Updated: Jul 19, 2019
My personal goal has been to breastfeed each of my babies until they turned two-years-old. Why two, you may be wondering? Well, Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC, sums up beautifully the health, mental and physical benefits of breastfeeding beyond one year in this KellyMom.com article:
Honestly, though, the real motivator to continue breastfeeding beyond the standard recommendation is simply this: WE LOVE IT! The sweet cuddles, the soft caresses, the cute noises they make while nursing, the wiggly butt reaching up in the air as they become more mobile and confidant with movement. I love the extended eye contact and the unspoken words of mutual adoration. Breastfeeding a toddler has been, in most cases, the most beautiful, tender and precious experiences of my life. These are intimate moments shared between a mother and child. There is nothing else like it, in my opinion.
As with anything in life, however, even the most wonderful experiences come with challenges. I nursed my firstborn until he was 18-months. I had intended to continue, but he became so physically wild during his nursing sessions. It became like nursing a baby bucking bronco. On the day I called it quits, we were having our afternoon nursing session in our favorite cozy chair. Things started out okay, but a few minutes in he pulled off my breast, reared up like a wild-man and head butted me right in the nose! Immediately, blood was gushing from my nose and I felt it crooked on my face. I'm pretty sure I yelled some profanity in response to the pain and frustration. "That's it!" "We're done!" I said. I realize it was an accident but I never nursed him again after that.
Less than two months later, I found out I was pregnant with his baby brother. The natural birth control from breastfeeding was real for me, evidently. My second born has been my angelic child. Seriously, he was the most mellow baby in spite of his chaotic and stressful arrival via emergency c-section. This little guy latched on perfectly from the get-go. He slept through the night by 8-weeks old and never gave me any trouble nursing or with sleep. He was an incredibly affectionate baby with such a sweet nature and would laugh and giggle at pretty much anything his big brother did. If there is any such thing as an easy baby, he is the poster child. I nursed him successfully until his second birthday.
I remember making the decision to wrap-up breastfeeding with him and I can still visualize that final nursing session on the afternoon he turned two. I was rocking him in his favorite chair, staring into his gorgeous blue-green eyes. He used to take my long hair and twirl it around in his fingers while he nursed. I cried that final session and thanked the Lord for that special time we had together. I thought we would both go through a period of grief after our nursing life together was over, but surprisingly, it was okay. We both moved on without looking back. It was the right choice and the right time for both of us.
As I write this, I am currently still nursing my daughter, who turned two this past January. I don't have any plans to wean yet, but at 27-months, she still loves her "milk" and receives it at home pretty much whenever she wants. Typically, she'll nurse before she goes to bed at night; around six in the morning; and again before nap-time plus any time she bumps her head or puts something suspicious in her mouth. Breastmilk is the perfect antidote to germs. I swear it's kept her from becoming ill numerous times. This is one compelling reason I continue to nurse her. She is a very curious, strong-willed, highly independent little human and she gets herself into trouble more often than I'd like, even with diligent supervision. When my older kids brought home the stomach flu last year, she did catch it. She refused everything except the breast. Breastfeeding not only helped her fight the virus, it also kept her from becoming dehydrated and us taking a trip to the E.R. When she's been at a playgroup where the toys are questionably clean and other kids have runny noses, I put her to the breast after. When I catch her letting the dog give her a kiss, I put her to the breast. Just one teaspoon of breastmilk can have 3-million bacteria killing cells!! I can't think of anything more protective for a curious toddler than that.
One of the more annoying things about nursing a toddler is when every person in your family and social circle begin to ask you when you are going to stop nursing. I've heard some cute answers to this question, such as, "when I drop him off at the dorm." or "in about 5-minutes." I usually just say, "I'm not sure. Whenever we are ready." Because, in reality the decision to wean is a very personal one between a mother and her child. Breastfeeding a toddler is perfectly NORMAL. The average age of weaning around the world is 5 years. Gasp! Yes, nursing beyond the first year is not taboo in most parts of the world. I don't know why it's such a big deal here in the States, but I would love for us to become a country where it's quite common to see mothers out and about confidently nursing their toddlers. Who's with me?
Wishing you abundant energy and radiant health,
Christy and the L.W.C. Brevard Family