Our founder, Emmie, writes these thoughts as she enters the phase of nursing a two year old child.
Yesterday my youngest turned 2. And that afternoon, as I sat there in my comfy Sunday afternoon clothes, watching the NFL playoffs, and stuffing my face with pretzels dipped in nutella, she wandered over to me and started to tug on my pants. “Ana Ana” she said. That’s the name she gave nursing, months ago. Ana. She was tired, rubbing her eyes, and ready for a nap.
I gave her a smile, scooped her up into my arms, and let her settle in to the comfort she finds in our nursing relationship.
I admit, these days, I am a distracted mother, and nursing has become one more place I can check my email, my twitter feed, or work on this organization’s constant needs. But yesterday, I tuned out the tv, did not pick up my phone, and simply watched her as she dozed peacefully off.
I hadn’t really given much thought to the fact that she was now 2. Or the fact that I had made it to the recommendation given by the AAP and the WHO for breastfeeding. What I did recognize was that though she was now a full blown toddler, with sentences coming from her mouth, and real understandings of the world growing every day, she was still so much a baby.
Sometimes people say, “why are you still nursing her?” or “when she can ask for it, that’s when it is time to stop.”
Why? Why does a place of safety and security, a place of calm, a place of relaxation, become less important once a child is 2?
Over our time nursing, I have put more restrictions on it - no longer anytime any place (nursing a distracted toddler who loves to leave your breast out for the world to see was less than my ideal, since I didn’t use a cover), and no longer every time she wanted it. I wanted to teach her about consent, and how it was my body I was providing to nourish and comfort her, and that sometimes I needed to work, or clean, or simply relax without a small child on me.
But still, we nurse. And still, it is a way for her to be comforted, or calmed, or feel loved.
I have no idea when our nursing journey will end. When I coach mothers in our various local chapters, I always tell them that nursing relationships are truly beneficial so long as both mother and baby are happy. I really mean that. And that could be so very different depending on the family. Right now, I am happy. She is happy. I cannot say when that will change. But for now, we will nurse.
These days, when both my daughters (my older is 4) play with dolls, they both nurse them when feeding them. They also use a toy bottle. I love how both are wonderful and both are good and they don’t particularly care which one. But I also love how nursing is still seen as a normal, regular part of life - because for us and for so many women around the world, it is.
I’m not saying that I’m not grateful to be here. I had to fight like hell to nurse her at all. It was expensive, tearful, and painful for the first three months. She needed surgery. It was important to me to do this - my nursing relationship with my older daughter was also fraught with problems, but without the proper resources or education, I struggled a lot, and was sorely unhappy. I wanted to try it differently this time. I did, and it worked. That alone is wonderful, and now I have two beautiful, strong, intelligent daughters, one fed primarily through a bottle, one fed primarily through the breast. And yet… in recognition of my ability to fight to nurse her and nurse her to this point, I also don’t want to take away that if we are going to normalize nursing to natural term, 2 years is good and right and normal - and I hope that ONE day we don’t need to consider it amazing, but simply the norm.
So tonight, when I nurse my daughter to sleep, I don’t think I will say, “Wow - this IS special.” or “it’s amazing I am nursing a 2 year old.” Because though it is special and amazing… it’s also really just normal - and for that, I am grateful.