Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mothering my nursling

I am mother to a nursing toddler; 20 months old to be exact.
Our nursing relationship is something very dear to me, and I can't really imagine parenting without breastfeeding.
It is such a comfort; such a parenting tool at this point in development.
I nurse W on demand, and I plan to until he weans himself, no matter what age that may be.
This doesn't mean that I haven't been met with occasional or frequent issues with nursing "manners"....
Oh, W loves his "mean-ah". He *really* loves it.
He pulls it out of the top of my shirt. (ouch.)
He crawls all over me at night. (hello, plugged duct last week. Never saw that coming...)
And hello, nursing tantrum....
He screams for it. Throws tantrums when  I don't oblige right away.
He would be perfectly happy trading in all of his solid food for breastmilk any day. (depending on his mood, he'll nurse much more than he eats. This happens often.)
He pokes...and flicks....and yanks.
He went through a biting stage last summer.
He constantly asks to nurse during playschool and our activities. Sometimes, his timing is not so great.
I don't know where this photo came from, but I LOVE it!
Yet, we still emerge as a happy breastfeeding and co-sleeping dyad.
Breastfeeding is important to me. It is important that W self weans. I firmly believe that W will learn independence through dependence on me.
It is important that we promote breastfeeding as the norm in our otherwise bottle fed society.
Last Spring I worked as a breastfeeding peer counselor at our local WIC clinic. With W in tow at the office, I counseled new mothers on the basics of breastfeeding. What I found was that most of all, women need the support and applause from loved ones to be successful at nursing. Women should be guided to nurse discreetly if this is their concern, but also assured that breastfeeding in public is legal and a strong example.
Me? I'm a brazen public nurser.
That's not to say that I don't take measures to appropriately cover up...but there's really no place I won't nurse my babe.
With that said, I feel like it might be time to set some realistic boundaries for my nursling.
Here are my proposed "guidelines"
1. First and foremost, it is not a hose. Please don't attempt to pull it out of the top of my shirt, grab it in your fist, and bring it to your mouth like a handful of pretzels. It doesn't work like that. Oh, and it hurts.
2. My breasts can't be to your sweet little mouth the second you want them...especially if I have the oven door open, or something else where my two hands are absolutely occupied at the moment. Hang in there. I'll happily be with you as soon as I can...and you know I deliberately aim to move slowly in all that I do.
3. The acrobatic nursing is ok with me....but please refrain from kicking your feet too closely to my face.
4. I'm glad that you love your milk so much, but a warm and nutritious breakfast, lunch, and dinner must be eaten. In short, please no "mean-ah" at the table.
5. Don't worry, love....we will remain a cosleeping family as long as you need us to be. I love your little warm body next to me. I can't imagine not seeing you first thing in the morning.
kneading bread and can happen!
Our playschool children remark, "Wow! He's sure thirsty!"
I am learning to balance breastfeeding and moving throughout our day at playschool.
I wager that W nurses nearly every hour-- I've learned to multi task!
W had to get used to sharing my attention with the other children and he is doing quite well.
I think that his return to comfort during this transition has been frequent nursing.
Ah, but really, there's nothing like a quiet moment shared as a nursing couple...
The milk-drunk roll of the eyes...
The sweet and buttery breath...
I'd love to hear your toddler nursing stories.... :)
I'll leave you with photos from our past week of playschool...we are embracing spring, rebirth, and patience for all the good things to surely come...

wet felted robin's eggs
"yucky" onion grass soup (ahem, not to eat, mind you!)

Mama bird cares for her young with patience and love...


Bread Baking and sunshine...


  1. I love this! All of it! The playschool, the bread baking and especially the nursing of little W. Keep it up mama! I'm lucky enough to be mostly surrounded by other extended breastfeeding supporters but so many women aren't. It's so wonderful you were able to support other mom's with it.

  2. Beautiful photos! I love the guidelines. :) I nursed my youngest to 2.5, and while I endured much of what you mention (yanking, acrobatic nursing, etc) I wouldn't trade any of that 2.5 years for anything!

  3. This post has me in tears. I only nursed my daughter to 1 year old, when I caved to her father's demands to stop. (long story) I grieved over it for nearly a year, and most people didn't understand why I could possibly miss breastfeeding so much. Now that I'm older and wiser, I encourage mamas to nurse as long as they wish/can, and if I get the chance to do it again, I can guarantee you that #2 will be self-weaned.

