26 May 2009

When weirded out becomes out-weirded (i.e. normal)

I always thought it would just be “weird” to nurse a child who could walk and talk. Our first two boys didn’t walk till close to their first birthdays, and each of them had quit nursing at around 11 months, so I didn’t have to examine my thinking on the topic too closely. The end of the nursing relationship, which occurred in both cases more or less by mutual consent, was, to be honest, a great relief to me with Boy1. With Boy2 it was something that I neither pushed hard for,* nor regretted when it was over.

So even after nursing two babies for a combined total of 23 months, and being firmly convinced of the myriad benefits of breastfeeding for mother and babe, etc., etc., I still didn’t really understand how people could nurse toddlers. Toddlers. They walk! They talk! They’re unmistakably morphing into something more closely resembling an actual person!

For whatever reason, some people get personally offended by moms who nurse past a year. I was never among those ranks, but as I uttered with perfect sincerity, “It’s fine if it works for them,” my eyebrow would be at just, you know, that angle.

Weaning readiness signpost #1:
Your baby nearly outweighs you

Ahem. Then there’s Boy3. He passed the year mark two months ago. He ain’t a-talkin’, but he’s sure a-walkin’. A-runnin’, even. And his personal opinion, which just so happens to be quite important to him personally, is that there need be nothing mutual about the consensus to close the dairy. The status quo is just fine, thanks for asking, and he’ll be sure to notify me if things change.

To return to my original puzzlement: How on earth do moms end up nursing their toddlers--these small, disproportionately opinionated people who stump so purposefully about the house, these babies so huge that their legs drape ridiculously over the side of the nursing chair as they recline in perfect ease with their tubby bellies rounding up to the sky?

Turns out that this is how it happens: You bring forth, likely with great personal inconvenience, effort and pain, a newborn. With the help of God, your husband, and a lactational consultant, you may be able to nurse this newborn, often at further great personal inconvenience, effort, and pain. That newborn continues to nurse, and to grow. More nursing, more growing. Hit repeat. Then one day the baby turns one and starts walking and you’re still nursing. Huh. Just like that.

I’m still not convinced that it’s impossible to be weirded out by one’s own lifestyle, but ending the day by rocking with my BabyBoy who’s too busy to sit still for more than 3 seconds at any other point in the day. . . well, not so weird, after all. . .

*Full disclosure compels me to admit that there was a baby-free trip on the horizon in that case.


Sarah said...

I hear ya. My limit is 3 years old. I don't quite get moms nursing past 3 years old. I nursed both my kids to 14 months. They were both late walkers and did not walk until 14/15 months. Hmmm.

Ewe said...

Boy1 nursed until about 18 mo. but he didn't talk until he was 3 y old and he didn't walk until he was 13 mo. Boy2 also nursed until about 18 mo. but he didn't walk until 14 mo. or talk before he was 2 y old. Maybe it's something about number 3? Boy3 started running, not walking at 11 mo. and started talking before that. He is actually nursing MORE now at nearly 14 mo. than he did a few months ago. Plus he's eating a lot of solids! He's in no hurry to give up nursing so neither am I. My first two quit nursing a few months after I got pregnant with the next one. I don't know how this one is going to work since I haven't even had a period yet.

I know someone who tandem nursed 3 children at once (about ages 3, 1, and newborn) for a short time. That is crazy!

Joy said...

I know tandem nursers too. And I knew a man who vaguely remembered nursing as a 3yo. No details about his mother's breast, really, just the warmth, security, and peace he felt. He was such a gentleman that I wonder what the world would be like if every child was nursed till age 3. But I personally am sick of it after age 2! Thankfully my kids have naturally weaned by then.

Melrose said...

When I was pregnant with #1 a friend came to stay who was nursing her 15 mo and pregnant with her second. My husband walked by the room and heard her ask, "which side do you want honey?" I laughed my head off but he was so repulsed that he turned to me and said, "you WILL stop nursing before a year!" HA.

The months ticked by of our nursing babe and suddenly my husband was an even bigger proponent of nursing than I was. At 22 months my babe nursed for the last time, per mutual consensus, though I think more on my part and because we had the distraction of moving. I was actually sad that I hadn't "made it" to 2.

