“Breastfeeding Our Toddlers: A Full Term Nursing Series” by The Honest Body Project

In August of 2015, I created a series titled “We are not still nursing, we are just nursing.” This series featured mothers breastfeeding their children who were over the age of two. I decided to create another extended nursing series, with a new group of women. Normalizing breastfeeding, especially extended breastfeeding, isn’t going to happen over night. The more it is talked about and the more it is seen, the more it will become the norm. Breastfeeding is a huge passion of mine, as I nursed both of my kiddos during the toddler years. While not everyone is able to, or wants to breastfeed, the more that we work to normalize it for future generations, the better. Women are still told to go sit in a bathroom and feed their baby. It is 2017. That is unacceptable. My hopes with this series is that more eyes will be opened to see just how natural and beautiful it is to nurse beyond infancy.

-Natalie McCain [Creator of The Honest Body Project]

Want to reach Natalie? Email thehonestbody@gmail.com

B1

“America tends to view breasts as being sexual. This view places a stigma on breastfeeding, and especially on extended nursing. For those who have never nursed a toddler, it is difficult to understand why a mom would choose to continue to nurse beyond infancy. It is common for mothers to wean their children in a way and time that conforms to their societal norms. America is not supportive of extending nursing. That differs across the world. In most other countries, weaning isn’t expected until even beyond the toddler years. I hope America makes to it that point someday. I would love to see our country as one that supports and encourages breastfeeding and natural, gentle methods of weaning.”

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R1

“I think people often unfairly judge things they don’t understand.  Some people will always criticize parenting choices different from the ones they made.  Exposure and education are the ways to change minds.”

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J1

“Since we are close to the end of this road I think the thing I will miss the most is the way she stares up into my eyes while nursing and gently touches my face or pats the “boobie.””

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M3

“It’s not like they wake up on day 366 and everything has changed. They wake up and you do the same thing you did the day before. You just go with it. Did you nurse on day 364? Then who says you have to stop on 365? No one. Baby doesn’t realize that they have aged to the point of no more nursing. We make our kids grow up too fast, nurse that baby full term!”

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A1

“The first time I saw a toddler nursing, I was definitely taken back.  It can be shocking when it isn’t something that you see on a regular basis.  This is why normalizing breastfeeding is so important in our society.  Nursing a toddler can be so rewarding for the child and for the mother.  I’m so thankful that I kept an open mind about nursing older children and continued into toddler-hood with both of them.  Things definitely look different when you’re in it than looking from the outside.”

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k2

“I began having kids before many of my friends.  As they watched my nursing relationship progress, they would say things like, “It’s fine to breastfeed as long as …”  As long as he doesn’t have a mouth full of teeth.  As long as he isn’t walking.  As long as he can’t ask for it.  As long as he can’t pull up your shirt.  As long as he isn’t 2, or 3, or …  In hypothetical conversations, before I was at those milestones, their statements seemed logical.  In reality, as my child(ren) grew, it seemed ridiculous to end a nursing relationship based on any of these factors.  Why was nursing yesterday fine, but today he is too old?  I also think that as I continued learning along the way, so did those around me.  They realized that it wasn’t so ‘weird’ that my child continued to breastfeed.  People no longer make those sorts of comments to me, even though it is well known that I nurse full-term.  Maybe their sense of normal has evolved alongside their own experiences or maybe they have just resigned themselves to the fact that we all parent in our own way, doing what is best for our own family.”

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D2

“I think the the United States is failing our women by shaming nursing in general. We as a country have been left behind on the knowledge of all the wonderful benefits of nursing. We as a nation need to understand what breasts were made for.”

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P1

“I’m not tandem nursing yet, but that is the plan. My friends that have done it said it really helped ease the new sibling transition. When we talk about the new baby coming, she tells me the baby can have the left booby, but the right one is hers.”

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t3

“I wish I could relax more when I nurse my daughter in public.”

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B4

“Oh, nursing two has been so sweet. At birth, babies’ focus is on objects that are 8 – 10 inches from their face. The sweetest realization I had was while I was nursing both of my sons within two hours of birth. My sweet, sweet newborn could only focus on two things during that moment – my face and his brother’s face, both of which were between 8 – 10 inches from his face. Those were the only two objects he could clearly focus on and the two images he saw the most of. My 5 month now lights up every time he sees his brother and their relationship is so special. I don’t nurse them together anymore, but I will forever attribute their bond to those moments they shared during those first two months of “sharing milk.””

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R4

“My family was at first surprised and concerned when they found out I planned to continue nursing my daughter through my pregnancy with my son, and then to tandem nurse them both.  I was able to share both research into the safety (no, I was not depriving the baby growing in my womb by continuing to nurse) and the personal experience of several of my friends.”

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J3

“My Mom nursed all three of her children and my Aunt nursed both of hers. I have several pictures of my Mom and or Aunt nursing. It is very important for children to see breastfeeding mothers growing up, it’s the only way to normalize breastfeeding.”

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M4

“You’re judging because you don’t understand. I’m doing the best I can do for my child, you don’t have to “get it” because it’s not your child or your body. It’s mine. I will decide what to do with it. I don’t tell you how to raise your children, don’t tell me how to raise mine.”

