Some call it extended. Some call it extreme. We call it normal. For three years now our precious daughter has been bringing us joy, love and laughter. She is a bright and loving child and we cherish every day with her.
She has also been breastfeeding for three years now. When I first started nursing her I never imagined she would still be doing so and doing it so much at this age. But she is.When we started out I did not have a clear cut line of when we would stop, I just knew that one day she would. I started out just hoping I could do it and then hoping she would continue for a few months, six months, a year. We just kept going.
I had some good advice from a friend about baby led weaning. I had never heard of it before. But I liked the sound of it. So at about 2 months in I decided that is what we would do. I imagined that at some point after her first birthday she would start to give it up little by little. She didn’t start really eating food until she was about 10 months old. So I knew she still needed the nourishment from my milk.
Her first birthday came and went and she was still nursing like a 4 month old. She preferred breastfeeding to food. We were o.k. with that. She has never been under weight but just at the bottom of average. The doctors never told us she was unhealthy or malnourished. So we just continued on.
Before her second birthday we lost our home in the tsunami of March 2011. As you can imagine it was a tumultuous time for all of us. She no longer had her safe place and we were living with other people for about 2 months. She nursed more frequently at that time. She nursed for nourishment and mostly for comfort.
As her second birthday approached I started wondering if this would be the time she would start to let go. But still she continued. At 2 years old she was going to nursery school from 8-2:45. She nursed when she woke up and as soon as we picked her up. She nursed 2-3 times before bed and always nursed to sleep. She woke up at least 2 times to nurse in the night as well.
Violet started eating more food and gaining more weight as she started to eat different foods at school but still preferred nursing during dinner time. It was hard for her to be away from me and vice versa. When we got home she wanted to be attached to my body. She wanted that closeness and I did too.
This has continued on and we have now celebrated 3 years of life with this precious girl. She is just recently, in the last 3 months to be exact, started to drop some nursing sessions. She now will go from after her morning feeding until 5pm at the latest. Some days she still wants them as soon as we get in the car to drive home from school. Other days she is content to play and sing and drink other yummy drinks until closer to dinner time.
She still nurses during dinner and and she still nurses to sleep. I don’t know if I am doing this the right way or the wrong way. I just know that I am doing what feels natural to us. I have never denied her her milkies unless she is screaming for them in an unpolite way. She has to ask for them nicely. Other than that I don’t offer and I don’t refuse. She still uses my breast to calm down when she is hurt or when she is feeling overly upset. It is still the quickest way to calm her down and stop a tantrum. I am not an expert or a psychologist, I am just a mom doing the best I can to raise a healthy and loving child.
Nursing a 2-3 year old is very different from nursing a newborn or even a 6 month old. Our connection is so much deeper. When I nurse her and she looks into my eyes it is almost as though we can read each other’s hearts. She is sometimes playful at my breast and other times she is just gazing up at me with a love like I have never known before. She sometimes comes off my breast and just tells me “I love you, mommy! I love you!!!” Other times she puts up her hand in the I love you sign. I return it and she likes to touch our fingertips together in the I love you sign.
When we go to bed at night she looks into my eyes as she nurses and rocks herself against my body as she drinks herself to sleep as I sing her favorite lullaby. Her teeth sometimes clinch down as she falls asleep but if I flinch she wakes up and apologizes. Her small hands now cover my breast when she holds them up to her mouth. And when my milk lets down she smiles up at me as the milk drips down her chin and says “Milkies are coming milkies are coming!” in a voice that suggests she has just won the lottery.
We have many new positions in which we nurse and some have remained old favorites. She still loves me to cradle hold her while she nurses. She still loves it when I stand and rock her as she nurses. We both still love laying down facing each other on our sides. Sometimes she likes to sit up straddling me and nurse. Some of the new positions are laying directly on top of me with her head turned to the side or lying on her side beside me as I lay on my back. (I fear this one may be stretching my breast beyond repair) Sometimes I feel like we are in the middle of an Olympic acrobatic routine.
Somethings are the same as nursing a newborn. I still cherish caressing her cheek as she suckles my breast. I still adore breathing in the scent of her newly bathed head. I still love the feel of her little hand pulling my breast into her mouth. I am still amazed at how perfectly breastfeeding works.
Breastfeeding our daughter for 3 years has been a joy and I have never regretted it, not even for one day. I have loved it. It has been a lesson in control for me and a lesson in sacrifice. I know that not all women enjoy it and not all women will choose to do it for as long as I have. But it has been a truly amazing experience for me.
Some of my friends ask me how I can still not drink coffee, still not drink alcohol, and still not diet to loose my pregnancy weight. The answer is in my daughter’s eyes.
When she looks up at me and I see how much love she has for me and the love I know she feels from me, I know that it is all worth it. When I realize that I am setting an example for her to be self sacrificing, loving and gentle, I know that what I am doing means something.
Sure there are days when I don’t like my body. I am still carrying about 15 extra pounds that just won’t come off. I am still wearing nursing camis and shirts that open easily. I am still sleeping in nursing pjs and I don’t feel as sexy as I used to. But when my daughter tells me I am beautiful I believe her. I am beautiful to her.
I have a motherly body that she loves to fold herself into. She doesn’t care what size clothes I wear or if I have the latest fashion. She loves me just as I am, which is exactly what we are trying to teach her to feel about herself. If I desire her to have a positive self image then I too must accept and love my body the way it is.
Sometimes I crave a good latte with caffeine in it! Sometimes I would love to eat or drink anything that tickles my fancy. I am not a saint, I still have cravings and sometimes I do give in to them. These things will all come in time, I am sure of it.
I never expected that I would still be doing this 3 years later but I am willing to continue until she is ready to stop. Someday she will stop nursing and I will miss these “milkie” days. I’ll miss that sweet glint in her eye as she drinks the sweetest of drinks. I’ll miss the feel of her tiny hands caressing my breast and her looking up at me with ultimate contentment.
I have already witnessed a bit of letting go. She has not nursed to sleep 3 times in the last month and has instead wanted me to cuddle her. I will get my body back and I will eat and drink what I choose one day.
Until that day I will cherish these nursing days. I will try to soak up every moment that we share as a nursing couple. I often remember this quote by the great Dr. Sears ““The time in your arms, at your breast, and in your bed is a very short time in the total life of your child, yet the memories of love and availability last a lifetime.”
May you have many happy”milkie” days with your little nursling. May your hearts be filled with love for each other and may your love radiate to others you meet. Happy Birthday Violet and Happy birthday Milkies!” We’ve come a long way sweet girl!