I have entered into the world of super extended breastfeeding. This is not a mantle I saw myself taking up nor one I particularly want. I am pro-woman and love my babies, even though they are so big now. Supporting women who chose to continue to nurse their kids seems like a no-brainer to me, but it has become difficult to support this child who continues to want to feed from my body.
The early days with an infant are tough; breastfeeding can make it worse for some, or more bearable for others. I do not know if I could have survived the pain and discomfort of those early weeks without the brain chemicals released during lactation. Waves of emotion were strong and those tiny fingers and toes wiggle and dance while their blue eyes open only fleetingly to give a cross-eyed look of confusion in the semi-darkness.
These quiet days with a snuggly baby swaddled and gassy become filled with noise and chaos as baby grows. Fighting tiny fists away to keep them latched properly and trying not to lose a nipple to sharp teeth become the norm. Then things get interesting; the kid learns to move around unaided. They wander over and go right up, or down your shirt in search of the glorious feast trapped inside. They add speech and yell “boobie time” or “milk now” when you are trying to get through the grocery store or down the sidewalk. People laugh and give you “credit” for sticking with breastfeeding, maybe they tell you the story of someone who tried hard but just could not do it. You walk a little taller and read blogs about nurse-ins and contemplate buying a nipple hat for your child. (I honestly do not know why nursing with a cover or without a cover is even a controversy, but, whatever)
And while you were not looking that itty-bitty little, adorable human whose entire life and growth is owed to your body has grown up. You’ve got an active, loud, and demanding toddler who just will not leave you, or your chest, alone. This is where I am at in life. I have not slept without nursing in years. I have not an entire wardrobe dedicated to boob access. While I no longer change diapers, yes folks we ditched diapers, I am still breastfeeding. How is this possible? I have tried bribery, withholding milk until after solids, offering chocolate as an alternative, explaining that other foods are yummy, you name it. This kiddo is holding strong.
Now, I am aware of the benefits of extended nursing and those do help me keep a level head and a positive attitude, but enough is enough. I am woman, I want to roar, and wear a normal bra and not have to carry a large scarf in my purse. I want to have my normal body back and wear clothes I have long since relegated to the bottom drawer of my dresser. Every time I give in and nurse I feel a little less in control of my own life. There are some days I dread seeing my little one approach me with a blanket ready for cuddles (code word). I have a soft spot for this issue compared to other aspects of child rearing, and am not as aggressive as I would be with safety related concerns or overall development. Maybe I have only myself to blame for being ready and available to breastfeed on demand.
Other moms express (no pun intended) their support, or praise, or disgust of me when they learn of our feeding program but I am not the one calling the shots here. I am prisoner to the love or maybe love hormones of this kid. We bond through nursing and I would be sad to lose that connection. Breastfeeding is also a tool for comfort in overwhelming situations, and when a difficultly emerges so does the blanket. Those sad sleepy eyes and that squeaky voice plead with me and the large tears that fall completely destroy my resolve and make me a mushy mom. I will continue on, picturing I am at the 26th mile of my lactation marathon, or on the precipice of a world record for lactation. Cheering me on are the myriad of pro lactation and extended nursing posts on Pinterest and articles from Le Leche League. Let my epitaph read, “Child-led weaning is not a myth,” when this is all over and I have forgotten this struggle.
I do not know how much longer we will continue down this path and I am not sure how many other moms are in this same place with their precious cuddler, but I hope you have the love and support to make your own way as a parent, lactating or not.
I am a highly opinionated and sassy mother of three and wife to one. I hope you enjoy reading about my efforts to tackle the infuriating obstacles of life using straight talk and humor. If I say it, I mean it, or maybe I am being sarcastic. I like to focus on topics from my everyday life: parenting, cooking, crocheting, and a whole list of other things that inspire my rage.