Nursing at 13 Months

It's strange to me to think that so few mothers ever know the feeling of nursing after their babies are a year old. I know that in the United States, it's considered admirable to even make it six months. While I support mothers who nurse their children for any length of time (or none) and recognize we all have different situations, I thought I'd share my experience.

Since I rarely nurse in public or talk about nursing my daughter, it occurred to me that maybe the problem is visibility. Everywhere I go I see babies with bottles, so I always feel like an oddball for still nursing Annalee. Maybe there are more of us than I realize, all of us furtively hiding in dressing rooms and public toilets, worried about obnoxious comments from strangers with opinions.

I have been a breastfeeding advocate for as long as I can remember. When I had my first daughter, she was exclusively breastfed until she was a year old, when she was given cow's milk in addition. She only tried formula once, when I was hospitalized, and she angrily spat it out and went on a hunger strike till she could have breast milk again. Luckily she was old enough to take water and baby food, so it wasn't too much of a strike.

With Victoria, I went back to work full-time when she was 6 weeks old. My husband was a stay-at-home daddy, and I expressed milk for her before I left each day. I have always been blessed with an abundance of milk, despite a very stressful job. Victoria was 14 months old when I became pregnant again, and because of my risk of miscarriage (I've had a dozen), my doctor advised me to wean Victoria. Even at 14 months, it was hard on both of us but only briefly.

Now with Annalee, I have no compelling reason to wean her before she is ready. She loves nursing. Nursing releases endorphines and hormones in me that are natural mood lifters. With two small children, who wouldn't love that? :) Extended breastfeeding is dramatically reducing my risk of ever getting breast cancer (a woman needs to breastfeed for at least two years of her life to see a decrease in her risk). It is continuing to provide Annalee with protection against everything from childhood leukemia (the longer a baby is nursed, the lower her chances of ever contracting it) to colds and illnesses I have (my body passes antibodies to her for every illness I contract). Nursing provides her comfort and closeness. It calms her when she's upset and is one of the only ways to make her happy when she's teething or sick. It helps her fall asleep when she's fighting sleep too.

But the biggest reason I'm nursing my one year-old is because it's what my one year-old wants. It makes her absolutely, deliriously happy. Her face lights up in a huge goofy grin the moment she catches a glimpse of a breast. She has to deal with teething, colds, sharing with her sister, and not getting to chew on everything that looks so pretty. One of the good things she gets right now is her "smucks" and I'm not going to be the one to take that away from her.

Will I be nursing her as she goes off to preschool? I seriously doubt it. I admire moms who nurse as long as their children want, but I have my own personal limit. I haven't reached it yet and I don't even know where it is, but I'm pretty sure it's before then. Who knows though. I don't understand why people get so bent out of shape about how long a mother nurses her own child. I see people get more passionate about mothers who are nursing toddlers than mothers who are beating them. We live in a strange world.

Yesterday I was at a wedding with my family. After the reception, Annalee scrambled up my lap and motioned that she was hungry. My first instinct was to head to the bathroom once again. I looked up at the mother with her three week old baby and her plastic bottle, then over to the woman with the bulging belly. I decided I'd spent enough time in bathrooms. There, before God and everyone, I discreetly nursed my toddler. Maybe it will help the next mom not feel like so much of an oddball.

Or maybe not, but the view is better.

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All works on this site Alicia Bayer unless otherwise noted.
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