Wonder Nanny and Sleepy Nurse

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!

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  1. I completely understand where you’re coming from! I’m still breastfeeding my 21 month old, and while I’m in no way embarassed or ashamed of my decision to extended breastfeed my son (quite the contrary, in fact) I also don’t shout from the rooftops about that decision either. I rarely breastfeed in public anymore, and if I do I usually keep the focus on my son or play with my phone until we’re done, using my body language as a forcefield from those around me. Where I live my lifestyle is VERY out of the “norm” and I honestly just don’t want to hear people’s opinions. I believe wholeheartedly that I’m raising my son the best possible way that I can, and I’d rather not have people come along to rain on my parade haha.

  2. I didn’t actively shout it out to people I was still nursing Amelia at almost 2.5yrs. The people that knew me knew because I would usually be griping about how messed up my sleep is because she would ONLY go back to sleep if she nursed. I’m sure some of them thought I was a little odd.

    I wish it was different. I wish anyone could openly talk about something like breastfeeding. But if you think about it, an almost three year old who still drinks from a bottle gets odd looks too. Our society really likes to speed up this whole baby/toddler time period.
    Carrie’s last post … New BeginningsMy Profile

    • It’s true. I was basically told by a parenting manual to STOP the bottle by one year. Then I felt really stupid. What’s the big rush? No one says stop breasfeeding at one-year! Now I give him a sippy cup instead and try to snuggle him while he drinks where possible!)

      • Well, lots of people do say to stop breastfeeding at one year (or earlier), so don’t be mistaken about that. But I do agree–follow the child’s lead!

  3. Alright, so I nursed my daughter until she was 13 months when I dried up. I cried, a lot, about that but no amount of mother’s milk, or fenugreek would bring it back. Two and a half is not old. I’m with Carrie, we really are trying to quicken the period our kids are babies and toddlers and then children. If wonder nanny doesn’t know of women who nurse their toddlers how will she know it is okay to when it comes to that point to carry on nursing? As for nursing a 2.5 year old in public. Eh, go for it. They’re really still a baby.
    Tepary’s last post … Tangerine BlissMy Profile

  4. Well i don’t really have much to add to the conversation. i don’t feel like being the breast feeding advocate at all times either. I felt a shift around 18 months or so after which I prefer to nurse more in private than public. Though that seems odd since I just survived an 8 hour flight alone with two kids only because I could nurse the two-year-old for about seven of those hours. I think I worry that people will think of my child differently. That is what other parents and caretakers will bring to the table and how that will impact how they interact with my kids or let their kids interact with him. People that are dealing directly with only me I have no problem telling. Though they are of course less likely to ask.

  5. I think this is a great topic of conversation.

    First and foremost I feel like nursing is a private relationship between you and your child (and me and mine). So if I don’t feel like going there I don’t. Because I am very sensitive to the fact that bfing is not comfortably acceptable in mainstream society I also want to help normalize it. So I keep that in the back of my head and it gives me a boost of confidence when nursing in a public place.

    There’s also a right time right place. Maybe you sensed that it wasn’t the right time for Wonder Nanny to find out and maybe she will–at a moment where it’s so perfect that it makes a big impact. I usually try to go with impulse/intuition. If I feel like sharing I do. If not–that’s okay too.

    Now that I’m on #3 I’m a lot more confident. Especially because my oldest (who nursed until 4) is so amazing! I feel like I have proof in the pudding that extended nursing does not eff up you kids. I’m much more likely to drop ext bfing into the convo.

    Though….I haven’t blogged about it. Just hasn’t felt right…..yet.

    Great convo Amber. Thanks 🙂

  6. I think how you want to handle your lactivism is totally up to you. I think the point of being most sorts of activist is to give others choices. You don’t need to nurse J every time you are in public, but by doing it if he needs to nurse, you are exercising your right to choose. You are also making it easier for someone else to have that choice in the future.

    I told people that I was nursing both of my boys and that I was nursing them at the same time. I did it because I wanted to. I didn’t feel like it was something that was making a social statement. I enjoyed it, and I liked to talk about it. Now, if someone else felt differently, I wouldn’t question their right to carry a lactivist card.
    Casey’s last post … Mamavation Monday- Week 4My Profile

  7. I have to say that up until I had my baby (2.5 months now) I had opinions on this sort of thing. Strong opinions. Opinions that could only come from somebody who hasn’t had a baby. Now, after having one, I am a complete parenting agnostic. I may or may not breastfeed to an extended age (whatever that might be to me): I just don’t know anymore, whereas before baby I was determined to finish up at about 1 year when I returned to work.

