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Mom of the House: The accidental extended breastfeeder

I distinctly remember recoiling in horror when I saw the cover of Time Magazine in 2012, a mother nursing her four-year-old son, asking “Are you Mom Enough?”
Mom of the House

“Are you still nursing your little one?”

Between my two babies I’ve been asked this question more times than I can count.

When my kids were six-months-old strangers, family members, and friends would beam when they heard I was still nursing.

“Good for you!” was their response.

By seven months I was done nursing my oldest daughter, Penny. But with my second, Georgia, I was still going strong and quickly approaching her first birthday. Her first birthday came and went, and then her second birthday, and in nine weeks Georgia will be three.

And guess what? I’m still nursing her!

The questions have changed over the years and the encouragement and positive feedback is a very distant memory.

It’s weird and foreign in Canada to see a walking, talking, articulate little girl who still wants to nurse and experience the closeness of breastfeeding; while also being potty-trained and able to sing her ABCs.

I don’t blame people for thinking it’s strange. I distinctly remember recoiling in horror when I saw the cover of Time Magazine in 2012, a mother nursing her four-year-old son, asking “Are you Mom Enough?”

In North America nursing is reserved for helpless babies. It’s encouraged for the first year, and applauded, but once a baby starts walking and becoming independent, the breast seems to be the first thing to go.

I get it. I didn’t understand what it meant to nurse an older child until I was nursing an older child. I thought it was a strange concept, until it became a natural part of my day.

After three years of straight breastfeeding, including nursing through my pregnancy, nursing through low milk supply, and nursing through my own depression and extreme morning sickness, I can say that it has not been easy.

But for my daughter Georgia, it has been the right decision. It has been what she has asked for and what she has needed. I did not decide to enter into an extended breastfeeding relationship on my own, in fact I have protested many times. But despite my protests, the closeness and the bond I have shared with my daughter has been special and unique because I chose to listen to her.

Now that Georgia is approaching her third birthday I am seeing that the end is near for us. I am quickly approaching the delivery of my third child, and although I am not opposed to nursing both children, I also can’t imagine being able to manage tandem nursing a preschooler and a newborn.

At this point the only person who really thinks it’s a great idea to keep going is Georgia. And really, it’s been about her all along, it’s been her choice, and I have just been along for the ride.

Some days I tell myself that I’m done, and I’m officially weaning her. But then at night when Georgia crawls into my bed and snuggles in closely, my heart fills with joy and love for my child. Soon her position as the baby of the family will be gone. For three years she’s enjoyed that position, and I have no doubt she won’t let go easily. She’s still my baby, with her chubby cheeks and her tiny hands, and her soft white blonde hair.

She doesn’t have a choice in becoming the middle child of our family. Why not give my sweet, affectionate, and caring daughter the choice to stop nursing when she’s ready? I have no doubt that day will come, and probably soon, and then our years of curling up on the couch while she nursed will be a distant memory.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter that nobody really understands the beautiful and unique experience of extended breastfeeding. I’m not doing it for accolades or a reward. I’m doing it because it’s what my daughter has asked for, and as long as she asks, I am willing to continue.

Who fed me from her gentle breast

And hushed me in her arms to rest,

And on my cheek sweet kisses prest?

My Mother.

~Anne Taylor