  4. Whoa! My experience was quite different!No tugging, definitely not every hour, etc. Very peaceful times nursing my first to 19 months and second to 26 months. They both self weened. But towards the end they nursed infrequently (2 or 3 times a day). I was very lucky to be surrounded by other mothers that nursed toddlers too so it wasn't an issue. Some family members said a few things but we quickly let them know it was none of their business!

    Your son is lucky to have a mom like you.

  5. Hello! I'm a new follower of your blog, and I'm really enjoying the peaceful peeks you allow us into your life. Thank you for sharing!

    I'm a mama of four little ones, the youngest still nursing and having just turned 2 last month. My nursing sessions with her are just as you've described with your son! The older children laugh to see her nursing antics. They were all self-weaned as well, but each of them stopped nursing MUCH earlier (13 months for the first two and 9 months for the third). I'm catching plenty of flack for continuing to nurse my "baby" from my husband and his family, but it hardly matters to me. By Baby #4, I'm quite confident in my parenting skin. :)

  6. I love the description of you and W. as a dyad: YES! A big resounding YES! God/Nature designed us to function as not only a biological unit of mama/child, but a social and emotional one as well.

    One thing that I thought about when looking over your blog: You are providing your play schoolers with a beautiful model of motherhood.

    Best lesson ever!!

  7. I love the idea of guidelines; "no milk at the table!" : ) I do miss Nathan's milky breath. He self-weaned before I was perfectly ready for him to.

    I'm glad W's adjusting well to having other kids around. Hope to see you soon.


  8. Beautiful. It's mamas like you that kept me breastfeeding until my bug was 5 months (when she started refusing out of frustration) even though the DRs kept telling me to give it up (even the lactation consultants had given up on me!) and encourage me to work even harder at breastfeeding with the baby on the way. Oh how I'd love to still be nursing my baby girl!

  9. People say that the little ones forget as soon as you stop. Apparently, not so. I stopped nursing hazel around 2 because of a skin condition I thought would improve. As soon as she could talk, she started saying how much she missed it, and just turned for still talking about how we stopped too soon. Keep it up, lady. And yes, a few firm ground rules make it better for everyone. As a childcare mama, I can say that Hazel and I nursed in the sling from day one on. Mine always liked to pull off a cover in public as they were used to no cover in private- ahem, I have no problem showing nursing breasts in public but prefer the rest of me remain covered!

  10. Sounds like nursing my second. At 2.5 she was nursing about as much as a newborn. At 4 I have no doubt she would still be nursing had my milk not dried up during my third pregnancy, then she and her then 4 yr old sister both gave it up for good. Right now I'm nursing only my 1 yr old and last and am enjoying what will hopefully be a nice long nursing relationship with her.

  11. Here are two stories from my first nursling: and It was my goal to have nursing be a pleasant memory since we have a new baby coming so soon. My little girl still pretends to nurse and offers me nunnies. I am interested to see how she will receive a new little one doing the same thing she once did.

  12. I'm nursing our second toddler (33 months), and we seem to be following a similar pattern as we did with our first son. We mostly nurse to sleep with occasional requests during the day for boo-boos and the little rests that everyone needs from time to time. I find the toddler nursing relationship to be so precious because I get to witness the very healthy tension between baby and independent little man. I love to see that both boys knew where to turn when they need/ed to center themselves, rest their bodies, and work through their uncertainties. That being said, I did set limits (am currently setting) some limits as I see them grow more and more independent. Nursing is a great way to teach gentle touch and respecting personal space--skills everyone needs to know. I am very much in favor of "on demand" nursing, but it is also valuable for a toddler to learn that Mama can be trusted when she says, "Please wait a moment while I finish ___." Patience and trust are supported through the many months of bonding to which we've devoted ourselves since birth. Good luck! It's a challenge but such a sweet time.

  13. Postings like this makes me re-energize to keep answering questions about extended nursing. Not being surrounded by nursing mothers sometimes makes me question myself. It is really good to have found people with the same philosophy in life.
    Proud to be mama to a nursing toddler (Lola 22months old)
    Thanks for your posting.

  14. Oh, what I wouldn't give to be able to nurse my son. :( I've been thinking a bit lately about nursing and societal norms. I see a lot of "I support nursing as long as it's done discretely". This really bothers me. How is that supporting nursing... Demanding it be covered sends the message that nursing is something to be hidden. Though I believe people that say this have their hearts in the right place, it seems to be to still be a rather hurtful sentiment...
    Just some thoughts :)

  15. I'm nursing my *counts* 31 month old (I think that's right - he's 2.5 years old-ish) and my 11 month old (is he really turning one at the end of the month? wow). We've had issues with the Imp (my toddler) scratching at me (not meanly - just.. hey, there's a bump, I want to pick at it!), but no acrobatics. He still nurses at night and would probably gladly give up solid food completely if I let him.

