My youngest is 19 months old and still breastfeeds. I know writing the word “still” might seem both absurd and shocking depending on who you ask. This is what is working right now, so for me, this is normal. Like with most things related to my second child, I have much firmer, I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude regarding the parenting of my children.
My oldest was weaned very gradually, starting from the time he was about a year old until he was off my breast by 20 months. It was a gentle process that utilized the support of those closest to me. And, while, my son was/is a high needs child, having no other children to care for at the time meant I could focus my energy on assuring his needs were met beyond our nursing relationship.
My youngest son has different needs. In many ways, he is less demanding than my oldest. He was never the type of round-the-clock feeder. He also easily adapted to his role as the second child and the divided attention that is part of the deal.
And yet, I still nurse him.
I still nurse him because, I am often exhaused from caring for my two boys, and I want the path of least resistance. If my youngest is tired and cranky, nursing is often the quickest and easiest way to calm him down. And at night, after a long day, if this is what gets him to sleep fastest, that’s what I’m going to do.
I still nurse him because, often it is the only chance we have for real connection. I get caught up in caring for his older brother, writing or doing household chores. I know that no matter how busy I am, those brief moments of breastfeeding are our time to bond.
I still nurse him because, subconsciously there is the understanding he might be my last child. No, I do not wish him to be a baby forever. I am actually a very hands off parent. That doesn’t mean, I can’t acknowledge the difficulty of ending one of the most powerful relationships a mother can have with her child.
As with my oldest, my plan was to breastfeed my youngest for one year, and just see how it goes beyond that point. Twenty months proved to be the right amount of time for my firstborn. This will not hold true for my youngest. Maybe he will wean at twenty-one months, or twenty-four or beyond. I may get fed up and decide to cut him off tomorrow.
Until then, I will endure the acrobatics, nursing negotiations, random marathon sessions and everything else that comes with breastfeeding a toddler. I will continue to seek support from my family to help me ease my child toward independence.
And when the time comes for us to end our breastfeeding relationship, I know it will be what’s best for our family.