(To all three of my male readers, the following post is probably TMI. You have been warned.)
Breast Feeding Forever. My BFF Story. I nursed my sons. And with my youngest son, it was for a very long time by Western standards. And, yes. It felt like forever. But now? So short. So long ago.
I’ve read a few of your blogs out there and have seen a few posts or comments remarking about your nursing experience. I just wanted to give you a shout-out, a kudos, an atta-girl! Go YOU!
My sister was very encouraging about me nursing my children. She suggested that I go to a few La Leche League (LLL) meetings but warned me about the “Nursing Nazis” (her words, not mine, but you know who we’re talking about). Yes, I met a few. And yes, I’m afraid to admit – they pulled me over to their side. And because I’m a bit uncomfortable with that label, let’s just say I am VERY pro nursing.
Our #1son arrived home from Korea when he 6 months old and I was about 6 months pregnant. Some of my crunchy-granola friends asked me, “Are you going to nurse #1son?” Nurse my adopted son? I never considered that. Ummmm, yeah, I guess. Will he know how?
A few months after he arrived, he tried. Sporadically. Maybe my body wasn’t ready. Maybe he was just too unfamiliar. But it didn’t work.
Then, #2son arrived. His interest was rejuvenated.
#2son was born 9 lbs. 12 oz. When the pediatrician came in to check on us he said, “Congratulations! You’ve just given birth to a happy, healthy two month old!” And he was right. This boy was big. Eyes bright and wide open. Rarely slept. And wanted to nurse like a hungry lion cub. I had inverted nipples (I warned you guys out there. This might be TMI. Now go back to your basketball game.) and we had a difficult start. Ok, a very difficult start. But I was determined. And stubborn. So was he. I had done the research. This was important and there’s nothing I can’t do once I set my mind to it.
We struggled and struggled. A friend warned me that it might be hard to get into a rhythm but she said, “If you need me, call me. Day or night. Even if it’s 2 in the morning and you’re about to pull your hair out. You call me. It will all be ok.” My sister said, “Once you get past the first couple weeks it’ll be a breeze. Trust me.” I am so glad I had two amazing woman say those simple words to me. Because they were right. There were times when I wondered how in the world the human species survived. And then, as if magically, it was the most natural, easiest thing I’d ever done as a parent.
At his 10 month check-up, my pediatrician asked if had I thought about weaning. I told her, yes. When he was a year old.
She said, “Well, you know, they now recommend until age 2 or longer, whichever is best for mother and child.”
Until he was two? Isn’t that a little un-natural? So I did my research. She was right. The World Health Organization and The American Association of Pediatrics both recommend: After 6 months of age, “ infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.” I had to readjust my expectations.
My son was a nursing fiend. Convincing him to continue wasn’t difficult at all. And by this time, my son through adoption was enjoying a little cuddle/nurse time with mommy, too. But never for very long. Wait. Scratch that. Never for very long – when no one else was asking or watching.
I remember at a play date, with other LLL mothers, someone asked, “Are you nursing #1son, too?”
“Oh, very infrequently, ” I replied, “He doesn’t seem to be that interested.”
And then, as if on cue, #1son started pawing at my shirt. So, I cradled him and let him latch on, just to show the other moms what I meant. He nursed for 10 minutes straight. A record for him. He showed me!
Both sons nursed as long as they wanted to. #1son quit long before #2son. His choice. #2son nursed long into toddlerhood. When your child is nursing as a toddler, it is not all day long. Typically he’d nurse when he was tired or upset. Always at bedtime. Rarely during the day. At risk of being adversely judged here, I’m not going to share the age he quit. Suffice it to say, it was for a long time by Western standards. Long enough, that when a friend realized we were still nursing she remarked, “Well, that’s just gross!”
But that’s ok. I’m fine with being gross. For us, allowing my son to determine when he no longer needed to nurse was the most natural process. Once I tossed aside my preconceived notions of what was right or necessary we could just be in the moment. There was never any struggle to stop. I never felt physically uncomfortable. His need to nurse just naturally faded away. As will the need for every other emotional and physical stepping stone. My 17 yr. old daughter no longer sleeps with her “Bun-bun.” As adults, we no longer crave as many dairy products or carbohydrates.
Effortless. Calm. Natural.
Natural weaning was best for us, for our family. I honestly can’t remember the last time we nursed. And that makes me a little sad. And it makes me happy. It means we did the right thing for our son. We allowed him to be who he was. We allowed him to grow and mature on HIS timetable. As a result, we have a very happy, healthy (never had an ear infection in his life!) easy-going, good-natured child.
I’m not saying natural weaning is responsible for all of his wonderful traits. But it sure didn’t harm him, either.
(Before the criticisms start to fly please know this: I did my research about – tandem nursing, nursing while pregnant, and natural weaning. Lots and lots of research. We made our decisions fully armed with loads of information from both sides. And yes, I call it “natural weaning.” I know this implies that anything other than that is unnatural. Not wrong. Un-natural. As in, not allowing for the natural progression of things. If you or someone you love weaned in any other way — good for you (or them!) You did what was right for YOUR family. I completely, utterly, totally respect that course of action. All I ask is that you please respect the way we chose to wean.)