Beyond the First Year

As I type this, my lovely child is cuddling with me on the couch, with her head resting on my left arm and one of her legs slung over my right arm. She’s blinking sleepily as she nurses, idly stroking my belly with one small hand.

I love these moments. Now that she’s a curious, active, loud, and joyful toddler, these kinds of nursing sessions are becoming much less frequent. In the beginning, when she was a newborn, all of them were like this. It was just me and her; my milk would make her sleepy and content, and the surge of hormones I got when letting down did the same to me. We dozed together, held hands, played with each others fingers and gazed into each other’s eyes.

Now the usual nursing break is full of acrobatics. When she’s feeling particularly silly, she likes to nurse upside-down with her bum pointed towards my face. She pulls on my shirt, slaps my chest, yanks on my free nipple, sticks her fingers in my mouth. She blows raspberries into my breast, bites my nipple (thankfully rare), slurps instead of sucks, hums loudly.

I used to be able to nurse in public very discretely, with the hem of my shirt hiding my breast. She doesn’t allow that anymore, presumably because she doesn’t like having my shirt in her face, so she pulls it upward, exposing my boob to…well, everyone. We still nurse in public – it’s our legally protected right! But “discrete” is frequently left out of the equation and I’m pretty okay with that.

I don’t mind the acrobatics. Sometimes it gets on my nerves, but mostly she just makes me laugh. But I do miss the stillness of these moments, which only comes every few days rather than several times every day.

Now that Eve is over a year old, I’ve been getting more questions. People have told me, “She needs full fat cow’s milk.” They go silent when I tell them that breastmilk has a higher fat content than cow’s milk. My coworkers have noticed that I’m still pumping twice a day at work, still taking home my little bags of liquid gold to freeze. My mother complains about the fact that Eve isn’t getting more of her nutrients from “real” food; she talks about my milk as if it were merely a refreshment rather than a critical source of nourishment.

People keep telling me, “It’s time to stop,” and every time I have replied, “No. It is not.”

I don’t know how long that Eve and I will be doing this. It might be another year and a half. It might be another three years. Every child is different. Every nursing dyad is different. The thought of nursing a preschooler doesn’t bother me; it’s the inevitable social discipline and shaming that makes me nervous. The modern American ideal of a proper nursing relationship is just so ridiculously and drastically skewed from what we as large mammals are biologically geared for; and any deviations from that ideal are ridiculed and demonized – which is ironic (and sad)  considering the fact that just as recently as a century ago, the vast majority of American children were nursed until three or four years of age.

I have no intention living the modern ideal, and I’m more than okay with that.

I’m loving it, in fact. I’m just living in the now, enjoying this warm little body snoring softly against mine.

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7 Responses to “Beyond the First Year”

  1. theroamingnaturalist Says:

    So glad you’re posting again, I’ve missed you. You’re a rockstar.

  2. IrishUp Says:

    I love this post. It’s so important to talk about how the nursing dyad changes over time – and changes that are kid driven, and changes that are mommy driven.

    It’s important to remember that the toddler and pre-school kid nurses differently, and for different reasons. I didn’t find that issues of public nursing came up that often after he was 2. Mostly we were just nursing first thing in the morning or right before bed at that point. Middle of the day nursing was almost always out of either boredom or for comfort. As a working mom, he wasn’t all that used to nursing during the day anyway, so that probably made a difference for us. If there was a major issue for which he really needed nursing (like the listeria he got, when he could keep nothing else down) either we were not out in public, or he was so upset that I’d be removing him from the public situation into a more private comforting one, facilitating my ability to comfort nurse, and avoiding crap from others. I have to confess, that as ACTIVE as he was during nursing after 18-24mo made ME so uncomfortable unless we were alone, I had trouble letting down anyway.

    We nursed until my son was 4.5yrs, and might have gone on longer, had I not been starting a medication that required weaning him. I was lucky to have a GP who was completely supportive of my nursing, and the emotional as well as the nutritional aspects of it. When discussing my med, we came up with a start date. Because boy was older, I was able to talk to him about how I was going to be taking medicine that was good for ME, but wouldn’t be good for him to have in my milk. We put a calendar up in his room, and talked about how we’d only be able to nurse until X day. We started getting used to spending the nursing time just snuggling instead. When he came to me for “comfort nursing” during that time, I’d offer snuggles or nursing. Often he’d choose the snuggles. We were both sad when The Day arrived, but overall, I’m glad we had a chance to mutually get used to it.

    But even now, several years later, if he’s had a bad day, he just wants to snuggle up in the boobies 😉

    • August Says:

      Congrats on your happy and healthy nursing relationship, although the thought of counting down to the last day would have been so sad for me. At least you were able to do it gently, for your sake and his. 🙂

  3. IrishUp Says:

    Oh, hells bells, mea magna culpa!
    All mamas are working! I should have written having an outside the home day job. Blech on me!

  4. Ivy Clinger Says:

    This was a beautiful little treat to read. It really is our perverted culture that has turned one of the most natural and beautiful parts of motherhood into something weird, and something that should be regulated. My longest nurser was 15 months when she weaned herself, and it makes me sad every time. Hopefully this next one wants to hang on a little longer! I just found your blog, by the way, and I’m really enjoying it, I look forward to more posts!

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