Jax is one year old now and I have no plans to wean her. This fact has garnered some interesting reactions from people close to me.
With all the commotion and excitement of Jacquelyn’s birthday party, the guest of honor was hard at play, much too busy for her afternoon nap or lunch.
After friends left, leaving only family to clean up after the festivities, Jax began to whine. I tried to put her in her high chair to eat but she was not having it. She rubbed her tired eyes and clung to me. I knew what she needed.
I excused myself to nurse her to sleep, leaving my husband to continue on solo as host. In the quiet comfort of my arms, my one year-old daughter greedily latched and got her fill in mere minutes. When she was asleep I returned to my family and was met with the question.
“When are you going to stop breastfeeding, she’s already a year old?”
The question was asked of me by my sister and while there was no malice or sarcasm in her voice, the slightest trace of disapproval curled her lip. The faint snarl quickly morphed in to an obvious frown upon hearing my answer.
“When she starts kindergarten.”
Honestly, there is no real truth in that response. I don’t imagine I will be nursing my child past her toddler years, but I have no specific date in mind as to when I will wean. Her daddy and I decided to let her decide.
Opinions like that of my sister have not been limited to my family. I’ve had friends, former breastfeeders themselves, tell me that they could not imagine nursing past 6 months, 9 months, 1 year.
In contrast to my own situation, every single one of those mamas had a reason why they stopped – one went back to work, another kept getting mastitis and decided enough was enough and the other’s baby lost interest after the family moved to a new home. Those reasons were situations which forced them to make a decision; I kinda believe that if their circumstances were different, they would have nursed their children beyond the time they stopped.
I share neither their opinions, nor their reasons to wean. My daughter entering her second year is not a valid reason for me to decide to deprive her of something she craves and needs – something that naturally brings her comfort and nourishment. I will not punish her because she turned one. And yes, it would be punishment – she would be traumatized if I weaned her now, and frankly, I would be too.
One friend said to me: “If they can ask for it, it’s time to stop.”
Well, Jax has been able to “ask” for it for months. When she is hungry or tired or needy, she lets me know exactly what she wants. She may not be able to verbalize her desire to nurse but she can definitely communicate it.
Breastfeeding my daughter has been a badge of honor for me since her birth. The day she arrived I wasn’t sure I could do it. Insecurity got the best of me and in my postpartum state I questioned if it was the right choice.
After a few weeks, Jax and I had the routine down pat. I looked forward to the intimate mother/child bond we created and strengthened with every feeding. My goal of exclusive breastfeeding extended from six months to a year and we are still growing strong. I am proud that Jax has never known the taste of formula and has only shown interest in a bottle if she sees another baby with one. The liquid gold that is breast milk has kept my sweet girl thriving – healthy, happy and remarkably advanced for her age.
I realize how very fortunate as a breastfeeding mama I am. Jax was a natural latcher; she showed me the way. Her natural ability gave me the confidence I needed to keep going. I never suffered from the common breastfeeding maladies that many mamas do – my nipples never cracked or bled, it never hurt. I never suffered a breast infection or clogged ducts. And because I have been afforded the opportunity to stay home with my child and nurse on demand, my milk supply has always been abundant. Like I said, I am lucky…and so very, very thankful.
I don’t judge other moms who weaned early or who never breastfed at all. As good mamas we all have decisions to make for the good of our children and families. I’d like to believe that I am not being judged by my choice to extend breastfeeding past a year. Unless my family is faced with catastrophic changes, Jax will likely nurse for many more months.
And I’m sure we will be done well before she starts kindergarten, my sweet baby is one smart cookie and knows exactly what she wants. I know she will discover her independence and it will prevail over my boobs far sooner than I would like.
When that time comes, I will feel like the one being punished.