Hi. I’m Jane. And I Nursed My Son Longer Than 2 Years.

(Jane clears throat and steps gingerly onto her soapbox.)

Hi.

My name is Jane.

And I nursed my son longer than 2 years.

Go ahead. Start slinging the arrows. Label me crunchy granola. Slap the handcuffs on my wrists and haul me away to crazy-mommy-jail. (Do they have Starbucks? If so, I’ll go willingly.)

I didn’t plan on nursing for so long. I knew I wanted to breastfeed. (Because, after all, that IS what my breasts were designed for, contrary to popular belief.) So when my pediatrician asked me if I’d given any thought to weaning I answered, “Yes. I read it’s best to nurse until a year old. And that’s when I’m planning on stopping.” She smiled a knowing smile and handed me a pamphlet on the latest statistics (7 years ago) and said, “Well, the World Health Organization now recommends breastfeeding until age 2 or longer, whichever is best for both mother and child.”

This was new thinking for me. But after exhaustive research (because I’m really a research nerd-junkie at heart) I decided to practice “child led weaning” or natural weaning. Yes. I said natural weaning. Because if it’s forced, it is un-natural. (I’m on my soapbox so I can say this.)

Now, I wasn’t the perfect crunchy-granola mom. I tried to practice a “don’t offer, don’t refuse” approach to the “natural” weaning process. But I succumbed to societal pressures. If we were in public, if guests were visiting who wouldn’t understand, I’d gently redirect and say, “Not now.” Sometimes I’d offer an explanation. But he didn’t really care. A redirect was fine.

But the fact that I was still nursing at (OK. I’ll admit it.) 3+ years of age? It was my dirty, little secret. (And not THAT kind of dirty, little secret. If that’s what you were thinking? Please. Just leave now. There isn’t enough room in the blogosphere to convince you otherwise and I’m not about to try.)

Frankly, I find it pathetic that only 57% of women in the U.S. even try to breastfeed their baby, compared to the 98% in Sweden, Norway and 94% in Rwanda. I understand that for some women, breastfeeding isn’t an option due to health issues. I get it. I truly do. But when a 6 month pregnant woman in my bookclub says, “Oh, no. We’re not going to breastfeed. My husband  and I just aren’t comfortable with that.” And she shakes her head with disgust, with a grimace on her face? I’m the one who is disgusted. (And I tried to hide MY grimace but as you all know, I do not have a poker face.)

And I tried. I really tried not to make a comment about the fairly recent Time magazine cover “Are You Mom Enough?” with the 3-year-old nursing. But hold onto your hats, because here I go.

First of all, I never, ever, ever nursed my 3 year old standing up with him on  a step stool.

Second. If you can’t nurse for whatever physical reason? You get a big, fat automatic pass at breastfeeding. No questions asked. But if you “can’t” nurse because it grosses you (and your husband) out? Maybe you aren’t mom enough.

Third. I understand that Time was trying to elicit a response with their shocking cover. But really. Natural weaning and attachment parenting practices should be a non-issue. They are practiced all over the world. ALL the heck over. We’re the ones with the issues that we need to just get over. Plus, different strokes for different folks. Stop the judging and start supporting each other. Maybe more moms would see the light.

And D (now you really know I’m angry because I’m mixing up my argument structure), that blog that wants to punch people in a place that would really hurt because they tick them off? You can be on your soapbox but please back up your argument with facts. Attachment parenting does not mean that you nurse until your child can spell “delicious and refreshing breast milk” and they co-sleep with you until middle school. I know you’re trying out the Time magazine shock technique, but honestly? You come across sounding mean, angry, hostilely judgmental and insecure in your own parenting skills.  But since that’s the point of your blog, I’ll just stop there.

Yes. I’m a crunchy, granola mom. By accident. Because that’s what felt right for me and my child. At that time in our lives. In that moment. I didn’t ask for anyone’s permission. I didn’t ask for anyone’s opinion. I just did it because that’s what felt right. And sadly, for me anyway, I honestly can’t remember the last time my son nursed. It had tapered off to a point that one day, a day I will never remember because it felt like any other day, he decided it would be his last. He didn’t need it anymore.

As it should be.

(Stepping off my soapbox, and ducking from the arrows, I just want to say whatever is was that YOU did about feeding your infant/toddler/child? It’s your business and your business alone. I don’t care what you did. I know what I think is best but that’s just it. It’s MY opinion. Not yours. You go off and have your opinion. Just don’t want to punch me in the throat because of mine.) 

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13 Comments

Filed under children, Moms, Motherhood, Soapbox

13 responses to “Hi. I’m Jane. And I Nursed My Son Longer Than 2 Years.