    I'm going to let him self wean. There are days when I wish he'd just hurry up and do it already. But a lot of that is unrelated stress.

    When I saw the photo of W having a nursing tantrum I immediately thought of my Imp. He completely melts down if I don't drop everything and nurse him Right Now. He even has this little ritual of setting up the couch with a pillow and blanket. He makes sure I have my book and reading glasses. It's really pretty adorable. (:

  16. I have been breastfeeding for almost 4 years now. My son, who breastfed until just over 2...while tandem nursing his baby sister. she is now almost 2 and almost self-weaned. I am a little saddened that this part of the journey is almost to an end.. 4 years is quite awhile of sharing myself and I would not trade it for anything.

    Thanks for the charming post, love the photo with the statue.

  17. Commenting (again) to thank you for sharing your photos. So sweet♥ Also just thought I'd let you know I linked to this post today :)

  18. my sweet nursing relationship just ended this year after ezra turned 4. seeing the pictures of W nursing reminds me so much of ez. they look so much a like with their fair hair and blue eyes. ezra's eyes looked just like w's when they got that drunken sailor look. i ended up weaning ezra this year. he was only nursing to sleep and it had just gotten to the point that it became painful to me and unenjoyable. i felt like my negative feelings that had arisen couldn't be good for him and decided (with a lot of thought and consideration to ezra's feelings as well as my own) that it was time for me to stop. he protested but not as long as i thought it would go on. now i go to sleep with him every night and sometimes it takes longer for him to fall asleep but most often not. it was one of the hardest decisions i have ever made as a parent but i am happy with the outcome. i also want to start trying for another child and don't want ezra to see the baby as taking away his precious "nay nays." that's what he called it - nay nay. : )

  19. Let me start by saying AMEN!! I am a mama of nine (but only three were birth) I nursed my 1st for 16 months, 2nd for 19 months and 3rd for 36 months (this would be Hannah with the blog I sent you to).

    "I firmly believe that W will learn independence through dependence on me." YES. YES. YES!!!!

    And YES the "milk drunk" I LOVE seeing my daughter nursing her toddler!

  20. You know how little Miss Leah (22 months) loves her "boobies." "Mommy! Yummy booby! I want 10 boobies!" I love our nurslings.

  21. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on breastfeeding! :)

    I believe that my twin daughters, age 4, are done breastfeeding. I nursed their older sister until she was just about 4, which meant that I had 2 years of 'triple tandem' breastfeeding.

    One thing that I used a lot, and that worked well for us, is to count them down when it was time to stop a nursing session. It prepared them for stopping, and greatly reduced the "but I wanted to keep nursing!" tantrums. I would count as slowly or quickly as necessary. I ended nighttime nursing sooner than I expected (nightweaning lasted from 18-22 months). Originally we counted to 10 but after my wonderful partner said one day "I love you, but if I never hear you count to 10 again, it will be too soon!" we switched to 3. :)

  22. Truly beautiful. I love that baby nursing on a statue photo too! I bottle fed both my children and as they needed the nurture they both carried on with a daily morning bottle for quite a while - DS was actually 5 when he last had his bottle and DD stopped wanting one when she was sad or afraid a couple of months before she was 4. There are great ways to promote a "nursing relationship" even with bottle feeding and my babies and I were all three of us very nurtured and comforted by bottle nursing as it helped us bond and fulfiled the same sort of needs as breast feeding does, emotionally. Good luck with your sweet W and the rest of your nursing journey together.

  23. A lovely post and congratulations to you and every other mama for the public nursings - they are a pay-it-forward gift to future nursing mamas who will have a community far more accustomed to that sight than we had!

    Nursing an infant is amazing - no question. But I loved and cherished nursing my toddlers. And to hear from them how important it was made it all the more sweet! Like last fall after we started enjoying fresh cider around our house, one day while nursing my almost three year old she stopped, pointed, and exclaimed with joy: "Mama's cider!"

  24. Thank you! Really love this post. It broke myh heart not to be able to breastfeed my son. I regret not trying harder but I didnt have any support what so ever in breastfeeding or being a mom when he was born. With my daughter I promised myself not to stop till she wanted to or it came to the point where i wasnt physically able to ( it got painful, not producing milk etc).

