I want to share a picture with you all.
This was taken on August 19th, 2015 – the day Jack turned 5…the 5th anniversary of our breastfeeding journey. When he was born, I had educated myself a lot about breastfeeding and knew that I was going to do it—I was going to succeed—it was the normal and optimal food for my baby. But I didn’t have anything like Cafe au Lait. I had never been to a La Leche League meeting… I didn’t really have any close breastfeeding mama friends yet at the time, and I hadn’t really ever seen a mom breastfeeding her child. But my instincts were powerful, and Jack latched on in his first few minutes of life.
By keeping him with me, nursing him often and following his lead, our nursing relationship grew, evolved and blossomed over the years. We luckily never ran into any issues and I quickly learned that breastfeeding was so much more than nutrition – it became how I mothered. I wasn’t only nourishing and growing his perfect little body – I was meeting his every physical and emotional need in the most natural and amazing way. In return, the relationship was also so very healing for my soul and mental health – not only as a new mom, but as a woman: after spending most of my life hating my body and abusing it through an eating disorder (spending so many years wishing my boobs would disappear because they were “extra fat on my body”), watching my son thrive and grow on the milk my body made was just the most intensely awesome thing.
He continued to nurse through my pregnancy with Wyatt (he turned 3 two weeks before Wyatt was born); and when our new baby joined us, my two boys nursed together. Tandem nursing was an amazing experience – one that truly made me feel like “mother earth” and was a HUGE benefit in helping Jack in adjusting to our new family member. Instead of this new baby taking his mom away from him, tandem nursing allowed the transition to be seamless and natural.
Those early days of newborn bliss and our new family of four were so beautiful and special (not that every moment is perfection of course, but when I look back on it I absolutely remember it that way). Jack continued to nurse here and there as Wyatt grew older, but his sips of milk grew further apart, mostly asking for a sip during the day and at bedtime. Knowing that both the nutritional and immunological benefits are ALWAYS there, I was glad that he still wanted to drink my “liquid gold”.
I took this picture on Jack’s 5th birthday because I knew that our days of breastfeeding weren’t going to last forever (though I remember in sweet bedtime discussions when Jack was little, him saying that he’d never wean and he’d drink milk until he was in his 40s). At some point between that day and his recent 6th birthday, he stopped asking for milk. It wasn’t an “event” I could pinpoint the date of… there was no “last time” that I can really recall in my head…but gradually and in his own time, I can now say he has weaned.
I felt from the beginning that I wanted to give my kids the option to breastfeed until they outgrew the need. As my kids grew, they didn’t only want milk when they were hungry or thirsty – they wanted to nurse when they fell on the playground, or when their feelings were just too big to handle—and I was more than happy to take the time to cuddle them and nurture them in the most natural way I could – to offer my breasts. Wyatt is now 3 and I am currently almost in week 18 of my third pregnancy. He still drinks some milk at bedtime, but at this point, there isn’t a ton coming out. He’s been fine with it and is perfectly happy snuggling in as we read together before they fall asleep. I totally look forward to the days of milk abundance when the new baby is here and Wyatt can join baby, just like his big brother did with him.
Of course, not all moms choose to nurse until their little ones outgrow the need – and that’s okay! Our topic at La Leche League of Mt. Lebanon this past week was Full-Term Nursing and Child-Led Weaning (if you know me, you know I cringe at the term “extended nursing” because there’s really nothing “extended” about it and I really don’t like what that phrase implies). There are SO many benefits to continuing to breastfeed for as long as is mutually desirable for both mom and child, though there are many roadblocks that can unfortunately get in the way. That’s why I’m passionate about empowering, encouraging and supporting moms to make the choices that feel right to them – not to talk them into making the same choices I did, but to making the choices that feel right for their families.
Remember: for as little or as long as you breastfeed, you are giving your child(ren) a priceless gift of physical and mental health, and a connection that builds a lifetime of love, trust and confidence that will be special to you forever.