    Breastfeeding is so much more than just food: it’s love, cuddles, comfort, and nurturing for both of us. I don’t know if I can give that up at just one year, particularly when we’re both going to be adapting to a new work/care situation: we both might need the extra closeness of breastfeeding *more* at that point. I guess we’ll wait and see. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from having a baby: you just don’t know until you’ve been there, and you’ll just have to follow your instincts through.

    What I can tell you is that 3 months ago, I might have been that person giving you the wobbly eye for breastfeeding a three year old. Now, I will be the person giving you the silent thumbs up for doing whatever is best for you and your kids. Keep on breastfeeding however long you like, ladies.

  8. People I know and like think breastfeeding older kids is weird. This bugs me, and I tell them I think they’re wrong, but I probably wouldn’t have breastfeed a three-year-old in front of them if my kids hadn’t self-weaned at closer to a year. If I won’t, I sure as hell can’t expect you to. I like that expression ‘parenting agnostic’. I’ve given up saying I don’t judge, because it’s impossible not to. What’s not impossible is keeping your opinion to yourself if it’s not helpful or kind. So you trumpet your sleepy nurse from the rooftops or not — your call.
    allison’s last post … My Mama YearMy Profile

  9. I have an 8-month old (who has no interest in starting solids yet) and hope to bf until 2yrs or so, if possible. I will let baby decide when to wean. Btw, I love your new haircut~

  10. I breastfed my son until he was 16 months old. There were times when I gladly brought up the topic of nursing my toddler, but other times I kept it hush. It just depended on the crowd. I do think it is important that younger women without children see or hear of these stories because I know for me, it allowed me to keep my mind open when I did have a child. A younger version of me without a child thought I wouldn’t nurse a toddler, but seeing so many other women nursing helped in my decision to continue (although I wish I continued longer). The same goes for many other parenting topics I’ve found too like baby wearing and attachment parenting principles. I had read information on these prior to child but it wasn’t until I saw other women practicing them that I was sold on it 🙂

  11. As many others have said, I think it is your own decision whether you feel comfortable sharing your extended breastfeeding experience with strangers or not-so-strangers. Of course. I know these feelings and did the same in at various occasions, some months ago. On the other hand it helped me to think about what specifically it is that I don’t want other people to know – is it that they might think I am weird for breastfeeding my toddler? Or is it just that I don’t feel like having to explain? Should I care what they think, and does it help when I care too much what other people think? For some reason (not necessarily all the thinking), I now feel a lot more comfortable about breastfeeding in public, and my son is turning two next month. And if someone asks, I answer honestly, because I think it is very normal and natural and I don’t need to hide, because it makes me feel normal – not because I have to speak out for being a good lactivist. But who knows, my feelings may change, and I may go back to the non-answering – well, why not.

    Something else: so so relieved that your “sleepy nurse” happens on the computer chair. Same here, and sometimes I wonder whether I am a lazy mom for sitting at the computer while nursing him to sleep instead of “teaching” him to go to sleep in the bed… but it is so much more relaxed like this. Me-time and nursing, all at the same time. It will change soon enough, I guess.
    Schussel’s last post … MomentaufnahmeMy Profile

  12. I would have just answered, mainly because most people I know are okay with it. Or maybe it’s just that I never asked if they were okay with it! My aunt was babysitting my little brother some time ago and he started going “la la la.” She thought he was singing and sang along, and he got all upset. “Of course,” she told me, “I didn’t realize that was his word for breastfeeding!” She seemed a little surprised or something, but it never occurred to me she might have disapproved. Maybe she did. But I wasn’t expecting her to … my mom and all her friends tend to nurse awhile longer than the average, and it never really occurred to me anyone else would have anything to say about it.