  25. CarolM and others who weren't able to nurse...I understand the heartbreak that you describe. I could never establish a full supply despite great support, technique, and information. Fortunately, because I had tremendous help from La Leche League and a team of lactation consultants, I came to see that I could breastfeed and supplement in order to maintain the nursing relationship. But you know the most important lesson I learned? One LC put it this way: It is not a mistake that this baby is yours. You can give him things that no one else can above and beyond breastmilk. That bit of information healed my heart when I felt like I had failed. Have peace about the past. Breastfeeding is great, but it is also just a mirror of how a woman can mother her children in lots of ways.

  26. REbecca, this is wonderful! Don't ya love the nursing toddler? I too nursed well into toddler hood, my 4 year old son weaned only a year ago, when I was pregnant with my littlest, and he remembers nursing, happily.
    I totally get the acrobatic nursing. . . My daughter (now 10!) used to love to stand beside me on the couch and put her foot up onto the back of the couch, like a ballerina.
    Co-sleeping too, we have done it as long as they have needed it. Our daughter finally was ready to be in her own bed alone when she was 7. Our second son was about 5 when he ventured out. 4 year old son still co-sleeps.

  27. Oh one more thing: our two older children who moved into their beds on their own time: are both amazing wonderful sleepers today, and very independent at nighttime- getting up to use the bathroom, get a drink when they need to, and reading quietly in their beds before they go to sleep. They are able to self sooth. So if anyone tells you he'll never be able to put himself to sleep, always be too dependant on you for nighttime. . .SO not true!!!

  28. Wonderful photos! Beautiful story, I love the guidelines, too funny. I remember only to well!

  29. I loved breastfeeding too. I can't even remember really how long I breastfed each of my three kids. My two boys weaned themselves. Somewhere between three and four. I am so proud of that. I wouldn't give up those moments with my kids for anything in the world. I do regret weaning my daughter at 2 1/4. I was planning on getting pregnant with my second a few months later and I wanted to have my "baba's" back for a few months before. I wish I would have just waited.

  30. I also have a nursing toddler. With my work and school schedule, he only nurses at night now though. It has always been the reason why we co-sleep and I couldn't imagine it any other way! He politely asks to nurse (nurse, please(which he signs)) unless I'm wearing a tank top, then he just pulls it on out. When he was a full-time nurser I nursed him anywhere and everywhere we were. At restaurants (conveniently when the waiter would come to take an order), the mall, the zoo, at sports events, you name it!

  31. Ah,I remember it well! I weaned my last about 6 months ago, at around 2 and a half. But he still loves to hold a 'feedy' if he's feeling tired or grumpy.
    My best 'feedy' moment was at Disneyland in Paris. I was feeding my then 6 month old, now 6 year old, on a bench when a park attendant told me sweetly in very good english that they " have a special room where you can go and eat your baby" !

  32. Absolutely gorgeous. A perfect post, how in-tune your life/family seem. xx
    My wee one and I ended our breastfeeding journey a few months ago just after her 4th birthday and celebrated with a breasy party in celebration of that time. She will continue to fall asleep in my arms and cosleep for as long as she feels she wants to and we regularly read "Breastmilk Makes My Tummy Yummy" and "The Wonderful Place" as a reminder of how special it was.
    You are thought provoking and inspiring as usual :)

  33. Amen Sister!

    It is posts like these that make me cheer aloud for extended nursing and encouraging public nursing as the norm for compassionate and loving mothering!! I too nurse just about anywhere and have always done so with a smile on my face, lest anyone think I am embarrassed -- I am not!

    I have been nursing kids for almost seven years straight. Yes, seven. Much of that time has been tandem nursing.

    I firmly believe that doing so has helped my children and I establish relationships of attachment and compassion. It hasn't always been easy, and I am pretty exhausted (so are my breasts), but I wouldn't trade this time for anything!

    Way to go, way to go, way to go!

  34. love LOVE this post. i too have breastfed anytime, anyplace for as long as needed. my smallest guy is now 6 so those days are gone for me...sadly gone. but they were the best times of my mothering life.
    i learned the the importance and beauty of nursing from my mother. she nursed in the 70s when it was frowned upon to the point of trying to shame the mother. but she didn't care. she was a breast feeding, organic gardening, herb taking woman in the deep south and was proud of it. how thankful i am that she was!


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