Welcome Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! This month’s theme was “Extended Nursing.” This is an older post that I’d written on the subject but it is still applicable. Be sure to check out the links to all of the other participants and their thoughts about nursing toddlers at the end of this post. Enjoy and Happy Reading!! – Karianna
The other day, The Mister and I stumbled across the movie “Grown Ups.” What struck me about this movie was not that it was a mindless comedy with a revelation-for-the-good-of-the-family at the end, but that it featured a four-year-old nursing. As I am watching, I am thinking, “This could be fantastic! The beginnings of normalizing extended breastfeeding.” Of course, I was sorely disappointed. The breastfeeding scenes, while few, were met with jokes and ridicule and one ill-mannered four-year-old, demanding “I WANT MOMMY’S MILK!” What?! Is it too much to expect that Hollywood would treat extended breastfeeding with courtesy and respect? I guess that it’s easier to make fun of it since every one else does.
I am the mother of two daughters, both of whom would qualify as “extended breastfeeders.” The Bear will be 4 in July and weaned at 30 months. The Dragonfly will be two in September and is very much in love with nursing. The girls tandem nursed until The Dragonfly was three months old. At that point, this mama was pretty much done with tandem nursing. I asked The Bear if she would mind if Mama’s Milk was only for the baby. She looked at me at said, “Sure! Can I have some yogurt please?” And with that, my nursing relationship with the Bear was complete and, to be honest, she was still just a baby in my eyes.
Breastfeeding is one of my most cherished parenting tools. What do I do if the Dragonfly falls and hurts herself? Nursing makes it all better. What if the Dragonfly is having a rough day? Let’s take a moment and nurse. How about this one? Mama is stressed out and kids are getting on her last nerve? Let’s stop, nurse and reconnect. What if she’s sick and can’t keep solids down? Breastmilk’s got it covered. How about those “picky eating” phases, do I reach for a nutritional supplement? Nope, breastmilk is all that we need. The life of a toddler is all about exploration and discovery. Sometimes that exploration can get overwhelming and discovery can consume many free moments in the day. Nursing allows time to rest and for your excitable toddler to just be a baby once again.
But, extended breastfeeding isn’t culturally accepted or the norm. Why is that? Why is a child considered young enough to breastfeed at five months but too old by nine months? Why do we pressure mothers to begin solid foods at 4 months even if baby is not showing readiness signs? Mothers who nurse past one year or even two years are accused of being too attached to their kids or even worse, abusing them. They are told that what they are doing is “gross” or “twisted” or that breastmilk doesn’t have any benefits past twelve months. Really? Is that where we are in the 21st Century?
One of my favorite moments during the day is when The Dragonfly comes up to me, and says “Muk, peas!” We sit down to nurse, with tickles and giggles to boot. Near the end, she stops, looks up at me and says emphatically, “Done!” Every time it makes me laugh and then she laughs and runs off to resume playing. There is nothing weird or strange about extended breastfeeding. To the child, it is just another way of knowing that they are loved. We may cluck out tongues or look disapprovingly at a toddler or preschooler walking around with a bottle or pacifier, but we don’t ever think that the parent is somehow hurting the child. Why wouldn’t the same hold true for the nursing relationship?
I just finished reading A Song for Nagasaki: The Story of Takashi Nagai by Paul Glynn and there is a moment in the book that really exemplifies the extended breastfeeding relationship. I will warn you though, it may make your eyes well up… especially if you are a parent. (Spoiler Alert! If you are currently reading the book or planning to, you might want to stop reading the blog here. This scene is toward the end of the book.) The book is a true story about a man and his family living in Nagasaki before, during and after the dropping of the A-bomb on the city. The narrator is a father, talking about his daughter, after the bomb killed his wife:
“It is nighttime, and I am in bed in the hut with four-year-old Kayano in my arms. She is drowsy and almost asleep but instinctively reaches under my shirt and takes hold of my nipple. With a shudder, she realizes it is not her mother’s breast, and that her mother has disappeared. Suddenly, she is awake and sobbing.”
Make sure to visit the other Carnival Participants!
Elita @ Blacktating: The Last Time That Never Was
Mama Poekie from Authentic Parenting: Extended Breastfeeding
Mama Alvina of Ahava & Amara Life Foundation: Breastfeeding Journey Continues
Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC: Old enough to ask for it
Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Favorite Moments
Tamara Reese @ Please Send Parenting Books: Extended Breastfeeding
Jenny @ Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: The Highs and Lows of Nursing a Toddler
Christina @ MFOM: Natural-Term Breastfeeding
Rebekah @ Momma’s Angel: My Sleep Breakthrough
Suzi @ Attachedattheboob: Why I love nursing a toddler
Claire @ The Adventures of Lactating Girl: My Hopes for Tandem Nursing
Elisa @ blissfulE: counter cultural: extended breastfeeding
Momma Jorje: Extended Breastfeeding, So Far!
Stephanie Precourt from Adventures in Babywearing: “Continued Breastfeeding”: straight from the mouths of babes
The Accidental Natural Mama: Nurse on, Mama
Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Gratitude for extended breastfeeding
Nikki @ On Becoming Mommy: The Little Things
Dr. Sarah @ Good Enough Mum: Breastfeeding for longer than a year: myths, facts and what the research really shows
Amy @ WIC City: (Extended) Breastfeeding as Mothering
The Artsy Mama: Why Nurse a Toddler?
Christina @ The Milk Mama: The best thing about breastfeeding
TopHat @ the bee in your bonnet: From the Mouths of Babes
Beth @ Bethstedman.com: Extended Breastfeeding: To Wean Or Not To Wean
Callista @ Callista’s Ramblings: Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding
Amanda @ Postilius: Nursing My Toddler Keeps My Baby Close
Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes: Tandem Nursing- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Zoie @ Touchstone Z: Breastfeeding Flavors
Lauren @ Hobo Mama: Same old, same old: Extended breastfeeding
Tanya @ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Six misconceptions about extended breastfeeding
Jona (Breastfeedingtwins.org): Breastfeeding Older Twins
Motherlove Herbal Company: Five reasons to love nursing a toddler