I Avoid Nursing My Toddler (and other truths about full term breastfeeding)
I avoid nursing my toddler.
Almost nightly now. If she’s sick or teething it’s different, she’ll let me know she needs me and won’t want to fall asleep without me there. Sometimes I’ll sit there, with her asleep on my lap, for hours. But most nights, nights when she is healthy and falls asleep well… those nights I carry her up to bed, lay her down, kiss her lightly, and whisper, “You can do it. You are lovely and worth fighting for… sleep well, little one.” It is my mantra, my promise, to me and to her.
She loves her sleep… but… let’s be honest here: she also loves her nursies. If I were to return at 9pm or 10pm and lay beside her, she’d want to nurse before long, turning her body into mine, whining softly - “mama, nursies.” And if I don’t turn towards her, allowing her to latch freely and quickly, that soft whine escalates until I’m cringing and hurrying and telling her “shh, I’m working on it, I’m working on it.”
And so, almost nightly, I avoid going upstairs. Without me there it is a few solid hours before she needs me again - sometimes 3, sometimes 4 or 5… but before long she needs me. I say need because at two, with a still rapidly growing brain and body, with the world still strange and intense around her, at two she still does need me. She still benefits so greatly from the skin to skin contact, the physical act of nursing, and the rich breast milk that is perfectly suited for her body’s needs.
I kiss her head as she nurses, breathing her in… and I know now, that this animal behavior is both sweet and purposeful. When I kiss her, my brain is hardwired into belonging. She is mine. I am her protector, her guide, her mother. And when I kiss her head, an amazing work begins in my body to produce in my breast milk the very antibodies she needs at that moment. It’s a technical wonder, a biological marvel. But to me, it is just what I feel drawn to do. Only, now, I also know why - and any questions as to the strangeness of this intimacy are put to rest. It is good.
But in the same way my body desires that time, that closeness, as she grows older my body also calls me to a strange avoidance. I am not ready yet, to lay beside her. I move away a bit when she finishes nursing, so that she might not be drawn to continue, just because. I stay up late, working, taking my time. And in the same way that I know that kissing her head gently is good, I know that avoiding her for these quiet hours is ok too.
She does not cry for me, she’s sleeping peacefully. When she needs me, she’ll cry out and I will be there. Sometimes now, she wakes gently, eager to chat for a moment or two, a question burning in her eyes. More often, she’s sleepy, and simply wants to cuddle in, hold me tight, and wait until I’m ready to nurse her again. A few moments, time to grab a glass of water and make myself comfortable again. And then, it is our time.
The more I write about nursing, the more people come pouring out of the digital woodwork to ask questions - honest, passionate questions that have been pushed back because they do not know where to ask them.
And so I will write on. I will write more. For you, mommas who are up with me after everyone is asleep, nursing or trying to avoid it. No, you are not alone. No matter your story, you are not alone.