I am a milk-making machine. Indeed. For 2 1/2 years, I’ve been nursing my little daughter day and night. Yes, she still nurses to sleep. And we’re both happy for it.
Many people assume that breast-feeding is only suitable for the baby’s first few weeks of life. Few make it to the six month mark, and even fewer past a year. I don’t consider myself extraordinary for nursing my child this long, but it is quite tragic that one of the most educated nation in the world lags behind when it comes to providing our children the best possible nutrition for their bodies in their first few years of life.
Why continue to nurse a child beyond infancy? Your breast milk has numerous health benefits to your child, especially during the toddler years when they become quite picky with their eating habits. I am comforted by the fact that my milk supplements anything that she may be refusing to eat for that particular day. It is the one consistent food she eats, although we do try our best to give her a variety of healthy choices, from grass-fed meats, wild-salmon, pastured eggs, organic vegetables and a lot of traditionally prepared foods like sauerkraut and cultured yogurt.
Nursing your toddler during emotionally-trying stages is also a heaven-sent gift. It’s our tried-and-true way of helping our little one transition to challenging emotions. It’s our way to telling her that it’s okay to be out of sorts sometimes. Because your toddler is growing in her skills and abilities, and yet lacking in the ability to express herself, the constant accessibility to the mother’s breast may provide a safe place for her to still be a “needy baby.” We tend to hurry our children to grow up too soon sometimes, and nursing helps us to truly slow down and let our children grow up in their own time and pace.
For some children, having a lovey or a pacifier is their way of maintaining stability and consistency in their life but for nursing toddlers, it is the presence of the mother nearby. We tend to look down on this but one has to ask why we would rather have children be attached to objects rather than people. In our increasingly detached culture perturbed with all kinds of disorders, nursing our children beyond infancy and through toddlerhood may be a step in the right direction. In doing so, we are encouraging our children to find their connectedness through community, and not through things.
Of course nursing a toddler can be quite challenging and puts some limitations on the mother. It doesn’t mean that the mother stops pursuing her own life, only that she makes some sacrifices on behalf of her children. Whether it be pumping milk, being available to your child in public or at night, know that it is your choice to make. Public opinion matters least in personal choices such as these. Your sacrifices now can be seen as an investment in your child’s well being and her future health.
Breast-feeding my child past infancy and through toddlerhood has been one of the best decisions I’ve made as a mother. At times, I’ve been tempted to stop, mostly out of pressure from other people. But as a primary nurturer of my child’s wellness and wholeness, I can say with utmost conviction that nursing her has been a life-transforming choice for me as a woman. That I can wholly provide life-giving fuel for my child’s body, mind and heart through this one simple act is a gift that I will unashamedly take advantage as long as I can.