|The perk of nursing with your iPhone handy? Capturing grins like this one.|
Shira is turning two in a few weeks and I'm starting to get a lot of questions about breastfeeding. How long will you continue to breastfeed? Don't I want to stop? Is she going to permanently fuse to your breast? Fair enough. I don't think these questions are unusual by any means. Women just don't breastfeed toddlers very much in our culture, though that is starting to change. My friends and family have always been very supportive about my breastfeeding Alyce and Shira, but since for most of them it isn't the norm, I naturally receive a lot of questions.
A lot of people expect that I will stop nursing Shira once she turns two. Again, I understand why they expect it will come to an end. She's growing up and standing so much on her own in the world. It makes sense that she will no longer want to breastfeed one day, busy as she is. But right now she isn't ready and I have no need to enforce an arbitrary deadline on her. There are many reasons women need or choose to wean, but I don't have any of these reasons at the moment. I'm home with them full-time, so I'm always available. With the exception of that crazy week in Vancouver, it doesn't cause me any pain. She clearly still wants to breastfeed because she asks for it throughout the day and enjoys it when I am able to. (Also, in case you were wondering, you can't make a baby breastfeed unless they want it. They will absolutely not latch on if they don't want to.) There is no question in my mind that she still needs to nurse. This doesn't mean that I think harm would come to her if I decided to wean today. She would adjust and adapt just fine. But with no reason to stop, we'll continue on, my little nursling and me.
And of course, she's not the only who gets something out of breastfeeding. I love nursing her. It's my time with just Shira and no matter how much she will always love me, she will never snuggle with me again like this on a regular basis. I came to terms with that when I weaned Alyce at twenty-two months, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. In fact, it makes me quite sad to think about ending our breastfeeding relationship. It would mark an end to so many things and I would grieve this transition. (Many women suffer depression when they wean. You can find one women's story here). In a month from now I might feel very ready to stop, and I'm happy that I have the freedom to wait for that time to come. Who knows, I could feel that way tomorrow. Or, Shira could decide for the both of us. Either way, as sad as I will be when this is over, it will be ok. I find transitions of this sort so difficult, but I always get through them.
If you've read any of my blog before you're probably wondering if I will ever stop talking about breastfeeding. It's not looking good for you, I'm afraid. Breastfeeding your baby, or any kind of close relationship you share with your child, is transformative. It's going to change you, and if you're like me, you want to share that with the entire internet. You're welcome.
What about parenting has transformed you?
P.S. Here is an article by Dr. Jack Newman, a breastfeeding expert with some wonderful advice on nursing a toddler.
P.P.S. Another post on breastfeeding a toddler. And another one.