If you had showed me this TIME Magazine cover, featuring a mother breastfeeding her toddler who is STANDING UP, one year ago, I would have laughed.
"Not me! That won't be me! I will breastfeed until she's around one. 10 months maybe?"
Yet there I was the other day, sitting on the couch in my living room nursing an almost one year old who was...standing up. "Look!" I said to my husband. He thought it was funny and laughed out loud. My daughter, of course, thought nothing of it.
Long before I became pregnant, I knew I would breastfeed. After tons of reading and education in natural parenting, as well as attachment parenting, I also knew I would want to nurse my baby for up to a year. Those first few weeks were brutal. Oversupply issues, a colicky baby, cracked and bleeding nipples, you name it, I dealt with it. Through daily tears of frustration, I told myself I only had to do it for six months. I counted the weeks and dreamt of the day I wouldn't need to wear easy access bras and tops.
Then, somewhere around 10 or 12 weeks after my daughter was born, our nursing relationship became enjoyable. I finally experienced those super emotional letdowns and the high that comes from cuddling so close for several hours a day. I knew there was no stopping in our near future. I told myself to prepare to carry on feeding her this way well into her second year. Read More: Why Co-Sleeping Works For Us, Even If It Horrifies You
My daughter has never taken a bottle or a pacifier, and most solid food still end up on the floor. For nearly one year, I have kept her alive and perfectly content with my boobs. It's amazing and I'm incredibly proud of myself.
How does everyone else around me feel? They are probably wondering when I will close up shop. They can keep wondering, because I kind of hate the word "wean." Or the question, "How long do you plan on nursing?" I don't "plan" on weaning my daughter. She will let me know when she's no longer interested, I presume. Even if this does include some gentle distractions and redirection as time goes on. I can't imagine flat out denying her something that she loves to do so much. She would cry, and that would probably break my heart in two.
You see, nursing isn't just about nutrition. It's comfort. It's quiet time. It's stealing snuggles from a child who is otherwise always on the go. It's a special bond that no one in the world can match. It's enjoying every single minute of this precious period of her life, because one day very soon, she will begging me for independence, a cell phone, and the keys to my car. But for now, all she wants is for me to hold her close to my breast. And how can I rush it along or wish that away?
Of course, there is another person in our relationship, my husband. He has always been supportive of me breastfeeding. His only response when I ask him how he feels about the fact that I am still nursing is "just don't get too crazy." Although he was amused to see Elena at my breast while she was standing, I'm thinking this cover photo of Jamie Lynne Grumet nursing her 3-year-old son is his idea of too crazy. He probably shouldn't worry. I have hopes of having another child before our daughter is three and I don't see her remaining interested in nursing through a pregnancy and sharing me with a new baby. Though it could be me. After a year of parenting, I know better than to say never.
I also know that I am not looking forward to the negative backlash this photo will receive. Men and women who aren't yet parents, as well as guilty mothers who never breastfed, were encouraged to wean early, or never had any interest in it at all are always good for bashing extended nursing. Read More: I'm A Responsible Mom And Wife - And Yes, I Have Tattoos
For those readers, I'd like to remind them of the reasoning behind this photo, As photographer Martin Schoeller explains, he "liked the idea of having the kids standing up to underline the point that this was an uncommon situation." It is uncommon to see a woman nurse her toddler. But that doesn't mean it's an uncommon occurrence. Or that it's wrong. We often see mothers nursing their tiny babes, all bundled close and covered up. I think it's very important to see that in many homes, nursing looks more like this and that's normal too.
HuffPost predicts it will "turn heads and draw gasps from readers." And to that I say fine, just as long as there are a few readers who walk away with a completely different attitude on nursing beyond babyhood.
Written by Brooke Dowd Sacco for YourTango.com.
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