If there is one thing that I just love about being a mama (and there isn't just one thing- there's a gazillion, but this is one thing in particular that I love), it's the sweet simplicity of nourishing my darling babes through breastfeeding.
Last week, Caden and I celebrated 13 months of being a happy little nursing couple, and I anticipate many more "anniversaries" to come.
I was blessed to be able to nurse Abbie until she was 20 months, at which time I sadly weaned her (of my own choosing, not hers- she would have continued on for quite some time, I think). Naturally, the first question that statement usually stirs up is "How long is it appropriate to keep breastfeeding? Isn't it weird (wrong, strange, adjective of your choice) to nurse a toddler?"
The answer, of course, is no, not at all!
By the time I weaned Abbie, she was speaking in full sentences, could lift up my shirt, tell me exactly what she wanted and which side she preferred. Did it feel strange? Nope!
When I was first pregnant with her, my original goal was 1 year. Although I had romantic and idealistic notions that went far beyond that, I also knew that I knew nothing about being a mom, and didn't want to arrogantly presume anything (though I suppose even presuming a year suggests that I thought that much would be easy).
When we hit a year, I hadn't even introduced her to any form of milk yet, she still loved her milkies 4-5 times a day, and I saw absolutely no reason to cut her off from something that gave us both so much enjoyment. And so we went on... in fact, the only reason that I finally weaned at 20 months was simply because it appears that I am one of those moms that just cannot get pregnant while nursing.
(To be a bit vulnerable, this breaks my heart just a little and really forces me to trust and rely on my sovereign and fully trustworthy Savior. As we are hoping to have many children, as many as the Lord gives us, it is a struggle for me to continue on with extended nursing, knowing that it is preventing more babies from joining our family anytime soon. On the other hand, I feel a strong desire and compulsion to continue on with nursing and to give my children the absolute best for as long as I feel that they need it. Can you understand the tension? I'm sure I'm not alone in this struggle!)
So what makes me love nursing so dearly and believe in it so strongly that I am willing to allow a greater age gap between my children, and have walking, talking toddlers pulling at my shirt? Here are just a few reasons:
- Convenience- Unless I had to, I absolutely cannot imagine that hassle of buying formula, mixing it up and heating it, sterilizing bottles and nipples, etc. Breastmilk is always the perfect temperature, the perfect consistency, and perfectly available. I have breastfed pretty much anywhere you can imagine (in the car at the border line up, in a Home Depot aisle, on the bus, while answering the front door, in a bathroom stall) - you name it, I've nursed there! And if we end up out somewhere long than we anticipate and don't have baby food with us, at least we've always got milk!
- Nutrition- It doesn't get any more natural and perfectly nourishing than breastmilk. Of course, good milk is made by a good diet, and our own nutrition really does affect our milk. So as long as I keep eating well, I know that my baby is getting the healthiest milk possible, full of all the right fats and protein and cholesterol and vitamins.
- That lovin' feeling- Don't you just love nursing hormones? I can be a totally frustrated, angry mom one minute, practically losing it with the kids and ready to pull my hair out, and then I sit down to nurse my sweet baby and within moments, I'm crooning softly and gently stroking his forehead. Seriously, it's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!
- Avoidance of allergies and sickness- I have often been amazed at how I can be sick with a horrible cold or flu, and my babies seem to escape it. I learned early on in nursing Abbie that a mother's milk has natural antibodies to whatever the mother is fighting, which increases the baby's resilience and helps to prevent them from getting sick. As well, breastmilk boosts a baby's immune system (especially through healthy bacteria in the early days and weeks after birth), and reduces the chances of severe allergies developing.
- An excuse to stop and enjoy- One of the things that I think is so helpful for me as a really busy, go-go-go kind of person is that I have to actually stop and sit down and just snuggle my baby several times a day (or 9 times a day when they're newborn!). Even now, Caden and I have our special times in the morning when he wakes, in the afternoon after his nap, and in the evening before bed, with the occasional other feed mixed in here and there. It is so good to have an excuse to just stop and enjoy him, or sit on the couch and read to both kids as I nurse.
If you need a few more reasons, here's a fabulous list I found of 101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child- the most thorough one I have ever found!
And so, I celebrate the 13 months we've shared so far, and look forward to continuing down this beautiful path. I'm not phased by the strange looks I receive, or the charming "Will you still be nursing when she goes to kindergarten?" kind of questions I received with Abbie.
I am in good company with much of the rest of the world, as I practice this gentle art of motherhood. In third world countries, it is not uncommon to nurse a child to 2 or 3 years old! In fact, the World Health Organization recommends that babies be breastfed up to 2 years and beyond.
Perhaps I should go buy myself a shirt I just saw recently... "Why yes, I am still breastfeeding!"