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.