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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Boob Man

It seems we have a boob man in the house.

Tater Tot turned two at the end of March, and we are still happily nursing. I always thought I would wean at least when they were asking for milk (kinda like how I thought I'd be done having kids at 30 ha ha) but so far, those plans have changed. It's not that I'm unhappy about it, it's just new territory for us. Tater Tot followed me around from the shower the other day, looking longingly at my chest and asking, "Boo boos? Boo boos?" as I tried to get dressed. It was sort of funny and sort of ... weird at the same time.

A few days ago he got up early and I put him down for his nap a little sooner than usual. By mid-late afternoon, I could tell his energy was flagging. He actually walked up to me and said, "Boo boos?" I kind of looked at him like, "What??" He tugged at my fleece that was half unzipped and said, "Stuck." LOL

I knew I wanted to nurse him at least two years; he's breastfed the longest of all three of my kids. I was adamant about trying with my first, and was determined to go at least six months. Then as we approached that mark, it was nine months. Then a year. I eventually weaned him at 18 months, and his sister nursed until she was 21 months.

I've been thinking about this a lot since he hit his second birthday and trying to really examine my feelings about it - namely, why I feel strange for feeling weird about it in the first place. Why do people care so much? If you ask strangers or a friend, everyone has an opinion, and usually they're willing to share it with you whether you ask them to or not. It's like once you become a parent - before the baby is born, actually - they take vicarious ownership over your body and inject their thoughts, feelings and opinions into the situation as far as what's Socially Acceptable and Good According to All Mankind.

My husband and I have talked about this occasionally, and I asked him point blank why he thought I should stop. He really couldn't come up with much of an answer, so we both agreed that whenever we stopped was fine, no pressure. He has always been very supportive of me nursing the kids as long as I, and they, wanted. I remember him asking me about when I would wean when our oldest reached a year, but honestly I think that was because he was reacting more to social norms and customs, and how it influenced his thinking, more than anything else.

It's strange that we have to defend ourselves to anyone who dares to ask if we're "still nursing?!" Last year my brother got married to a lovely girl from California, and her wonderful mother sat across the table from me at the rehearsal dinner and asked if I was still nursing when I refused beer. (I hate beer anyway.) I said yes (Tater Tot would have been about 17 months old then) and knew I loved her immediately when she didn't even bat an eye at my response, as if it was totally normal.

I came across a question posted on some parenting forum a few weeks ago about a mother who was having trouble with her 17-month-old biting during nursing sessions. I couldn't tell if she wanted to just end the bad behavior, or stop nursing altogether. One person who responded said, "17 months is wayyy too old to be on the boob. You need to wean her." I thought, Wow, that's supportive advice; thanks a lot! I put in my two cents and said, "If you're not trying to wean, ignore X's stupid advice."

I think sometimes we want to hurry up our children's babyhood as fast as we can: we say we enjoy watching them grow, and "They grow so fast!" and yet we're in such a hurry to potty train and wean them. As much of a problem accepting breastfeeding as some people have, they seem to have an even harder time accepting the dual purpose of breasts when it comes to toddlers - as if by the time they're able to hold their own bottle or cup they should be in the kitchen pouring it themselves. And if they can ask for it - well, that's even worse! eyeroll

Why can't we enjoy this time, or at least admit that we're not in any hurry? It doesn't mean our nursing toddler is taking advantage of us or having his way, it means he enjoys that time with us, which will not last. Besides, he's two; it's not like he'll be nursing when he goes off to college.

I bet some people think women who nurse their toddlers are somehow holding on to their babyhood and won't "let them" grow up. Maybe, maybe not. I don't know if I'll have any more kids after Tater Tot, but if I do I'm sure I'll nurse them just as long. He's hovering on the edge of boyhood, not quite a baby and not quite a toddler just yet - almost. Independent, and yet...a boob man. Crazy about cuddling up in mama's lap, one leg flung over the side, chubby little hand tucked up underneath there somewhere, eyelids heavy and lazily dozing.

In the words of my friend Taryn:
Think "extended" breastfeeding (past 1 year) is wrong? Well, Michael Jordan was breastfed to age THREE. Same with Albert Einstein. Jesus Christ, even LONGER. The day YOU have six NBA Championship rings, a Nobel Prize in Physics and the ability to walk on water, we'll talk. Till then, put a cork in it.


Danie Nicole said...

