Twice a week Wonder Nanny comes in the morning to hang out with my kids. And twice a week, when I come home, Jacob sees me and shouts, “Sleepy nurse!” (There are two kinds of breastfeeding, you see. Side nurse happens anywhere, and sleepy nurse happens in the computer chair. Of course.)
Thankfully, or not thankfully, Jacob’s words aren’t that intelligible. And so Wonder Nanny asked me one day, “What is he saying?” I looked at my 2 1/2 year old, who is not such a baby at all anymore. He wears underwear most of the time now (with at least one accident every day, but definite progress). He can count to ten and he loves to play hockey and he gets out of bed every day and asks for pancakes. Then I looked at Wonder Nanny, and I wasn’t sure what to say.
On the one hand, I’m not embarrassed that I’m breastfeeding my toddler. I nursed his big sister Hannah until she was almost 3 years old, and I’ve had a similar goal for Jacob. Just now, at 2 1/2, I’m starting to offer alternatives when he asks to nurse, but I don’t push it. I’m not in too much of a rush to be done, and I believe and trust that weaning will happen in its own time.
I also realize that the way to normalize breastfeeding, and especially to normalize breastfeeding older children, is for people like me to talk about it. Right now Wonder Nanny has no children of her own, but maybe one day she will. And when she does, if she finds herself breastfeeding a child much older than she ever thought she would, knowing that she’s not alone may help her. Or at least it may present breastfeeding a walking, talking child as an option.
Hannah breastfeeding as a toddler at 14 months
On the other hand, I don’t think that anyone has to always be the breastfeeding poster child, including me. I don’t nurse Jacob when we’re out in public all that much anymore, because he’s often too busy, and because I can easily offer him a variety of other options if he’s hungry, thirsty or bored. But it’s also, in part, because I’m not sure I personally want to turn my trip to the park into a breastfeeding advocacy opportunity. Since Jacob’s generally OK with not nursing when we’re out, it just simplifies things for me.
I know that if I struck up a conversation about breastfeeding a 2 1/2 year old with random people on the street, I would get a variety of opinions, not all of them positive. The same could be said of many other parenting choices, too. I’m sure that I would hear all kinds of thoughts on spanking or not spanking, homeschooling or co-sleeping if I polled the people in the bank line-up. But I don’t particularly want to open myself up to that. I’m happy with my choices, and they work for my family, and I don’t view it as my responsibility to educate the general public.
In the end, I mumbled something to Wonder Nanny about how Jacob wanted sleepy time, and I left it at that. I’m not sure I’m totally happy with my choice, but I’m also not inclined to bring it up again. My decision to breastfeed my children to an age that exceeds the culturally defined norm is my decision. And sometimes, I can keep it to myself, even if it makes me feel like a bad lactivist.
I guess that some days, I’m not up to being a lactivist at all. I just want to be another mom, doing her best with the children she was given. Because that’s really all any of us is, after all.
What do you think? Do you think it’s important to let people know that you’re breastfeeding your toddler, or do you prefer to keep it to yourself most of the time? Is there an age when you prefer not to breastfeed in public? I’d love to hear your thoughts!