  1. I think it’s both a mother’s and a child’s right to choose what is right for them. Like you, however, I don’t get mothers who choose not to before birth. Yes, we live in a culture where such parts of the body are suspect and hushhush unless we’re laughing or drooling at them in adult life (I don’t include myself in that last ‘we’ by the way!) but surely even the not so brightest person must realise that is what their true intention is. Personally I feel that the problem we have in the Western world is the common school starting age of 4, a child must be weaned and toilet trained by that age at the latest. And now preschool education is going beyond the norm to almost compulsory. The cut off point for babydom is getting ever younger. I understand that Sweden (which you quote at 98%) has a school starting age of 6 or 7, or used to at least. Much more time for babies to be babies, toddlers to be toddlers. Less pressure for parents to force their babies into growing up too. What’s wrong with granola anyhow?! :)

  2. We need more healthy alternatives to claustrophobic “norms” that make our lives rigid and shallow. If it does not get in the way of what you do as functioning member of whatever community you inhabit, and it is not harmful to your child then nobody should judge you. Too many people think they have the answer about what a healthy family looks like. There are as many right ways to raise children as there are children, and there never has been a perfect parent. One thing I am sure of we all should be supporting other parents in choices that create more trust and love in families.

  3. I nursed both of my children. My daughter lived on nothing but nursing for her first six months, and weaned herself at about a year and a half. I think my son would have nursed longer, but a medical emergency put me in the hospital and it brought nursing to an abrupt halt – antibiotics were needed after surgery and they would have been present in the milk. I was very sad about that.

    I must admit that there was a lot of pressure on me to stop nursing both of my children before they were a year old. I am not sure that our culture really supports women nursing.

    Recently I read a blog post by Pat Brown (the criminal profiler). In it, she said that American women aren’t told the truth about nursing, and that is one of the reason some women fail at nursing or use other alternatives. Here is the link for her two cents on the topic (worth reading): http://patbrownprofiling.blogspot.com/2012/06/criminal-profiling-topic-of-day.html

    Bravo, Jane!

  4. Mrs Loquacious

    Yeah, I’m an AP-oriented, BLW proponent too, so I figure I might need to nurse this kid until she’s 2. She loves comfort nursing and will nap with the nipple in her mouth. Try pulling it away and you wake her up!

  5. I breast-fed both of my children until they were nine months old. I know it would have been better for them for me to have continued for at least a year. But on a selfish note, it became something of a chore and no longer the wonderful bonding time I enjoyed earlier. It is right for some women to continue beyond nine months, but it was right for me to stop then.

    I honestly don’t understand why anyone would criticize the very personal choice of how long to nurse one’s child.

  6. I was breast-fed until about age 2. My brother was the same and my sister until over age 3 I believe. My mother was a member of La Leche League. Even as a scared single mom at age 22 (when she had me) she did the research. She knew what was best for her baby. She was “mom enough.” Americans need to wake up. There is a reason there are so many more learning issues today than there were 20 or 30 years ago. I think some people just have kids to have them, because if breast-feeding your kid grosses you and your husband out, there really is no hope for you as parents (seriously praying for that woman you mentioned!).

  7. *applauding*
    Jane, I always applaud you. And this time, though I agree with everything you said, I’m cheering for the “everyone figure it out for themselves and leave other people alone” bit. And the non-issue of AP.

    I’m still in the process of weaning the second small person. The first went to two years and dropped each feeding when he was ready. This second was pushed to drop the morning feeding because he kept waking at 5am, wanting to nurse, and then ready for the day. I made mornings less appealing by refusing, and he now sleeps later (though still wakes several times a night). Not proud, but not asking for permission, either. He’s over two, still sometimes nurses before bed, and will probably drop it soon. But when he asks, I gladly give the thing he will only need while he’s tiny. There’s enough time to force him to grow up later.

    I love living in California because nobody ever looked down their noses at me breastfeeding in public. Nobody has said that one of my children was too old to nurse.

    Good thing. Because I’ve been practicing my retorts since I was pregnant with the first and doing the research on how important breastfeeding is.

  8. Pingback: Does Parenting Advice Help or Hurt? | Big Little Wolf's Daily Plate of Crazy

  9. On the complete other end of the spectrum, my kids both weaned themselves before 6 months of age. It was so sad. I didn’t have a plan for how long I’d do it, but I certainly thought I’d be more involved in the decision. I think they just stop when they’re ready, whenever that time is. (And there wasn’t much support on the early end, either. As if I could’ve made it last longer. Ever try forcing fleshy, leaky tissue into the mouth of a baby? Impossible.)

    I think we’re lucky to get to be part of it for as long as it lasts.

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