I never expected to nurse my son for two and a half years. Both my daughters lost interest by around 18 months, and I figured he’d follow suit. But 18 months came and went and he was still interested. Very interested. His first three-word sentence was “Nurse other side!”
As time went on, his enthusiasm never waned. Nursing a verbal toddler, which I feared would be creepy, was actually a hoot. And at the end of a busy day, there was nothing better than settling into the rocking chair with him in my arms.
Former Surgeon General Antonia Novella once said “It’s the lucky baby, I feel, who continues to nurse until he is two.” I heard that quote when I was pregnant for the first time, and it has stayed with me ever since. So when Zev turned two, I thought we’d both been pretty lucky. But for the past six months, I’ve been feeling a little less lucky and more ready to be done. Not 100% ready, but maybe 75%.
Finally, last week I decided the time had come to try weaning him. I gave him a week’s notice. I told him that on his half-birthday we’d have a party with balloons and cake — a “No More Nursing Party”. After that, we’d be done.
Each day, we counted down. We talked a lot about how big he is getting, and all the things he and I can do together now that we couldn’t do back when he was a baby. On Saturday morning, I told him it was his last time. He did each side twice, for good measure (“just a little bit more!”). We had our cake and balloons that evening. Then at bedtime, he asked to nurse. I said no, and he cried a little. But then we read a few books, he stretched out on his big-boy bed, and asked me to sing to him. As I watched him fall asleep, I sat there and cried.
I never cry, but there it was.
I was so overwhelmed. He’s gotten so big, and it happened so fast. And I’ve loved breastfeeding so much. This huge part of my life is over now, and even though it wasn’t always convenient and it wasn’t always easy, it was always so rewarding.
Nursing a toddler is a bizarre experience. I wrote about it a while back, but it’s amazing how quickly people shift from being supportive to being skeptical after a breastfeeding baby turns one. A few weeks ago, Mayim Bialik wrote a blog post on Kveller.com about nursing her toddler. Her approach is really different from mine and far more extreme, but I was still shocked by some of the brutally negative comments she got (though she also got many, many supportive ones).
It’s easy to misunderstand extended nursing if you’ve never done it. Yes, the significance of breastfeeding changes as a baby matures and develops language. But it’s not a bad thing.
We had this connection, he and I. It was important and it was ours. On days when my head was elsewhere, my body was always there for him. And it was undoubtedly his favorite time of the day. Someday he’ll be taller than me, and most likely this whole idea will be mortifying. But I don’t ever want to forget how special this was — for both of us.
Sunday morning, he asked to nurse again. I held my ground. A little while later, he looked at me, and I watched him think for a minute. Then he asked me slowly, “Why… why I can’t nurse?” I was instantly gripped with doubt, but I took a deep breath and said “Because you’re getting so big. You don’t need to nurse anymore.” And he smiled and went back to playing with his trains.