Why is nursing a child over the age of 1 so “shocking” to so many people?? I was reading another blog post on extended weaning a few weeks ago and it got me thinking about it – and about my own feelings – and changing feelings on the subject.
I think a lot of the ignorance around extended breastfeeding is just that – ignorance. Our culture doesn’t teach us anything about breastfeeding – not a thing! I admit that prior to having my son, I thought it was “weird” when people were breastfeeding their toddlers. I had a very good friend who nursed her twins until they were three and I thought that was “a bit much”. But at the same time, I was very lucky – even though I didn’t realize it at the time, all of these extended nursers who I thought were a bit over the top, were really good role models for me.
I had my good friend who nursed twins until they were three, and several other friends who nursed toddlers until they were two or there-abouts. So even though I initially thought they were odd, I knew it could be done. And as time went by – and I had my own son – their extended nursing seemed less “abnormal” and more “normal” to me. When my son was born, I knew I would nurse for a year. As time went on, I thought I would like to let him self-wean and I thought about nursing until he was two. I became more and more comfortable with the idea of nursing past the age of one as my son got older and older. And soon I knew that I would nurse until age two. One year came and went and there was never a time when he didn’t seem like a baby to me. There was also never a time that I felt “forced weaning” was required.
I remember when my son was 18 months old and my husband used to ask me WHEN I was going to stop nursing. He didn’t want me to stop then, he just wanted to know when it would be (as if I knew!). I always used to jokingly say “when he’s 3″ because I never dreamed I would be nursing THAT LONG!
Then age three came and went and he was still going strong. To be honest, I didn’t think he would ever wean! And again, there never seemed to be a time when weaning was “necessary”. I did start employing “gentle” weaning techniques and had a strict “don’t ask, don’t offer” policy.
My son finally did self-wean just prior to his 4th birthday. I never dreamed we would nurse that long – but it also never felt like it was “too long.”
Our culture definitely sexualizes breasts – and I am very sad to say, that even now, nearly a year after my son has weaned, I feel “weird” when he grabs at my breasts and asks to nurse. Even after nursing him for so long, our culture has made me feel like this is a sexual act – when it is the furthest thing from that.
What can we do to normalize breastfeeding beyond the age of one? The best thing that we can do is to educate. Teach our children about breastfeeding. Show them animals and humans nursing. Whenever my son and I go to the zoo we talk about the animals that are nursing and he pretends that his toys nurse from their mommies. The best way to make it accepted is to make it common. So nurse in public and even if you don’t nurse in public – let people know that you are a nursing mom. Education is the key! What is so “magical” about being one anyway?
Did you nurse your child beyond the age of one? Why or why not? Have your feelings about breastfeeding changed now that you are a mom vs before you had children of your own? Who were your role models and positive influences? Please leave a comment to share your story.