My mom adventures in Fort Collins

My life with a nursing toddler

A while ago, there was this buzz in the air about breast-feeding toddlers, partly due to the Time magazine cover about attachment parenting. I wrote a post about that cover, and in that post I outed myself as a mother who breastfeeds her toddler.

One of the few photos I have of me nursing–back when Ruby was about 6 months old

Let me say, I am the world’s most reluctant breastfeeding mother of a toddler. I never, ever, in a million years thought that I’d be in this position. Am I ashamed of this fact? Not really. I mean, one time I caught my daughter playing with a dog turd, and that made me feel ashamed. However, breastfeeding my 2 1/2 year-old doesn’t necessarily make me feel proud, either. I’m not a flag-waving member of La Leche League, and I don’t actually have strong opinions about breast-feeding for anyone other than myself–I made my choice, but I realize that many women make a different choice for very valid reasons. When I think about my daughter, her specific situation, and why I still breastfeed her, it makes me feel responsible. I say “responsible” because I am responding to her specific needs as an individual. I’m doing what most mothers do–I take a look at my child, her amazing personality and her monstrous needs, and I do the best I can to meet her where she is at.

My reflections on nursing a toddler are not romantic, nor are they lamentable. I have had the best experience nursing my two children. I have been truly blessed–I have always had “enough” milk, I have never had mastitis (knock on wood), and I have really had a relatively easy time compared to many people I know. I treasure many nights where my breasts provided the exact comfort those little bodies needed to be nourished and satisfied, and I feel close to my children for having had that experience. Now, that being said, there is a part of me that wants this over. After a collective 47 months of nursing (13 months with Scout and now nearly 34 months with Ruby), I would like my boobs back all to myself. I’ve done my duty, and my deflated tube socks and I want to rest for a while. There is the saying “All good things must come to an end” for a reason, after all.

Now, my baby is nearly three years old.

But here’s the thing: I’m not done. And chances are, I won’t be done for a while. When I made the decision to continue nursing Ruby past the point of easy weaning (I weaned Scout at 13 months without any problems), I also essentially made the decision that I would be allowing Ruby to self-wean. Presently, Ruby is in charge of our nursing schedule. I haven’t “offered” her the opportunity to nurse in nearly a year–instead, she comes to me and asks to nurse. Except for a brief period of time when she called it “nooking,” she has always called it “nursing.” Since she was around a year or year and a half, we stopped nursing in public and nearly exclusively nurse at home before or after sleeping. In essence, we are somewhat clandestine, and I am okay with that. When the time comes that Ruby decides she is done nursing, I will accept her resignation willingly.

If anyone else I know ever runs into a similar situation with a high-needs toddler, I don’t think I’d necessarily dispense any advice. Everyone needs to do what they need to do for their child. I am glad that I listened to what Ruby needed at that time, and if as a result of those needs I am still nursing a two-and-a-half-year-old then so be it. In the big scheme of things, this is one small thing that I can do for her. I never in a million years thought I’d be here–in fact, I used to judge the cute little hippy mommies that did this! But I’m glad I’m here in this spot, a new somewhat-uncomfortable-place for me to be considering no one on either side of our families was anything other than bottle-fed.

The American culture doesn’t offer much support for women nursing toddlers, although there are plenty of women who choose this willingly. For the wider world out there, it is actually very normal to nurse your toddler. For anyone interested in learning more about this topic, or child-led weaning, there are many resources out there. Check out this article from a while back that appeared in Mothering magazine, thoughts for those considering nursing a toddler, a link to weaning suggestions (if you’d like more info on that route) and here is a Mommy blog  on gentle discipline and breastfeeding. If I can offer no other words of wisdom, I would say, “Please don’t judge the mom nursing her toddler… she may just be a mommy wanting to do her best by her needy kiddo.” And if anyone reading this is nursing a toddler, I’d say that you may have mixed feelings and that’s okay, but just know that in all likelihood you are doing right by your kiddo.

As always, we’re all just doing the best we can do at any given time.


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