    I think my “Of course it’s what I do, isn’t that what everyone does?” attitude keeps me out of the way of a lot of criticism. I’m not shy, but I’m not defensive either. I just assume that everyone will either approve of what I do, or keep their opinions to themselves.
    Sheila’s last post … The problem with primalMy Profile

  13. It depends. Well… I’ve never been the bear it all type of lactivist. I’m more shy and private, but I did nurse in public quite a bit – just used conveniently arranged shirts. .Though, not anymore, since my youngest has weaned. (sniff) But… it really did depend on the situation & the company for me – how “lactivist” I was.
    I remember once tandem nursing at the library in the kids’s section. My daughter was three, my son was a baby… I definitely got some looks. But then, I got side-eye looks & whispers there just for paying attention to my children. Or for nursing a tiny baby in sight of anyone (even though said baby was mostly tucked under my shirt). So I felt a bit of “I’ll show them” whenever I was there, and inwardly smiled whenever my kids asked to nurse while at the library.
    At my LLL meetings, I always nursed without a thought, all the way up til weaning. When my daughter asked to nurse at nearly 4 and I said yes, I got a few questions about tandem nursing & nursing an older child – but there was no real judgment connected to it that I felt – just educational. Which was awesome.
    I will say though, that aside from LLL or the library once my kids were 2 – 3, I would nurse more often in the car, or offer alternatives when they asked in public, rather than out in the open.
    I don’t remember ever hiding the fact that I nursed my kids til “older” ages – 4 yrs & 3 yrs, respectively. When someone asked, I said yes, and even if they didn’t ask, if breastfeeding or toddler behavior came up in discussion, I would usually speak matter-of-factly about it – like it was no big deal (because really, it shouldn’t be).
    But that being said, I do make sure though whenever I discuss breastfeeding with pretty much anyone, to use “me” or “I” or “we” phrases – like, “What worked for us was nursing until they were ready to quit” or “I found nursing a toddler to be really helpful when it came to tantrums” because I know breastfeeding can be a sensitive topic.
    kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Parenting Through the Perfect StormMy Profile

  14. I am trying (well, ok maybe not trying too hard so much as hoping) to wean my 2 1/2 year old, so I don’t nurse in public anymore. I am one of those closet long-term breastfeeders and don’t publicly admit to anyone except other long-term breastfeeding moms that I still nurse my child. This last weekend we went out of town to visist my mother. When my son cried out for “boo-boos” my mother thought he was crying out that he had to go “poo-poo” and I did not correct her. I cannot claim in any way to be a lactivist, as I never even intended to nurse this long. I kind of consider myself to have wean-fail, because I just don’t know how to wean a child that doesn’t want to be weaned. Responding to his need for that kind of connection seems to be serving us well though. It’s getting increasingly physically uncomfortable so I kind of hope to stop soon, although I am ambivalent because I know life and parenting will get harder without that tool in my hip pocket (or under my shirt pocket, as the case may be).
    Shana’s last post … Bad Poetry Friday – A Haiku or 7 about SleepMy Profile

  15. My daughter A still asks to nurse at age 4, and here I am, bottle feeding her brother, and oh my, there is no milk. So, if she were to ask in front of others, I think it depends on who was present . . . I wouldn’t broadcast that I still “nurse” my 4 year old but then again I wouldn’t condemn someone in my same situation, so, I guess it just comes down to being more self judgmental.

    I admire your honesty with this post. I think your answer kept the conversation polite and not political, which is how some breastfeeding conversations can go . . . at least that’s been a little bit of my experience. That said, you can always say how much breastfeeding has benefited you and your family, in a nice way. Oh, I’m writing too much, it’s just that I have been on the receiving end and I’ve been the giver of preachy breastfeeding dialogues. Ugh.

  16. my Judah is 21 months and we are still going strong with nursing. I am in no hurry to wean. I am happy to hear other people’s experiences with toddler nursing…so in a way I wish more people would talk about it…and if I’m with someone who is nursing or wants to nurse, I am really open about my bfeeding story. I don’t bring it up though with people I don’t know well. It’s just not relevant most of the time.

    we don’t nurse in public for similar reasons. he’s way to busy and easily distracted. but I have if he was really upset and I could find a spot. above all things we have to be comfortable. lol.

    my mom nursed my sister and my brother until they were 2 and 2 1/2 so I guess I have a bfeeding heritage that makes it seem really normal. of course, I was formula fed, so I have that too…haha 🙂 it’s all good when you are loved.

    thanks for sharing!

  17. I hear you when you say you don’t want to be the activist all the time…just be the mom.

    I nursed my second son until this past september, so almost 2.5 years, and the only people who really knew were my parents and in-laws, all of whom were very supportive of me. I think my dad maybe thought it was a bit weird but he kept it to himself, he’s that kind of guy.

