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!