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Oct 11

Nursing a two year old

Julianna Ruth will be two and a half at the end of the month (two and a half??? it seems like yesterday she was two and a half weeks), and she’s still nursing. I nursed both Sam and Jessie as well, Jess self weaned at about eight months old.  Sam was a hard-core nursing addict – he weaned after considerable effort on my part when he was three and a half. I rarely nurse in public anymore, because still, even after nursing a much older child, I still feel self conscious and not willing to expose either myself or Julianna to other people’s judgement. Which does beg the question of why I’m blogging about it… I suppose this is my attempt to normalize it. Because this is normal, it’s just not common, unfortunately.

Extended nursing is still not mainstream. While there’s so much support for nursing an infant, there’s little to no support for nursing a child into toddlerhood. It’s not the same thing, Julie isn’t nursing for sustenance anymore. She’s more than capable of eating and drinking. But this is still something she needs. She’s not even close to stopping, while she can and will go for long stretches of the day without it, she still nurses to sleep for nap and bed at night, and it’s the quickest, most effective way to calm her down or reassure her. I’ve often heard the criticism that nursing past infancy is more about the mother’s needs than the child’s, and believe me, it’s not. You can’t make a toddler nurse any more than you can make them eat broccoli or go to sleep on command. I mean, I guess you could force feed them broccoli or put them into bed and cry themselves to sleep, but that’s not the same thing as doing it on their own. And I’ve got no interest in forcing a toddler to nurse, more often than not, I’m offering a drink or a distraction or straight out refusing to nurse when she wants to. When she needs to – when she’s coming down from a temper tantrum, or has fallen down and bumped her nose, or just is so exhausted she needs to sleep, then absolutely, I’m going to nurse her happily.

Part of my reluctance to wean her is because we fought so hard to have this relationship. She lost a LOT of weight after birth, and was jaundiced. Right when she needed to nurse the most (the pediatrician had told me to nurse her non-stop for the next 24 hours to flush out her liver and prevent the jaundice from getting worse),she went on a nursing strike. This coincided almost perfectly with massive postpartum mood swings, and a baby that wouldn’t nurse devastated me like nothing ever had before. She had to have formula for close to a week, because I couldn’t get her to latch on. We then cycled thru thrush and nipple confusion, a staph infection, breast shields, etc. It was months before nursing was easy, and I don’t take it for granted at all. 

Part of it is that she’s already growing up so fast. She’s potty trained, and talking all the time. There’s very little about her that’s babyish anymore, so I’m not pushing to take away nursing. Because I’d have to push it, there would be tears and heartache, she’d be miserable and confused if I stopped nursing her. Nursing isn’t about feeding her anymore – it’s an aspect of our relationship that she’ll outgrow. In the same way that I can’t pick up Sam anymore if he gets hurt, and it would be ridiculous for me to think that Jessie needs my help brushing her teeth – she’ll outgrow this. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there’s a huge part of me that looking forward to that day – I’ve been nursing or pregnant for well over six years now, but I’m comfortable waiting until Julianna is ready. 

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