My son is fifteen months old. He is like unchained lightning, everywhere all at once, touching and finding and getting into things, asking me, “What is this,” with the vigor of someone new in the world. He can find jelly beans anywhere, regardless of whether there was a jelly bean in that place to begin with. He runs and toddles like a drunken penguin being chased by a polar bear. He sings and likes to show me where my eyes are by poking just hard enough to make my vision spotty. He’s my whole world.
And he’s still nursing.
I can’t ignore the looks of perplexity and occasional stink eye as I nurse my active 15 month old. He twists and turns, and while I try to be discreet (he banished the nursing curtain long before) there is really nothing I can do but smile. People ask if I’m still nursing as if I’m doing something insane or barbaric. They mention to me that he’s quite a big boy, their side eyes stares indiscreet.
I get asked, on a semi-regular basis, when I’m planning on weaning. The thing is, I’m not. I’ve learned that my plans, while best laid, seldom work the way I want them to. And that’s why we’re self-weaning.
What is Child Led Weaning?
Self weaning usually occurs between the ages of two and four, according to Kelly Mom. The benefits of breastfeeding do not end when the baby turns one. Our bodies can do amazing things; they take a tiny seed and grow it into a person, bore that person, and nourished them. Our bodies change to sustain that life, and continue to change. The mother’s body adapts to the child’s needs.
And my child needs it. He needs the extra antibodies and immunities. He needs the comfort as his teeth push through his gums or when he’s sick or sad. He needs the extra nutrients as he figures out what kind of foods he will and will not eat. He needs his “nursies” the same way I need those tender moments of silence where he’s still in my arms, growing and growing faster, shifting from the tiny needy thing to the independent little boy he is now.
Eventually, he will be ready to wean. He will lose interest, he’ll no longer ask for his nursies and will find comfort in other things, get his nutrients other places, his body will be older and wiser and better at protecting him from the world. And whether I greet that day with a smile, a triumphant whoop, or incessant weeping, it will be our choice.
Embarrassed by Child Led Weaning?
I have yet to die of embarrassment when he tries to lift up my shirt when we’re in public, though I’ve certainly thought about it. He wails as if abused when I whisper “No nursies,” when he tries to eat during church. I have to remind him that we don’t switch during a meal like I so foolishly let him do at home. There may come a time when the nursing is no longer something I love, when I find it more taxing—physically, mentally, emotionally—then the symbiosis it is now. But I will cross those bridges when they come, taking each day at a time.
I will take in stride the resentment and negativity I feel this country harbors towards breastfeeding women. I see it in the sidelong glances as I nurse in a public bench, in the banning of breastfeeding facebook pictures, deemed inappropriate, in the media buzz and hate that surrounded the Time Magazine breastfeeding post.
My choices belong to me, and I cannot change the opinions of others by being angry all the time. I will normalize extended breastfeeding and child led weaning by making it normal in my own life. I cannot speak for anyone else. I am a culmination of my own experiences, as they are of theirs. I cannot expect everyone to understand, just as I cannot understand or pass judgment on their lives, my miles spent in my own shoes, instead of theirs.
When Megan Eccles isn’t blogging at Megan Eccles, she can be found on a ranch in Southern California, trying to keep up with life. Between striving towards self sufficiency, learning how to be a mother, and writing, she can be found on the corner of her couch with a cup of tea and a good book. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter! Megan also authored Natural Thrush treatment for Mom and Baby on our series on Breastfeeding.
Excellent post. My younger two children self-weaned at about 2 years old. I was ‘forced’ (more like not strong enough to stand my ground) to stop nursing my oldest child at only 3 months due to his extended hospital stays back in the days when even the nurses at the hospital would make snide comments and made this new mother feel inadequate to take care of her child. From my experience, the self-wean method is so much less painful (physically and emotionally) for everyone involved. My children are now 26, 19, & 16 and they have been pretty healthy and happy all their lives. Some folks just need to grow up and stop thinking that everything is about them. 😉 Thank you so much for speaking out.
Thank you for your story Ginny! To be honest, speaking out for breastfeeding is hard for me, because I try and make everyone happy. But my family’s happiness it the most important of them all, and part of that is gentle weaning!
I weaned my last baby at about 2 1/2 years and the previous one at 3 years. I don’t regret nursing them that long at all. It was such a good experience. I love how infrequent they were sick. I am not sure if my 2 1/2 year old has had a cold yet.
Breastfeeding has so many wonderful benefits! Anthony has gotten a few colds, but they were piffle compared to what they could have been.
Jennifer Fountain - www.GrowingUpTriplets.com
Love this! It is very tough to answer the questions people ask! I am doing a partial mom/baby led weaning, but at almost 19 months the triplets are still happy to nurse several times a day…and I am happy to let them. =)
My jaw is on the floor. Breastfeeding one baby can be a challenge, but triplets? You go girl! That’s more babies than you have hands for!
Jennifer Fountain - www.GrowingUpTriplets.com
God has met us in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I had no plans to nurse all three, but He helped me get here. It’s been amazing! =)
I nursed my son just 20 days shy of three years. If you had asked me how long I had intended to nurse, I would have answered the PC response – just a year. However, my son had different plans. He wasn’t ready to wean at a year and I wasn’t in any real rush to wean either. Then the unavoidable happened. I had to take care of my mother in the hospital for a week and we were both “forced” to wean. It was a trying time and for a few months afterwards, he would dry nurse for comfort. It’s been four months now and I can say that he is finally weaned and happy and well-adjusted. As for illnesses, he’s had NONE! Should I have more kids in the future, I’ll nurse them until they (the child, not John Q Public) tell me that they are ready. I wouldn’t change it for anything!
Just so you know about my experiences, my first child (21 years old) was nursed for less than 2 weeks as she got thrush and I was told to stop.Normal childhood illnesses, nothing too serious. My second child (5 years old) was nursed/bottle fed for seven months. I worked full-time and pumped at work. When we changed the nipple on the bottle, she quit the breast but wouldn’t take formula. I had to continue pumping until she switched to cow’s milk. She has allergies and ear issues. My son (3 years old), exclusively breast fed for just shy of three years with zero allergies or ear issues. He refuses any milk/milk products including ice cream, which we’re working on. 😉
Thank you so much for sharing <3 I love hearing about other women's successes and challenges with breastfeeding. Anthony still hasn't had any straight cow's milk, but loves cheese and ice cream! I wish I could have a bowl to myself 😉
You do what works for you. While Impersonally would not breastfeed a child that is old enough to go to pre-school, others may breastfeed their child until they start first grade. To each their own. Nobody has the right answers. And certainly nobody has the right to pass judgement.
I nursed two of my children. My son did not nurse in public once he was older but he would at home. I had no choise he would help himself. I had older children who said that he would probably come home from college to nurse but when I got pregnant for my next child he weaned himself. My next child nursed until she was 2.
I just love your last paragraph. It is so right on!
Thanks for linking up at The Tuesday Baby Link Up!