They also climbed into bed with me most nights (which certainly facilitated the nursing).

    The two older kids are now full-fledged teenagers (one a recent HS grad) so I can promise you that, while it seems like an eternity while you’re nursing, it passes so quickly. They will stop on their own, if you let them, and well before they take their SAT’s. Ditto for the bed sharing.

    Health benefits aside, it is a wonderful bond that is ephemeral and precious in so many ways. (Even though it doesn’t always feel that way and there are moments when you feel like a…well you know!)

    Pleased to have found you through she-writes.

  • pmlevitt

    Hi there! Thanks for commenting. We co-sleep too, although we are transitioning her to a mattress at the end of our bed. Last night, instead of coming in for one last nurse before I rolled out of her little bed, she threw my arm around my neck for one last cuddle. So sweet! These are precious times and they go way, way too fast! Thanks for reading and sharing!

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