Boycott Nestle

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nursing a Toddler

At 19 months old, there is no question that my little Monkey has left infancy behind and is now a full fledged toddler.  And really, toddlerhood is a lot of fun!  I love watching him as he learns new things every minute, and I swear, his vocabulary is increasing exponentially. His play has evolved into more pretend play and sensory exploration, leaving pretty terrific messes in his wake.  He has also become much more independent.  I was amazed last weekend at a St. Patrick's day party when he took off with his Granny and Papa for at least a half an hour before he came looking for me.  But all of this learning, growing, and newfound independence is exhausting, and he still loves to snuggle up with his mama and nurse.

So, how is nursing a toddler different than nursing a baby?

For starters, he's bigger and he won't sit still, but that's not so bad.  Because he's bigger, he's able to latch on all by himself and I can multitask while he snacks.  In fact, he's nursing down for a nap as I type this.  The gym-nurse-tics I could do without most of the time, but if nothing else, it's quite entertaining (it certainly provides my husband with a source amusement as Monkey assumes the downward dog yoga position without unlatching).

The part I hate the most about nursing a toddler? The dreaded nursing in public.  I feel very self conscious when we nurse in public (which is not helped by his distracted Karate Kid inspired nursing style: latch-on, latch-off).  Sometimes I find myself hoping that Monkey won't ask for milk (or, muk, as he calls it) until we get home.  But, to be honest, most of the time no one even bats an eye, and if they have an opinion they keep it to themselves.

When he was younger, I proudly nursed in public everywhere we went. By openly breastfeeding in public, I felt like was helping other mothers (who might be nervous about doing so themselves) by normalizing it.  I have to periodically remind myself that the same is true for nursing a toddler in public.  There are a lot of "closet-nursing" mamas out there who, just like me, feel squeamish about others knowing that their toddler is still breastfeeding.

Now, I'm not going to lie.  I am not as open about it as I used to be.  Most of the time, Monkey nurses in our ErgoBaby carrier, and, while I don't cover him up (as if he'd allow that!), most people don't realize that he's nursing and think he's just sleeping.  But, some people do notice and they often give me a look or even say something to let me know that they've noticed.  Sometimes it's a look of disapproval or disbelief, but more often than not, it's a knowing smile from a mama who's been there, and that just makes my day.

I have no intention of weaning him before his second birthday (as recommended by the World Health Organization, among others), and I have no idea how long we'll continue with our nursing relationship after that.  Perhaps I'll let him self-wean, I'm just not sure yet.  For now, I'm enjoying the snuggles and milky smiles while I still can.