Great post and even greater quote at the end! Love it! You are so right about everyone else injecting there thoughts and opinions into your life. Sometimes I feel like I am stuck defending myself when it's really none of there business.
My daughter is currently six and a half months old. My original plan was to nurse a year and then be done. When you're nursing a newborn (especially for the first time) I think it's hard to imagine nursing an older baby or even a toddler. Now that we're half way to my original goal, I've been talking to hubby about nursing longer. He is supportive but does admit that he wants my boobs back for a little bit before we have a second child. He would never ask me to stop nursing though. Only time will tell.

StrongMamaof5 said...

I love love this post, thanks so much for writing it. My little one is 21 months old and everyone always is asking when are you going to stop nursing?? I know that I am doing the right thing but it's hard when family and friends think your crazy. But like you said it's not like my little guy will be nursing in college, I just wish people would realize that and stop worrying about what my baby does!

The Deranged Housewife said...

I remember watching some video footage - can't remember where it was - but they took an informal poll of women on the street. Some thought it was "enough" to stop nursing at six months, some a year - as if now they are upright, moving on their own, etc. - nursing is for babies. *eyeroll* Better start training my toddler how to make his own lunch, right? *sigh*

Rachel O. said...

I had to laugh at some of your comments, because they came out of my mouth once, too. When I was pregnant with my first I was only going to nurse for six months (what was I going to do after six months? I didn't even consider it, but the books make it seem that six months is the "magic number" so that was how long I was going to nurse.) And there was NO WAY I would ever nurse a child who was actually able to verbally ask for milk.

Well, I went on to nurse my first for 33 months (and yes he could talk and ask for milk.) I nursed him through my second pregnancy and then went on to tandem nurse my toddler and my newborn for 8 months. It was my goal to nurse my second for a full two years. Due to (my) health issues I weaned her at 23 months. At this time I was pregnant number 3. My number 3 is now almost seven months old and we have a very blessed nursing relationship. I pray that we will make it at least to two years.

So, I say, good for you, Momma, for nursing your toddler. Keep it up as long as you both want to.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post!

I'm still nursing my 21 month old daughter once a day or she gets out of sorts. We joke that she's an addict.

We pretend we're joking. We're actually pretty sure she's an addict.

I had so many issues with my first that nursing this long is a joy. I'm not sure when we'll stop. I guess we'll keep going as long as she follows me around in the mornings asking for it. Why not?

The Deranged Housewife said...

I had someone jump all over me recently because I said my child was "addicted to the boob." She tried to attach a negative label to it as if I were comparing him to a drug addict, etc. That one totally perplexed me. Whatever!

Rachel, I can't believe the Babe is that old already! Time is flying, for sure!

Catholic Mom And Midwife said...

You go girl. I nursed my babies from 18mo (the shortest), to 4 y/o (the longest). 10 babies, average 2-3 yrs for most. All pretty much self weaned....

Ignore everyone else and just concentrate on your little one. They grow way too fast!

Judy - said...

Love it!! I nursed my son til he was almost 4 - never planned to go that long - it just happened - and I wouldn't have it any other way! - Judy

Rachel said...

A great post! We stopped nursing at 13 months. I ended it then for MANY reasons. I had Mastitis twice in the first 2 months followed by thrush and then another 4 months of the doctor telling me I still had thrush(I didn't...I was just sensitive to his sucking and that was what was making my nipples red). So for 6 months I spent thinking I was making my son sick and also that I was sick when for 4 months of those I was fine. It messed with my head but we made it through. I PROMISED him I would give him 12 months of nursing so nothing was going to make me give up. NOTHING! We went to 13m because of his 1 year shots being rough but he was a champ at weening. Just went on with his day without it and never looked back. I cried for a few days knowing it was over :( but I needed to stop. I couldn't believe the amount of people that were put off by me still nursing at 1 year. Even after 6 months I started getting the "you're still nursing?" attitude. Giving your child the best that you can give is all you can do and I feel nursing is one of those. Awesome job Moms!

Mary Bennett said...

Just wondering how we know how long Jesus Christ nursed?

The Deranged Housewife said...

I don't know that there are specific references to how long Jesus himself nursed; however, it was not uncommon for women in the Bible to nurse until at least age three - in the book 1 Samuel the story of Hannah and Samuel is mentioned. She must leave him at the temple and won't do so until he is weaned, which to me basically says, 'I don't want to leave him yet so I'm going to nurse him for as long as I can.' LOL Her husband tells her, "Do what you think is best." :) From all accounts I've read that this happened when he was about three years old.