    If WonderNanny sticks around, she’ll either figure it out or Jacob will develop enough language to be explicit with her, right? OTOH she might have occasion to wonder while you’re out (I picture him hollering SLEEPY NURSE SLEEPY NURSE and she’s wondering how to possibly help…). But of course it is your decision, your family and your “do I want to have this conversation right now” feeling.

    • I doubt Jacob would ask anyone but me to nurse. It would surprise me.

      In any case, I published this post using my name and a photo of me, and Wonder Nanny knows that I have a blog. She may not have ever visited, but she may have. So somewhere she could be saying, right this moment, “So THAT’S what’s going on.”

      • Oh yeah, I meant more that he would be expressing his wish for you to come home..not that he would be wanting to nurse with the nanny.

        And I concur with everyone else, the haircut in this post is fab 🙂

  18. The other day, I noticed my friend breastfeeding her 2.5 year old, and I found myself surprised by it. The reality is I’m not used to seeing it. And we as a culture are not used to seeing it. It’s a shame IMO.

  19. Well, I brag about you Amber. You are a role model I share with friends and family who struggle with their own decisions on breastfeeding. If I could have done it, I would have done it forever I am sure. I think your approach to breastfeeding has been inspirational.
    Heather’s last post … Snow Is A Lemon and Cleaning Is My LemonadeMy Profile

  20. I had every intention of nursing my son until he was ready to do so on his own…well he was done at 13 months! My daughter had to be supplemented and rejected me at 6 months :(. I have friends who breast fed until just before age three, which was fine with me for I was breast fed well into age 3. BUT and there a big but, a mother of twins in one of the activity groups my children participate in has two 4.d year old boy who will be starting kindergarten in the fall still nurse, in public regularly, not just like once and a great while, every time they get thirsty, and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon! Obviously this is just my opinion or even judgment, but there’s a time to stop and I think when your children starts differentiate between boys and girls and have pretned boyfriends and girl friends as they do at age 4 and 5 its time!

    • I think that every family has to make this decision for themselves. Just as we all need to make every parenting decision for ourselves. I think that we’re all entitled to our opinion, but we still must respect the choices of others, and give them room to make those choices. 🙂

    • I nursed my daughter at preschool breaks when I was in the building. She was 4. Once she became busy with school and it became more of a regular routine she cut back. If she need comforting and wanted to nurse in public (though this rarely happened once she was older) I did without a second thought.

      I do not know if we would’ve continue through kindergarten but I remember her asking a few times come kindergarten but by then my milk was almost entirely gone. I never thought twice about telling her no. I didn’t offer, I didn’t refuse after 4 years of age. It was just how we decided things would work for us. I’ve never once regretted it.

      I know it isn’t for every. I wish more people would realize that just because it isn’t for them doesn’t make it wrong for me or anyone else.

  21. I just wanted to say that I like your hair in the pic of you and Hannah 🙂

  22. I love your conclusion that you don’t have to be a lactivist all the time, because sometimes I feel pressure to be one. I think the pressure is mostly internal, because it’s a cause I care a lot about. I want to get the word out! But sometimes I don’t feel like shouting from the rooftops.

    I found that my happy medium was to just do what felt right depending on the crowd. I think my daughter stopped nursing in public around 18 months, or maybe even before that, mostly because she didn’t need it or ask for it, but there were a few “special occasions” (extreme tiredness, etc) where she did need it and I did nurse her. I have also always been a pretty “discreet” nurser, although I will advocate for women to nurse in any fashion they want to at any time and in any place.

  23. I’m with commenter Maryn above. This is my third child, my first girl after having two boys who are now 18 and 14…yeah, that’s a whole ‘nother conversation. But my breastfeeding relationship with them only lasted 4 and 6 months respectively. And I too would have given a “wobbly eye” to ones bf’ing older children. But now, with my daughter and being older, wiser, more confident, more in tune to my gut instinct, I can definitely see myself bf’ing to 2, 3 yrs and beyond. It IS so much more than just providing food. When your child is cuddled up and then looks in to your eyes and then does a little half smile while still eating….wow! like no other feeling on the planet. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna give that up by 1 y.o. which is less than 6 months away.

