This post is part of my series, “Kickin’ It Old Skool: Why and How We Are Old-Fashioned” or KIOS for short. If you’re new to the series, please read my disclaimer before continuing on. I’m keeping a table of contents to this series here so you can see what I’ve already written about and what more there is to come.
As she nursed,… I would feel milk and love flowing from me to her as once it had flowed to me.
From Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry.
Before Ellie was born, Nik and I made a conscious decision not to buy bottles or a breast pump. I was grateful to not have to go back to teaching and so I knew I wouldn’t need to be pumping while at work. We decided that we’d rather have Ellie get all of her milk straight from the source, rather than from even an occasional bottle. So Ellie has never had a bottle. I’m not going to say that this hasn’t been hard for me at times. I haven’t been able to easily go out at night since Ellie was about 4 months old (and started going to bed at a regular time). She still wakes up to nurse an hour or two after she falls asleep so I have to be home. Sometimes, I wish I could go out more but I’ve really come to appreciate and be glad that we made the decision we did. Ellie nursed exclusively until seven months, when we started solid food. (I know I just wrote about nursing exclusively and not using bottles but from here on in this post, when I use the word “exclusively” in relation to breastfeeding, I really mean “only breastmilk”, not formula or solid food and am not referring to the method of delivery of the human milk. Sorry if that’s confusing!)
Now, at 18 months old, Ellie really, really, really loves to nurse.
She still nurses quite a lot – as in several times a day and a few times at night too. I lose track of how many times she nurses at night. Because she sleeps right next to me, often I hardly even wake up when she’s nursing. Being a big girl now, she doesn’t even need my help to latch on. Sometimes I wake up with a start, “What’s that? Oh…it’s only Ellie nursing,” and back to sleep. This is part of why I love cosleeping. I haven’t had to worry about night-weaning her because I still get plenty of sleep even when she wants to nurse at night. (And yes, as I’ve shared on this blog before, sometimes it’s hard but I think this is just a part of parenting to have hard nights, regardless of where your baby sleeps and whether or not he/she nurses at night.)
She nurses for comfort, nurses for food, nurses when she’s sad, nurses when she’s sick, nurses when she’s bored, nurses when she’s teething. Most of the time she only nurses for a few minutes. And then we have the times, like the other day, when she wants to nurse for 45 minutes. I think she was teething and the nursing helped her mouth feel better.
Nursing a toddler is a fun adventure. I love that Ellie loves to nurse. I love that she asks to nurse. Although, actually, every baby, newborn or toddler, asks to nurse. We’re working on how to ask politely as opposed to pulling up my shirt! I actually love being able to say, “Ellie, do you need to nurse?” and getting her affirmative response. That is so much easier than trying to interpret a three-month old baby’s cries for nursing!
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, “continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant”.
The World Heath Organization recommends, “exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months” and then “complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond”.
My heart tells me that Ellie still needs the physical and emotional nourishment and connection that I provide for her when we’re nursing. I also know that she’s much healthier than she would be if she wasn’t getting the continued antibodies from my milk. I’m grateful for the many good things that she gets from the milk that I make for her.
We have no immediate plans to wean Ellie. Right now, I know it would be traumatic for both of us. So we’re going to wait and see. I know there will come a time in the future when I’m ready to wean Ellie and then we’ll work towards helping Ellie be ready to wean too. Or who knows – she might decide that she’s ready to be done with nursing before I’m ready for it and then, so be it, she’ll wean herself.
Don’t worry – she won’t still be nursing when she’s seven!
But until then, nurse on!
Kellymom is my favorite website for breastfeeding information. Here are a couple really useful pages related to nursing past infancy:
Here’s a few other posts I’ve written about nursing with Ellie (in chronological order):
Wendell Berry on nursing (so see the entirety of the passage that I quoted from at the beginning of this post)
Another quote about nursing
Why it’s worth it to keep on nursing, even when it’s oh so hard