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Here I am…that mom who is nursing a toddler. Even I can’t believe it sometimes, but now that I’m living it, it seems nothing but normal. Because it is normal.

Truth be told, our country is one of the only ones who is scared of this concept. Breast milk has an expiration date, people say, babies get too big and once they begin to ask for it, well…that’s weird. I get it, I do. But maybe it’s time to change our perspective on this one.

My nursing journey has been extraordinary. I’ve loved it, and it’s been easy for me, and I’m proud of that. I endured a crazy birth that I still have trouble coping with even today, so being able to have this sliver of normalcy, something that came easily and according to my plan is something I hold near and dear. I shout it from the rooftops and try to help others to have the positive experience that I have been lucky to have had.

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I am not even sure how I got on the right foot when it came to nursing. I had a lot of conflicting information from the hospital staff and, being my first born, everything was new and questionable. Thankfully, once we were home, I immersed myself in online blogs, websites and Facebook groups and made sure I was doing what was right. There was no way to overfeed her. Perfect! When in doubt, offer the breast. Check! Happy, gaining weight and enough soiled diapers? Then she’s getting plenty of milk! I felt like I conquered this.

We were two months in when some colicky symptoms started. Every night, from 9pm until about 2am, she was inconsolable and had more spit-up than normal. We, like any parents, Googled our lives away and found that maybe the dairy I was drinking (I love my chocolate milk!) was making her stomach upset and bloated. I cut out dairy, brought in almond milk, and the problem was solved.

At four months postpartum, I went back to work at a new job. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, and I struggle with it on occasion to this day. I threw my thoughts into the universe and accepted that, if I got this position, it was meant to be…and here I am. I carried that heavy pump with me to work every day and was in the lactation room constantly. I researched bottles to see which would be the best for going back and forth from breast to bottle (what worked for us: Comotomo) and even came home at lunch sometimes to nurse.

My milk supply skyrocketed and the stash was taking up our freezer. I donated around 400 oz. to the Mothers Milk Bank Northeast and was thrilled that I could provide milk to micro-preemie babies in need while still providing for my own.

When Ava was around 16 months old, I finally pump-weaned but continued to nurse whenever I was home. I thought about beginning to wean her at 18 months, but it just never happened. As a working mom, having those moments to nurse Ava and be extra close with her were so important to me.

We continued forward and here we are…25 months and still nursing. Yes, Ava eats real food, drinks almond milk, water, juices and whatever else she pleases. But being able to nurse her in the morning and at night is a special time for us.

What I love about nursing is that breast milk never outweighs its benefits and I’ve seen this first hand. Ava was sick with a cold when she was 10 months old, and that’s been it thus far. Her immune system has benefited greatly from breast milk and all of the antibodies that have been passed on to her. Some studies have even concluded that the longer you breastfeed a child, the smarter your child is likely to become. This is because the brain grows more during the first two years of life than any other time. Experts also have noted that children who are breastfed have improved vision, better hearing due to lower incidence of ear infections and even better dental health.

Still not convinced, and totally weirded out that a toddler who can walk, talk and scream at decibels that are ear-piercing is still nursing? The World Health Organization officially recommends that mothers breastfeed until at least two years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics also has a recommendation along those lines, stating that “mothers should breastfeed until at least one year of age and then as long as mother and baby mutually want to.”

While whatever feeding relationship a mother chooses is up to her and her baby, nursing a toddler (and another societal issue here in America: nursing in public) is totally normal. We have become a very sexualized society, where showing cleavage and barely-legal clothing is ok, but feeding a child the way nature intended is shameful and not allowed. We are constantly working towards better societal norms, but we still have a long way to go.

I will continue nursing my daughter until we mutually agree to end this journey we have been on since birth, and that’s normal and OK.

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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