Stop shaming my toddler and I for nursing

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Stop shaming my toddler and I for nursing

Photo by NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels

I never saw myself still nursing my toddler at age 2 and a half. I had always said that when they can form full sentences to ask to nurse then that was too old. But here I am. Nursing my toddler/soon-to-be preschooler who can ask to nurse in full sentences.

"wow! She's still nursing? Isn't she 2?"
"You're a big girl now, you can't nurse forever"
"Aren't you tired?" (yes, I'm very tired)
"She's nursing more than a baby"
"Don't you plan to wean her?"
"You need to wean her soon"

These are just some of the many things I hear on a regular basis by well meaning friends and family members. The implication is often that I'm getting some sort of sick pleasure from nursing beyond acceptable limits and that somehow I'm damaging my daughter or making her into some kind of breast-monster. Or that I'm being very lazy and taking the easy way out by not weaning her.

So let me set the record straight once and for all.

Yes, I am tired.

I am tired (I'm writing this article at 3.30am after some night nursing that woke me up). I no longer love nursing all the time like I used to. I miss sleep. I miss having my body to myself and not having my clothes clawed at by a little human all the time. I'm tired of the constant requests to nurse and for the soreness that comes with it. I'm touched-out and sleep deprived (for almost 3 years!).

But there are moments where I still cherish it. The moment when she is upset or sad and I can give her something that soothes all her troubles and puts her at peace. Maybe I've been out at work all day and she missed me. Maybe she's in new surroundings, with new people, and feels unsettled. Maybe she's just had a hard day or a fall or hurt herself. Because whatever you may think about it, with your judgmental adult eyes, it is her favourite thing in the world. It is her safe place.
Her eyes shine when I say yes to a request to nurse and she laughs and smiles with pure joy and elation. Nursing to her is pure and innocent and warm and loving. It makes her so happy that she is often driven to hysterical laughter in anticipation.

Don't get me wrong, if my daughter decided tomorrow that she no longer wanted to nurse I would be happy (yes, there would be a tinge of sadness as a chapter closes - like when your kid goes to school for the first time - but that is normal). I would love to get my body back and to (hopefully) get some more sleep.

And don't assume I haven't tried. I have. Granted, I have tried in small gentle ways. To get her to nurse less (pretty impossible) or to distract her with other things like toys or snacks (works sometimes). But I'm not yet ready to let her cry herself to sleep because I refuse to nurse her. Or leave her screaming on the floor when she wants to nurse and I say no. Because this is what you're asking me to do - with your judgmental looks and loaded words.
I'm not being lazy. Nursing is hard. It is draining. Nursing a toddler is so very different from nursing a baby and is super challenging in its own right. I'm trying to be a good parent. I'm trying not to break my daughter's heart. Take away her safe place. Her comfort. Her favourite thing in the whole wide world.

It is also biologically normal. As a society, we have set arbitrary limits on how long it is is "acceptable" to nurse. Part of this is the sexualisation of women's bodies (I shudder to think of the more horrible comments I would get if my child was a boy still nursing) and portrayals in popular media (I get Game of Thrones and Little Britain jokes quite often). But the World Health Organization (part of the United Nations) recommends that children be breastfed until at least 2 years old. The key word being "at least". The American Academy of Pediatrics says “There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychological or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.” In fact, studies show continued health benefits (both physical and emotional, long and short term) for mother and child for as long as the nursing relationship lasted. "Anthropologist Kathy Dettwyler’s research suggests that the normal and natural duration of breastfeeding for modern humans falls between 2.5 years at a minimum and about 7 years at a maximum. Until around the last 100 years extended breastfeeding was a cultural norm." (source)

But like I said earlier, I am tired. I won't be able to travel this nursing road for much longer. When I do decide to wean, it will be hard and upsetting and a loss to both myself and my daughter. So when that time comes please don't say things like" it's about time" or "finally". Until then, keep your comments and your judgments to yourself. Let us enjoy our final days on this journey together.
Mel Poh
Mel Poh
Mel moved from Singapore to Brunei in 2016 to give birth and raise her now rambunctious toddler. The move from the world of business and law to being a stay-at-home mum ignited her passion for all things baby and child related. She founded Baby Brunei in the hopes of sharing this passion with other parents in Brunei.

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