A girl and her milkies 3 years of breastfeeding

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!

My baby girl!

Violet nursing on her 3rd birthday

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10 thoughts on “A girl and her milkies 3 years of breastfeeding

  1. I rarely come across another person who nurses their three-year-old. I have a three-year-old son and an 18-mo. daughter, and they both nurse. I nursed my son throughout my pregnancy, and then just continued. I wasn’t going to cut him off when our baby was born.

    Right now he usually nurses before naps and bedtime, and then a few times during the day when he is just feeling worn out and at the end of his rope. Our situation is unique enough that I usually don’t tell people outside of our family that he still nurses, it’s just incomprehensible when most babies are cut off of nursing before a year in the U.S.

    I’m curious, what’s the norm in Japan? What are the cultural thoughts about breastfeeding there?

    • How wonderful that you could keep nursing both babies! That is amazing! I have not yet gone undercover with my nursing. She still wants it too often. It is sad that in the US there is not enough support for nursing past 1 year. It is quite normal in the rest of the world as I am sure you know.
      Here in Japan a sad thing has happened and more and more women are believing that if they have small breasts they can’t breastfeed. I have lived here for almost 9 years now and I have only 2 close friend who breastfed. She actually breastfed her daughter until the age of 4 and is currently still breastfeeding her 3 year old son. The other nursed her boys until they were 2. They never seemed embarrassed to do it in public when I was around. I have never had trouble nursing in public here and mothers who do breastfeed are thought to be good mothers and held up as role models. When I was in the hospital I went to the formula reps free seminar and received a can of formula. I can see why mothers would give in because the talk is very convincing. But luckily I was determined from day one. When I was pregnant a nurse told me that I would have trouble nursing because of my short nipples. I found that this is common. Older nurses seem to put fear in the mother’s mind that they might not be able to feed their baby. The formula companies have taken hold here just like in the US. Another sad thing is that women are made to feel that they can’t gain more than 25 pounds during pregnancy. When you gain to much at your monthly check up a stamp is put in your mother’s book (a book that you use through out your child’s life when going to the doctor). There is a culture of shame here and women try to stay as slim as possibe while pregnant and are pushed to lose the weight as quickly as possible too. So dieting seems to make it difficult to breastfeed. As I said I never had trouble nursing in public here but I will say that after when my daughter was 1 year and a half we started getting comments from friends and family and teachers at my daughter’s preschool about when she was going to stop. It is common to shame someone into stopping a behavior that you find unfavorable. I was shocked the first time that it happened to my daughter and I. The teacher at her school said “Are you a baby Violet. Oh aren’t you embarrassed… Only babies drink milk.” And this happened on more than one occasion. Comments like these came from friends as well. I would just smile and say that it was normal and she would stop when ready. She luckily has never picked up on the shaming tones or words. She is not ashamed at all of nursing and I have told her over and over that it is still ok. My husband has been supportive as well. Sorry to go on so long. To answer your question…the norm here is to bottle feed. If you do breastfeed it is usually only for 6 weeks. It is thought to be a natural and wonderful thing to do but many woman don’t do it.
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting on my blog! We mommy’s can use all the support we can get. Keep up the good work and best wishes to you and your family!

      • Thanks for the insights on Japan. That’s interesting that there is a cultural misconception there that breast size is related to ability to breastfeed. And how sad about the 25 pound “naughty stamp” if you gain too much. Do you get two bad stamps if you gain 50 pounds? (Just kidding.) It’s intriguing to hear about motherhood in other countries…we all get it right in some ways, and we all can improve in other ways.

  2. My daughter, who turned 3 in June, is lying across my lap, where she has been contentedly nursing for about 20 minutes now. She is my sixth child. My oldest is 16, and I have been nursing, nonstop, for the last 16 years. I do look forward to wearing a dress someday, but I have very few regrets about the way my husband and I have parented our children. Violet is extremely fortunate to have such wise, loving parents, and you are to be commended for taking the time to consciously savor your special relationship with your daughter.

  3. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. I have a 13 month old nursling & I plan on baby led weaning as well. She is an avid nurser also and doesn’t eat much solids (compared to toddlers her age). I absolutely adore nursing my little one & the thought of not nursing her some day makes my heart break. I attribute our strong bond to our breastfeeding relationship…it’s a beautiful journey.
    I try to ignore the ignorant comments. It is our choice how long we choose to breastfeed.

    • Congratulations Faith on 13 months! You are doing a wonderful thing for your baby. I adore it too and can’t imagine how I will feel the day she stops. Peace and blessings to you and yours. Happy Nursing!

  4. Thank you for sharing. We have never met, but I went to school with your husband. I found your post through his Facebook page. The way you describe your relationship with Violet is breathtakingly beautiful. Both of my children are formula babies–a decision that I am not ashamed of. With my son, I tried breast feeding, but we had a lot of complications. I pumped and supplemented with formula. . Pumping was a nightmare. I would sit in the dark and cry. I made no connection with my child, and I felt like a factory. I’m sure if I had breast fed with pumping, things would have been different, but that plan didn’t work for us. A felt like a loser because I couldn’t get it. It’s odd because I was shamed into breast feeding (even if it was just through pumping) for as long as possible. Nosy neighbors and many others judged me for even looking at a can of formula. For me, the connection wasn’t there, and I continued down a spiral of depression. I would pump, but want others to feed the baby. I felt sad and defeated all of the time. When my son was around 3 months old, I got very ill, and I was put on medication that was not safe for my child. I used that as an excuse to let the little milk i had dry up. After that, I went solely formula, and I stopped caring what others thought. When my daughter was born, I tried breast feeding again, and this time it worked! However, I let my laziness get the better of me. I decided it was easier to formula feed–especially while chasing a 3 year old around. I don’t regret either one of my decisions. Both of my children are healthy, and we are lucky and blessed to have insanely strong immune systems. They are also so smart it scares me 🙂
    It’s sad because I was made to feel so guilty about not breast feeding, but those same people who shamed me would probably ask me to “put it away” if I was feeding in public. Sorry, I did not mean to go so far into my life story. I really enjoyed your post, and it was lovely to read about that connection you have with your daughter. It’s one that I can’t understand. Who knows, maybe I would have learned more patience and less selfishness had I given breast feeding more of a chance. Thank you for sharing and for your selfless dedication to your daughter. I hope the feeling of shame never takes hold of her and influences her decisions. Brava Mommy, brava.

    • I have tried to reply to you three times and have lost it by some mysterious mishap…. I will try again. Thank you so much for your kind comments, Olivia. I know we have never met but I feel like I know you from stories I have heard through mutual friends. I am also friends with Amelia and Victoria. 🙂
      Your story about your experience with breastfeeding and pumping was heartbreaking. I am so saddened to hear that you had to experience such mental and physical anguish. It pains me to hear that you were made to feel shamed by others around you. No matter how well intentioned they might be, people can be so cruel. I really appreciate you sharing your story with us here. I wanted to comment on your comment “maybe I would have learned more patience and less selfishness had I given breast feeding more of a chance”. I believe that just being a mother (and a father) allows us the chance to learn patience and selflessness. Being a good parent is all about sacrifice, patience and love. From what I know about you, you have shown all of those things and more to your children and they are blessed to have a mommy that loves them so much. Thank you again for sharing with us and I pray you have many happy days with your little ones. Peace and blessings.

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