As the mother of a nursing toddler, what I hear the most is, “You need to stop.” But, why?
I knew very early in my pregnancy that I wanted to breastfeed my daughter, Phoenix. The deciding factor wasn’t the research about the benefits of breastmilk, or the “Breast is Best” slogans I saw all over the place. It was largely because breastmilk was free.
I was really concerned about the effect our baby would have on the family finances, especially as I, the family breadwinner, was out of commission.
Initially, I planned to stop around the one year mark. But as that milestone rolled around, I thought to myself, What am I going to do if we stop nursing? It makes things so much easier. She falls asleep faster, I don’t have bottles to deal with, and flu season is starting...I’ll just keep going.
And we did, right up to the next milestone, when my husband and I left our daughter at home and traveled for two weeks. While we were away, I pumped and expressed in the shower, wondering if she’d even be interested in nursing when I came home. She was.
When we came home just before midnight, suitcases in hand, she raised her chubby 19-month arms to me and sleepily asked, “Milk?”
How could I say no to that?
Well, Phoenix just turned two in September, and I can honestly say that I never intended to keep nursing this long. I never imagined myself to be the woman still nursing a 2-year-old, and honestly, some days—most days—I really, really want to quit.
I’m truly thankful that in this time women who are nursing their new babies get a ton of love and support as they navigate those first few harrowing months.
But as the mother of a nursing toddler, what I hear the most is “You need to stop.”
From everyone. My friends, my relatives, my husband sometimes, my pediatrician, my doctor, the director of my daughter’s school. They’re well-meaning, assuring me that I’d get more sleep, that she’d be more independent, and that my hair would finally stop shedding if I’d just cut her off.
What I’ve learned is that there is no correct response to this.
If I say that it helps her fall asleep faster, they say I’m creating bad sleep habits.
If I say that I want her to be able to connect with me the way she wants to, they roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, but don’t you want your body back?”
These are the same voices that will tell you to, “Cherish every moment because it all goes so fast.” It does all go by so fast.
One day she’ll be three. She’ll be 13. She’ll be 30. She won’t cry and scream just to get into my arms. I’ll worry and feel a bit slighted when I haven’t spoken to her in days. She’ll have her own life, and someday, her own child to nurse.
Life has gotten so busy for us—there’s school and Chinese classes and swim and work and dinner and so many other things. For these moments, when she crawls into my arms, she’s still my baby.
She’s still young enough to remind us both to slow down. She doesn’t have to quote articles or pediatricians to know that things are better when we’re together.
They just are, and she just is.