August is Breastfeeding Month! This month Erica and I will be writing about breastfeeding! Join us as we share stores, write breastfeeding haikus, and share tips and tricks to meeting whatever your breastfeeding goals are.
This month my daughter will be 18 months old. She runs, she sings, she climbs, picks flowers, “reads” books, has a favorite movie (old school Winnie the Pooh) says “cookay” and “dodgy” (cookie and doggy) and makes an “oooooo” sound when I open the freezer (she knows there is ice cream in there). She also still breastfeeds.
I am starting to get THE question. Phrased different ways, sometimes out of plain curiosity sometimes loaded with extremely judgy undertones. You know the one I mean.
When are you going to stop nursing her?
The answer is- I’m not sure. Before my daughter was even the size of my hand, long before I met her in this lifetime’s physical form and way way before I lost myself down the rabbit hole of parenting books and list servs and other well meaning but often confusing bi-polar resources, my intuition said I’d breastfeed til 2.
In my infinite childless wisdom I imagined she would be 50/50 solids/breastmilk by 1 (HA! more like 15/85) and between 18 months and 2 years we would slowly and naturally drop nursing sessions until they faded into the background like bouncy seats and swaddle blankets did.
How wrong I was.
Breastfeeding is Aria’s favourite thing ever. If she had her way I would lay topless on the floor while she ran madly around playing, stopping only to latch on and grab a quick “deet deet” (what she affectionately refers to my mammaries as… yes- it sounds a LOT like “titty”). If she had her way my breasts would stretch up to the top of the tallest slide on the coolest playground and she could simultaneously indulge her wild adventurous desires and her relatively new-to-this-earth human need for closeness and safety.
Have you met her? She is CRAZY! But she is also really intensely sensitive. She doesn’t cry when she barrels down a flight of stairs on to her face (they were carpeted and she had a kitten to catch) but she does look truly scorned when she crawls into my lap and says “deet deet? Peeeeease!” and I tell her “Not now sweetheart, its almost dinner time, deet deet at bed time, deet deets for night night”. I have been experimenting with restricting the frequency of our breastfeeding- although that is a relative term since she fed every 15-45 minutes round the clock until she was 6 months old and now still feeds about 8 times in a 24 hour period. Sometimes it is helpful and sometimes it just makes for a mad kid. On average though, nursing a little less is working for us- I enjoy having more personal space and seeing her eat more than 1 blueberry at mealtimes. But still, it sucks to refuse her.
Our breastfeeding journey has always been challenging. I do remember one nursing session when she was about 6 weeks old where I felt a surge of ecstasy and joy. Woohoo Oxytocin! But that was one time. Breastfeeding started off hard (she took 5 weeks to get back up to her birthweight, she has a tongue tie (that I never clipped) and I was regularly engorged with ripped up nipples and a beaten spirit) but we did it. We exclusively breastfed til 6 months and we are still breastfeeding at nearly 18 months.
I’m not one of those moms that LOVES breastfeeding. I think its absolutely incredible that my body can do it, I think it is the best thing for my kid emotionally and nutritionally and I do love the moments of calm nursey cuddles that now punctuate my days with a bonkers toddler. But it’s definitely not my favorite part of connecting with my kid or of being a mom. I would list loving reading, singing, making her laugh, exploring nature and watching her sleep far above boob time.
Why am I still doing it if I don’t LOVE it? Do you love everything you do for your kids? Every time you do it? Changing their diaper? Doing the laundry? Cooking dinner and cleaning it up every night? Sure ya don’t. But it is still an act of love even if not every second of it is the most awesome fun you have ever had as a person ever. I think in the age of breastfeeding advocacy (which I am all for!) there is a breastfeeding selfie revolution that makes some women feel like they have to love and feel 100% empowered and stoked about it all of the time.
Breastfeeding is normal. Normalizing it means normalizing it. I love celebrating it and advocating for it and supporting it in anyway I can. But I also want it to just be normal. Normal like brushing my (or my kids) teeth, normal like buckling the car seat or singing a silly song or going grocery shopping. Sometimes these parts of our parenting day and really funny or sweet, sometimes they are a battle and sometimes we do them on total autopilot. Normal.
So why am I still breastfeeding?
It is the same reason we are still using diapers. There are no physical or emotional signs yet that my daughter is ready to give it up. She’s riding high in the 3rd percentile of weight and refuses to eat more than a few bites even if I restrict her mama milk 3+ hours before her meal. When she is overstimulated she knows she can crawl in my lap and tug on my shirt and say “peeeease!” because when the world gets too much there is a uniquely personal way we can reset and re-balance.
I am trying new tricks and tools all the time in my parenting- sleep is shifting for us (finally!) and I realize in retrospect that Aria was ready for that shift before I was. Whoops. But this isn’t that- yet.
I have my eyes open though- when her last tooth comes through (she has been in pain from teething almost CONSTANTLY since 6 months), or when she starts to regularly eat reasonable amounts of food, or stops asking for her “deet deets” so much, I’ll know we are ready to start shifting. I’m trying to remember (especially while I’m spending the summer with my family who are a little more old school than my crunchy Brooklyn peeps) that 18 months is a TOTALLY healthy and normal age to still be breastfeeding at. And also I’m trying to remember that I can empower myself at any moment to shift or stop- it is all fluid and when I get the cues I need from my gal (or from myself) that this chapter is closing we will find the natural end.
I’ll try to not care if my boisterous great aunt thinks I’m giving my kid a complex or if the mom still nursing a 4 year old at a meetup thinks I didn’t breastfeed long enough. I’m pretty sure I will be breastfeeding for longer than mainstream society deems appropriate and shorter than hardcore child led weaning breastfeeders believe in. Forever on my own little parenting island in the sun.
But who cares? Opinions are like nipples.
In the meantime it’s damn hot out, my goonie is thirsty and my bathing suit makes me look like an all you can eat boob buffet.
*** Note to self- buy turtlenecks and scuba suits in anticipation of weaning