I should be the perfect advocate for breastfeeding. Although I have always supported breastfeeding in theory, I agreed with the society standard that it should end at 1 year of age. Nursing beyond 2 years was just unnecessary, weird and perhaps even damaging to the child. Naturally, during my pregnancy, I decided that I would breastfeed Elly for the first year, but once she could drink cow’s milk, it was over. She would no longer need to nurse.
So, why on earth am I still nursing Elly when we are weeks away from her 3rd birthday?
The best answer is because it still works. It still knocks her out in five minutes or less at bedtime. It still eases all her fears, especially her fears over poop. It still nurses her back to health when she is sick.
Another answer is because my soft and gentle approach to weaning does not work on my headstrong daughter. For 2 years now, I have used the don’t offer; don’t refuse method with little headway. It is true that she nurses much less than she did when she was a baby, but that is mostly due to her growing up than it is to my encouragement and gentle nudging.
Every year that has passed, I have set a new weaning milestone only to reach that milestone and still be nursing. As I notice how little she nurses these days, I feel that it will naturally be put away with all her other baby things that have already made their way to the attic. It will just take longer than I thought.
Of course, there are fringe benefits, such as decreased chance of cancer for me and increased immunity for Elly among others. Though it is different for each woman, the lack of a period is also a lovely fringe benefit that I have benefited from. It was almost 4 years of a reprieve for me (that math includes the 9 months of pregnancy for those of you trying to do figure the numbers out).
But as stated above, I am not a good advocate for breastfeeding. If anyone were to ask me about it, I would tell them that it was amazing to nurse Elly from infant to toddler.
It is still amazing. Yet, every child is different. What worked well with Elly may not work well for another child. What worked well for my family may be all wrong for your family. I remember how the clouds parted and the angels sang the night I brought Elly to bed with me, but not everyone has that same reaction to sharing their bed.
Plus, nursing a toddler takes a certain amount of bravado or perhaps just a thick elephant hide. It’s likely that you’ll run into someone who feels like I used to. I’m actually embarrassed that I used to be horrified by women nursing their babies or older children. There is nothing unnatural about it. There is nothing sexual about it. It is loving and comforting and beautiful.