If you would have asked me thirty months ago about my breastfeeding journey, I would have told you that of course I was going to breastfeed for my son’s first year. Yet, I sit here today, nursing my now twenty-one and a half month old and can’t imagine having stopped this journey nine months ago. I knew very little then about extended breastfeeding. Most people in our society think of the mother and son who are satirized in the popular Adam Sandler movie when they think about extended breastfeeding. Yet, there are countless reasons to continue to nurse your child into toddlerhood and beyond. I have found though, that the stigma, the comments, and the looks get even worse the older the child gets, and this hurts my heart so very much for us breastfeeding mommas and for our society as a whole.
Extended Breastfeeding, is it for everyone?
Earlier this summer, after trying every homeopathic and natural remedy I knew of, I finally unenthusiastically called to make an appointment to see my doctor. The receptionist informed it was his half day and I would have to see another provider in his practice. Another strike for that week and that sick spell, but I agreed.
I showed up with my son in tow expecting to see a professional and ethical doctor of western medicine. What I did not expect was a lecture about my lifestyle and parenting choices. The appointment started out as any other, vitals, symptoms, etc. The doctor came in and did a quick exam. He began going over my history and I informed him that I was breastfeeding and any treatment must be safe and conducive for that. He stopped typing, looked up, eyebrows raised, and asked “And how old is he?” I told him that my son was sixteen months. And let the judgmental stare and comments ensue. He proceeded to tell me that I needed to stop soon and definitely by twenty-four months. I, still with my nice pants on, let him know that we would be continuing as long as possible. This was not the answer he wanted to hear and he pushed forward and went as far as to tell me that I really needed to stop at two years because anything after that was “just creepy,” and they only do it for comfort after that age, which just isn’t okay. This momma’s nice pants had about all but disappeared at this point. Breathe, I told myself and just do what you came here to do. I just couldn’t let it go though, it ate away at me as I checked out, as I drove home, and hasn’t stopped since.
And again a few weeks ago, after a lovely dinner, our waitress felt the need to tell me my son was too old to be nursing as she smiled and cleared our table. I found myself gritting through my smiling teeth, as I nicely told her that he wasn’t and he could nurse as long as he so chose to.
Flashback to a little over a year ago, my son was just over four months old and we were doing great. He was healthy and happy, and breastfeeding was such a good part of lives. We had been so lucky in that department even with him being born a month early. It wasn’t until school let out for the summer and I started attending a local Breastfeeding Cafe that my life really changed.
Before I became a regular at this Nappy Shoppe mom’s group, I always attempted to cover up in public when I breastfed my son, though we both hated it. But, here, I found empowerment as a breastfeeding mother. I no longer covered up in public or at all, ever. I no longer apologized to those who saw. I owned what it meant to be able to nourish my son anytime anywhere and was proud of the beauty and intimacy that can only come from a mother breastfeeding her child.
My views also shifted. I started to notice other breastfeeding mothers wherever we went. I now felt a sacred and special bond with them that only we could share. One year was no longer my cutoff for breastfeeding. We would go as long as it was beneficial to both of us and made us both happy. My goal was now at least two years but had no plans of stopping even then. It would be up to my son when he was ready to stop. This journey is one that must end and only happens once in a child’s life. It is a time that should be treasured and cherished, not shamed and rushed. The day my son stops nursing will be one of the saddest days of my life.
Fast forward back to now, and this breastfeeding momma can’t help but feel sorry for people like the doctor I saw and the waitress that night. Instead of choosing to see the beauty and the love, they, like so many in our society, chose to sexualize the act and judge and shame. But this momma refuses to be shamed. I will continue to stand tall, son nursing, no matter his age, for all the world to see because I love him more than life itself and what better way to show him, and to teach him how to be true to himself and what he believes in.
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