  24. This article is great, and I find it very encouraging. I am still breastfeeding my toddler at 15 months and we both are enjoying it. Most of the people I know at least tried to nurse, and if they did stopped at 1 year. I wanted to give breastfeeding a try, and before I had my son I envisioned nursing him from 6 months to 1 year max. And here he is at 15months. Breastfeeding is such a bonding time and we both enjoy it. However, when someone finds out I am still nursing at 15months, they normally ask “how long are you going to breastfeed him?” in a way that suggests he is getting a little old for it. I am encouraged that there are other moms out there who nurse toddlers, and I am encouraged that I shouldn’t feel pressured to stop until both my son and I decide we are ready. Thanks for sharing your story!

  25. I am PRO-BREASTFEEDING. But to tell you the truth, I have never been comfortable with the idea of a “little man” running up and latching on. That’s my comfort zone, and I was content letting my babies choose their own time to ween. I cried like crazy when baby #1 turned away at just 7 months (but I continued to express and bottle feed until his first birthday). Baby #2 held out until after his first birthday, he weened gradually (making it easy on both of us) and in the end just had the “cuddle milky” for bed or when he was not feeling well. Purely comfort, and he was just as happy with a soother and me holding him close touching his hair, stroking his cheek and cooing at him in the end.

    I do miss nursing very very much.
    *pol’s last post … Mini-breakMy Profile

  26. oh! I forgot the point of my comment!

    You did the right thing. Nothing wrong with your reaction at all. It’s a private family thing, no use complicating it.
    *pol’s last post … Mini-breakMy Profile

  27. I’ve never been shy when asked to share that I breastfed my second child until she was 21 months old (my first for only 5 1/2 months, I wanted to do longer but circumstances stopped that). I don’t necessarily volunteer that information, so I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’m currently almost 7 months pregnant with my third child and really hope to breastfeed until at least 18 months if not more. Like you, once she’s a toddler, I don’t plan to breastfed while out and about much, but at home in the morning, before bed and whatnot I do plan to do it.

  28. I’m going to comment on something entirely different: I love your haircut in that photo. Didn’t you tweet about going to have a haircut done soon? You should go back to that style!
    Francesca’s last post … Making purple petalsMy Profile

  29. I’ve been thinking about this, especially since recently a mother in Montreal was asked to leave a BABY store for breastfeeding an infant.

    I’m nursing a 26 month old and I’m pretty up front about it/do it in front of people. I don’t consider myself a lactivist, it’s just a fact of my life.

  30. I just read this article and found it interesting to think a mother’s body would provide different nutrients through the milk based on whether the mother were nursing a boy or girl.
    Sara’s last post … Your OWN soap!My Profile

  31. HoboMama shared your post, so I came over to read it…

    I feel this same way. I usually keep it to myself, although if asked specifically, I might usually acknowledge that I am nursing an older child. But it’s just that, answering the question. I don’t really like getting into a big discussion about it, especially when I know that the other person may not agree with me. I too am fine with what works in my family, but don’t feel like I should have to defend it all the time either.

  32. i probably would have shared it, but there isn’t a “right” answer or an obligation to be ON all the time. breastfeeding is personal and no one is required to open herself up to scrutiny–even a lactivist:)

    i breastfed my first babe until she was 21 months (and i was 7 months pregnant). my son is 15 months now, and he just seems like such a baby! i hope we nurse for a long time.
    suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}’s last post … wounded justice i still believeMy Profile

  33. For me, it depends on the person and how I feel at the time. Sometimes I want to put on my lactivist hat and other times I just want to drink my tea and eat my cake in peace. There’s not often a rhyme or reason. Perhaps you will tell Wonder Nanny at a later date. Maybe Hannah will tell her and you won’t have to say anything. Who knows. I get what you are saying though.
    Melodie’s last post … A Thank You CardMy Profile

  34. Thanks so much for sharing your experience; it’s a real inspiration. I have a one year old and although we weren’t able to sucessfully establish a nursing relationship, I’ve been exclusively pumping for her since she was born. My goal is to reach the WHO 2-year recommendation. I get a lot of “I can’t believe you even bother . Why don’t you just give her formula/cow’s milk” even from AP moms. I try not to get too defensive about it, but it’s challenging at times.

    Thanks again for being a great breastfeeding role model~

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  1. […] son Jacob is 2 1/2 years old now, and we are still breastfeeding. But slowly, slowly, I am feeling more and more ready to be done. And watching my son, I think that […]

  2. […] Jacob had some “side nurse“ […]

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