I’ve been nursing my daughter for the last two and a half years. I had a goal to make it until her first birthday, and when that day came and went, we just kind of kept going. There were no more episodes of clogged milk ducts, no more leaking through my shirts and I no longer worried about having the right clothes to nurse in because I no longer needed to nurse out in public—our breastfeeding sessions now only happened at home. The benefits that extended breastfeeding brings are enormous and I wholeheartedly agreed with all of them. It’s safe to say that nursing was something both of us truly enjoyed.
But while I’ve heard so many good things about nursing into the toddler years, I discovered something that no one ever told me about. I saw nothing in the parenting or breastfeeding books, and no one really ever told me this dynamic that occurs when your toddler uses you for comfort.
They never tell you how impossible it is to want to cuddle with your precious child when all they want to do with you is nurse. Let me explain.
My daughter and I have a tight bond. She runs to me when she’s hurt or sad, or when she’s so excited to see me that she practically trips over herself to get to me. Her little arms are thrown around my neck and she is quick to settle into my lap, her head cradled in my arm—her favorite way to kick back. But then she does a little side-eye towards my chest.
“I wan nure!” Depending on the day, her little finger may poke into my breast. Sometimes, if the timing is right and I’m in the mood to, I will let her nurse. But sometimes, it’s not going to happen and then my sweet baby is upset, giving me her best wounded eyes, and the whining starts.
This is probably a good time to interject with the popular claim people have about extended breastfeeding—that nursing a toddler is done to fulfill your own selfish needs. On the contrary, it can be the most mentally draining thing you do.
My husband and my daughter can lay together and cuddle, her little body curling into him as she closes her eyes. I’m jealous. There are times I wish I could hold her and rock her to sleep, but she just wants to insist on nursing. I know she loves me, but in those moments it’s like I’m an object for her. A pair of (a bit over-sized if I say so myself) boobs that she can latch onto and claim as her own. If I tell her no, and lord forbid she’s in that mentally unstable realm that toddlers occupy nineteen hours out of the day, well then we have a tantrum on our hands.
Breastfeeding a child at any age is a love-hate relationship. There were certainly challenges at the beginning, but while physically nursing has gotten easier, it can also be a power struggle between us, and there are days I want to quit and days I want to cry because I don’t want to give this up.
But I never thought I would feel so disheartened by the simple fact that I sometimes just want to snuggle with my baby without lifting my shirt up. That her simply being within a six-inch radius of my breasts would spin her into a frenzy instead of laying calmly with me like she does with her dad.
We’re in the weaning process now, and I have no idea what the next few months will bring. But I’m hoping we can continue our bond without the boobs, well, getting in between us. Time will tell.