Then boy 2 came along and well, he took one look at food and decided he could do without me. He's still at 13 mo nursing about once a day though I think that will end in a week or so. And of course, I'm pregnant again. woohoo ;)

Rebekah said...

That pic and caption are prime. :D

I've also far surpassed my previous record this time around, and watched it happening with mild interest. Well . . . it's not like either of us have anything else going on.

Gauntlets said...

I nursed my first one for 20 months, mostly because we were both too lazy to call it quits. The other two were biters; we called it quits around 15 months.

I'm thinking this new one might wean herself early. Already at two months, she goes through the night without needed any attention from me. This has the potential to upset my turnaround immensely.

MooreMama said...

Gauntlets - My very own spawn slept through the night from 6-ish weeks until about 16 weeks. Then, she forgot how.

I'm breaking all kinds of records and expectations over here. I'm even starting to notsomuch mind the previously hated pump.

Beth said...

1st girl weaned at 3.3 after sharing with her sister for 7 months. 2nd girl weaned forcibly at age 2.
3rd girl recently weaned at age 3.4 after sharing with 4th girl for 5 months. Happily nursing just one now, who is almost 8 months. Sometimes I forget how weird I must seem to those outside my carefully crafted bubble...

Pam said...


Going sheepishly on record as one who used to think that kind of thing was weird, I now submit that it is less "weird" and more inconceivable.

I think it's great... but... but... what I don't understand is *how* you do it? I mean, not to sound rude, because I know nursing a 2 or 3yo doesn't mean you are doing it several times a day, but really, how??? Short of living in a culture where it's more 'acceptable' to be seen doing so, that is.

Beth said...

He he, Pam.
I think I need you to clarify which "how" you mean.
Is it like "how do you keep the feeling in your legs with such a giant child nursing in your lap?"
Or "how do you wrestle a stubborn toddler into submission to nurse when she obviously does not want to?"
Or "how do you avoid being hauled off in chains with your children taken from you by CPS?"
The above is all meant in jest, but I would like to be able to answer your question, I just need more specifics.
In Love, Understanding, and Humor,

Pam said...

Beth, I'll take a stab at it, as there are so many questions I might have. So I'll just jump in.

How do you not go crazy with all that nursing? How do you not feel weird having a child know where her num-nums are coming from, and how to find them? How do you keep your nursing toddler from talking about it in public?

How do you keep them nursing that long? I mean, we've already talked about differences in return of fertility here, so I get that we're all different, but... With one exception (and the first child, of course) all were conceived when the previous child was still nursing. Now I did start solids earlier with my first few, so I get the connection there, but golly, I have had an infant, toddler, and not-yet-three year old more than once. The idea of perpetually nursing, and not getting a break sometime during the pregnancy, is a little much for me to fathom.

So my current youngest is about to turn one. And although it has happened twice now, it still seems odd that I'm not expecting yet. I just last week went from three nursing sessions a day to two, morning and evening, since she didn't seem to need the middle one anymore. Do you have to be intentional about keeping it going that long? And if so, why do you? Just thinking of your comment about wrestling the toddler into submission who does not want to nurse. If my kids fight me, I quit. Maybe I'm missing something?

So how's that for a start?

(And hey, you sisters just say the word if you'd prefer me go off-blog with this. I have her email address from elsewhere.)

Beth said...

Ooooh Pam, between the two of us we have quite the snappy turn around with these comments! ;) Ah these kids and their demands!

Whoa Nelly, I just wrote out my response and it is way too long to put here. I'm going to do some major copy-paste work and re-create this on my blog (ASAP). I think this is a great topic (thanks Reb. Mary!) and deserves more space.

Thanks Pam, for your thoughtful questions, and I hope I can answer them well.
For now I'm off to nurse the baby!

Beth said...

But one clarification I'll put here, just for the record.
My comment about wrestling the toddler into nursing submission was in jest, as was the other comments when I was asking Pam to specify her "how" question.
Just in case anyone thought I was serious. ;)

Beth said...