I debated for a while whether or not I would post my thoughts on this experience. My intent is not to make anyone feel badly for their thoughts or opinions. However, I was so thrown off by this that I couldn't get it out of my mind. After writing about it and sitting on it for a few days, I finally decided to share.
I'm startled by how many times it has been suggested I should stop breastfeeding Linc. Whether it's a direct comment or something implied, it seems to happen often. From both family members and friends. And with the recent acknowledgement of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7) all over social media, I've been thinking of it a lot.
Linc is 14 months old, not 14 years and yes, he's still nursing. I don't see this as a problem. I'm not even a die-hard breastfeeding mother who advocates it regularly or even does it in public much. In fact, when some friends recently told me I should bind my chest to hide my breasts, and tell Linc they're "broken," they had only just discovered that night that he is still breastfed. It's weird to me that breastfeeding is being seen as a way I'm letting my son manipulate me. Or that it may be the reason he was such a terrible sleeper. If that were true, he wouldn't be sleeping through the night, would he? Maybe. I dunno. I just don't see breastfeeding as a bad habit of his that needs to be broken immediately.
Perhaps looking at it from a different point of view will help clarify why I'm still breastfeeding my toddling son. Not that I need to justify this, but just to educate others on my particular situation.
Do you have a child? Great, then you can relate to the highs and lows of parenting. Do you have a child who suffered from colic? Great, then you can relate to how horrific it is to have a screaming infant who routinely makes your life unbearable from 5pm until 10pm every day for weeks. Was your spouse gone during all of the colic, too? Great, then you can relate to how exhausting it is to be the only person dealing with said colic while also trying to take care of a four-year old. I can emphasize with how hard it must have been for you to juggle bedtime with a wailing infant in the house, all the while your breasts are swelling and leaking since they felt the need to soothe that infant while you read bedtime stories to your other child.
Did your colicky child refuse a bottle and and then abruptly give up the binky around three months of age? Did he also refuse to accept anything other than mom as a source of comfort? Oh, then I really do feel for you and your aching body, because you literally bore the burden of soothing your child almost exclusively on your own.
That is the scenario I faced when Linc was an infant. He wailed so much. He turned blue in the face from all the screaming. Kevin was almost never home. He went back to work just a few hours after I got home from the hospital with Linc and Aspen was returned to us from her cousins' house. When nothing else worked to quiet baby Linc (and give me back some sanity), I nursed him. I no longer solely employ this method of soothing, but it sure did the trick to calm and fatten new-born Linc. And so, he learned that Mom = Soothie. It is unfortunate, but it's how I survived.
Taking away breastfeeding now wouldn't necessarily affect Linc's health. He does enjoy regular food as well as liquids from a cup. He won't starve if I stop nursing. But, he would no longer have a source of comfort. Nursing is part of his winding-down routine before sleep. Much like a binky, it also offers him relief from distress- such as during the terrible days of teething.
Linc no longer nurses during the night, thankfully, but he does nurse up to four times each day. Sometimes it's just a few minutes to help him settle down before sleep. When he doesn't feel well, sometimes he refuses all food and nurses instead. It's a relief to me to know he's staying hydrated and fortified when he doesn't want to eat (those wretched teeth!). When I'm advised to stop nursing cold-turkey, I am so baffled. Would you just take away your child's binky or special blanket cold turkey? Or during teething? I can't imagine you would. When I weaned Aspen from her binky, we first started just limiting her use to naps and bedtime. Then she could only have it when she was in her bed (and then one night she dropped it when sleeping and we legit couldn't find it so we had to say goodbye forever (until I secretly found it the next morning and decided to go ahead and tell her it was still lost)). I approach weaning from breastfeeding in a similar manner. That's what weaning is; a gradual cessation. I get that it may seem paradoxical that I, who constantly complain about my children sucking the life out of me, would actually let my 14 month old still... well... suck life out of me. But I guess I don't see it that way. I'm just doing my job, feeding and comforting my kid. I've done a lot of things in the last 14 months that haven't been easy.
I don't have a end-point in mind for Linc's nursing journey. I do know I want to wean organically, as I did with Aspen. This will not only make it easier for Linc, but for myself as well. I don't want to think of the pain of engorgement if I were to wean too quickly too soon. I also don't want to smell like cabbage leaves if I don't have to. As a result of weaning Aspen when she was ready (at 14 months), I experienced no discomfort, and she only had a couple of nights of rough sleep when we took away her last, bedtime feeding. After the hell I've been through with Linc's sleep habits, doesn't it sound so much better not to rock the boat by taking away breastfeeding before he's ready? I still marvel that I survived the last year with just three cumulative hours of sleep most nights. And you know when you just instinctively feel something is or isn't right for your child? Well, that's how I feel about breastfeeding Linc. And avoiding sleep-training. I've approached it a number of different ways (his sleep) and nothing has felt right. I KNOW it's insane that he has to be bounced to sleep. Believe me, I know. But letting him scream in his crib isn't getting us anywhere. I've experimented in the last week with continually letting him cry-it-out for naptime. There were no naps. And it was miserable for all of us. But, y'know, we all have things about us that make us come across as jerks to people. Needing to be bounced to sleep is just Linc's thing-that-makes-him-a-jerk. He is otherwise a very lovely and delightful person. HAVE YOU SEEN HIS DIMPLE?!
I don't care if you breastfeed or not. I am a bottle-fed, day-care raised child. When you're in survival mode, sometimes other people can't and won't understand the decisions you make. I may be curious as to why someone else doesn't breastfeed, but I don't insist she immediately stop with a bottle and try with the boob. I don't care enough to push a breastfeeding agenda on anyone else. But my little MotherBoy and I are still breastfeeding for now. Sure, some days I lament the responsibility, and wish my body was entirely my own again... but soon enough this will be the case. And I'm grateful my experience nursing Linc has been much easier than nursing Aspen. Those first three months of learning how with newborn Aspen were SO HARD. It was painful and emotional and I constantly worried she wasn't getting enough to eat. But I survived it and got the hang of it immediately with Linc.
So I guess I feel better now about what other people think of me breastfeeding my 14-month old. INSERT SMILEY FACE EMOTICON.
For more information on breastfeeding, I suggest getting in touch with your local chapter of La Leche League (contact info HERE).
You can also find information on breastfeeding via the CDC's website, HERE.
Also, did you know the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until the age of 2 (as supplemental nutrition to complement a solid-food diet)? I didn't!
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