You know you're nursing a toddler when:
*You are rushing around in your room to get dressed, you pull off your top and reach down to the under-bed drawer to grab a new bra and while you're rustling around in there you feel two small hands grab a breast and pull it to a tiny mouth, who begins suckling without word. A few minutes later while you're still standing in this awkward position and he's still nursing, you finally realize how ridiculous this looks and start giggling hysterically.
*You grab him from the crib early in the morning when he's calling for you, quickly change his dirty diaper, and bring him back to bed with you so you can close your eyes while he nurses, perhaps getting a little extra sleep... instead you become something like the base of a clock, and he's like the second hand, rolling all around on top of you and beside you. His belly to your belly, him flipped on his side across the bed, him kicking your ear and playing with your nose... finally when he has a knee in each ear and his diaper squashed firmly over your face, you realize that maybe this wasn't the best of ideas. From that day on, if you're awake enough to think about it, you nurse him on a sofa and when he tries to flip around he falls off the side.
*You realize his upset is moving into tantrum territory, or he's just not going to stop playing before bed, or he won't leave his brother alone, or... well, whatever. Something you want to stop. And instead of a lengthy, screaming filled time out you opt for a bribe. Luckily it's been awhile since you last nursed, and even though you only nurse twice a day now and don't have much milk you're pretty sure to have something in there. You lean down to his ear and whisper "na-na" and he comes to a complete stop, looks up at you with huge, bright eyes and whispers back "na-na?" He reaches for you and you grab him and settle down to let him nurse for a couple minutes. He eats, he re-sets, and everything improves. And hey, it's better than bribing with a cookie, right?
*You no longer have the support of your friends, your family, your mommy's group, or society in general. Even your husband, who is so supportive when you're actively nursing, get's a little uncomfortable when you actually speak about extended breast feeding. Everyone who started off with babies the same age who were nursing alongside you have now all weaned and you can tell in their looks and their words that they don't understand why you're still nursing when their own children are doing fine without. You keep hearing "He's getting too big" or "he can eat real food now" and of course "you're STILL nursing???" No longer are people urging you on or singing your praises, they're judging you and condemning you. You now nurse in private only. And sometimes, even though you don't want to, you feel guilty for nursing at all.
*Your son confuses waiters at restaurants by ordering "cow's milk." That's right, my not-yet-two-year-old orders his own drink and often his own food, and knows how to do so without prompting. And he knows there's a difference between cow's milk and mama's milk. Sometimes he just casually says "milk" and understands that one is called na-na and the other milk. Other times, though, he wants to be very specific so people don't mess up his order. So yes, Mr. Waiter, he did just ask for cow's milk. Please stop looking at me like he's speaking gibberish and asking "cow's milk?" You flipping know what he means!
*Sometimes your son will see a picture of an animal nursing, such as a pig, and become excited. "Pig na-na!" Next thing you know, he'll be asking you to oink while he nurses. You laugh and do it because playing make-believe with a toddler is not above you and it makes him so happy and excited. It becomes a very happy memory that you're glad to have.
*Your little guy goes through a super clean phase. Thus, he takes a napkin and cleans your cleavage in public, declaring "clean na-na!" Because we can't have no dirty na-na's now!
*Sometimes while you're holding him in your arms, maybe out for a walk or talking to someone, if you're not paying attention he'll reach his hand into your shirt and feel around a bit. If you don't protest, he'll grab a nipple. Usually it ends at that, and he's happy to know his food source is still around. Buuuuut, sometimes he'll be able to grab that nipple and gently pull, tug, and reposition while you still don't notice, until he's actually pulled the nipple up to the top of your shirt. Then he'll lean over and start suckling like a fiend. Yeah, you notice then, and he giggles while nursing as you jump. At this point you're so used to nursing that you literally didn't notice, and even though people are giving you surprised/embarrassed/scandalized looks you can't help but chuckle. What's that saying from Ron Burgundy: Anchorman? "How'd you do that? Heck, I'm not even mad; that's amazing!"
*You have a deadline. Two years and you're done. You've been on a certain medication in order to nurse him since February of 2009. This medication MAY have the side effect of harming your uterus, and you haven't given up all hope of having a child through birth, whether naturally, through treatments, or through embryo adoption. Harm may not happen, or it may have already happened, and you don't really know. You do know that you said you'd nurse him till he was two and even though there were days when you wanted to give up you just kept striving for that. At this point you're planning on stopping that medication shortly after his second birthday, which will likely dry you right up. You're planning to have a friend and photographer take photos at a "weaning session," where you're still nursing and you're dressed up all pretty, and you're going to take it slow and not cut him off cold turkey. You have it all planned out. It should be just fine...
*Your deadline is fast approaching. He'll be 2 on the 4th. He'll have been nursing from you for two years on the 13th. And a few days later you're going to half your medication. And you've been actually looking forward to this for a long time. An achievement. A graduation of sorts. A big exit-from-babyhood event. And. It. Hurts. Like. Hell.
You don't really want to wean. You don't want to stop having those precious moments with him, those glazed over eyes staring up at you with complete love. He can be such a picky eater but he's doing just fine eating breast milk twice a day. And he's always been so healthy and cold/flu season is upon us, and I'm weaning now? And he loves it, oh does he love it. He's so cuddly and sweet and he just adores his closeness with mama.
And so many hate it. So, so many despise it. So many see something so innocent, so natural, so sweet as something dark and twisted and perverted. He's walking and talking and counting and singing and so obviously asking for the breast is completely inappropriate. So little support, so many judgmental glances....
Why? Why? I'm giving him nutrition, the best food I can provide. I'm sharing special, wonderful moments with him, moments that do not in any way affect my life adversely. I don't lose any time, don't lose any sleep. I don't have to eat a special diet, or restrict anything, not anymore. No one has to even see other than him and myself. And while people love to tell you how awful extended nursing is for children, I've seen so many studies (in fact, every study pertaining to extended breast feeding) that show the exact opposite. On top of that I've had numerous women lean in and quietly tell me the weaning age of their own children. 2, 3, 4, sometimes longer. All of them healthy and well adjusted and normal. So why? Why the condemnation?
And even more so... why do I listen to it?
*You're enjoying nursing. Your weaning deadline is fast approaching. Your support is running low and you're worried about harming your prospects for a child by birth down the road if you don't stop taking your medication. But he's enjoying it and you're enjoying it and in so many ways it's all good. You feel a decision needs to be made soon and you're not entirely sure which way you'll go, or which way he'll go. You know there are whole days when he forgets to nurse and you have to urge him to because of the discomfort. You know there are whole days where he wants to nurse constantly and it hurts when there's no milk. You know weaning is coming anyway, naturally. Perhaps, maybe, you should just add a little more time and see what happens....
Lily in a loafing barn
10 months ago