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A3

“I remember being pregnant and saying things like, “When they can ask for it, they’re too old!” or, “I’d never nurse a baby with teeth.”  Then, I learned more about nursing from going to La Leche League meetings and taking childbirth classes.  Once my first son was born, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with nursing.  I loved sitting for hours nursing him and bonding.  I whole heartedly believe that nursing has shaped every aspect of my mothering.  Being a mother has changed me from that naive woman to a much more understanding and open minded person.”

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k4

“My first child breastfed until 13 months of age.  I thought he weaned naturally, though I now realize he was likely just decreasing his frequency as solid foods took up a greater portion of his diet.  I breastfed my second child until she chose to wean at age 4.  I am now breastfeeding my current, and likely last, nursling at 3 years, 11 months. Weaning is such an emotional topic for me. I will always follow the lead of my children, and do what works best for us, but this connection that we have through breastfeeding is just indescribable. I realize that babies grow into toddlers, who grow into preschoolers, who eventually become big kids.  Weaning is just another concrete milestone that reminds me how fast they grow! For now, I will just continue to soak up the moments when my tall, busy, boy crawls up on my lap to nurse.  A few moments of snuggles and stillness that allows me to smell his little head and study his sweet hands, before he is off on his next adventure.  I cherish these minutes of connection but know, that in his own time, he will stop needing to have ‘milkies’ and we will find new ways of connecting.  For now, we nurse.  For as long as he wants to, we nurse.”

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D3

“When I was nursing my oldest son, our family often asked when I was going to stop nursing him. I started saying “when you stop asking”. I didn’t understand how what I did in my home had any effect on them and their daily life, no need to be concerned with what we were doing in our home. This time around I have not had one person ask me when I was going to stop nursing, thankfully!”

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P3

“I feel like a broken record, constantly responding with, “We’re doing what works for our family.” Mostly I find myself just not talking about it now, or taking us away from a group or social setting to nurse. My daughter is old enough to understand what people are saying, I don’t want her to think we are doing anything wrong. We shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed to be doing something so normal.”

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T1

“A few months ago when I was sick, I was feeling so awful and I just couldn’t nurse her right then. My daughter just curled into my chest and was so sweet and understanding. She stroked my hair and kept asking if I was okay. After a few minutes, I finally felt well enough for her to nurse. When I offered it to her, her eyes lit up and she said “Mmm, Mommy, thank you!” Then she licked her lips and latched right on.”

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B2

“My mother nursed me into toddler hood. She, to this days, claims my health is a result of the length of her breastfeeding. Apart from her, I didn’t have much more exposure to breastfeeding growing up, but because of how highly she spoke of it, I knew I would also nurse my children. When she first witnessed me nursing my son, she choked up being reminded of breastfeeding me and how surreal it was to see me nursing my own baby. I am grateful that she made it a normal part of my life and I hope to do the same for our children.”

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R2

“I know breastfeeding will end for us when it stops working for either one of us.  I am teaching my daughter about consent and respect for another’s body even now.  We both have to “say yes” to milkies.  When one of us is all done, we are both all done.”

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J2

“The average age of weaning in the rest of the world is 4 years and in the US, 3 months. I don’t feel I need to explain myself, she is my daughter and I am doing what I feel in my heart is best for her.”

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M1

“I have a wonderful husband who has been nothing but supportive of my entire breastfeeding journey. He truly is amazing, he’s the guy who comes home from the store to tell me he saw a mom nursing and he wanted to run up and high five her but didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable. He makes me proud! He has always had my back, he knew what my goal was and never let me forget how close I was. When I wanted to quit, he was there, whispering my goal in my ear, never making me feel like I couldn’t quit but supporting me enough to know I shouldn’t. He pushed me when I needed pushing and gave me a break by trying to calm our son when I was chapped or blistered or bleeding. This hasn’t been my breastfeeding journey it has been OURS, I couldn’t have done it without him.”

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A4

“My favorite nursing memory is definitely the night that my first son weaned.  We were in the middle of our bedtime routine that we follow every night.  I was lying in bed with both boys.  They were 3 years and 5 months at the time.  We had read books, given goodnight kisses, and we were about to lay down to nurse when my oldest said, “I don’t really need na-nas tonight. Baby can have them now.”  He then just cuddled up on my chest and fell asleep watching his little brother nurse.  My heart grew bigger than I ever thought it could that night.  I was rushed with so many different emotions – I felt sad that our nursing journey was over, proud that he felt secure enough in our relationship that he could make that decision for himself, and so in love with both of my children.  He never asked to nurse again after that night, but he still loves to climb in my lap while I’m nursing his brother.”

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k3

“I did not see any nursing mothers growing up.  The first time that I saw a woman breastfeeding was when I watched my sister-in-law nurse my nephew one year before I had my first child.  I knew that many women nursed, but I didn’t know any of them.  The few stories I had heard, were actually people mocking breastfeeding in public, or making fun of a nursing toddler. It wasn’t until I had my second child, that I started to see mothers breastfeeding on  a regular basis.  I often found myself staring, not because I thought it was odd or unnatural, but because I wanted to soak it up.  I wanted to watch how they did it, how they looked to others around them, what they said about it, how normal it all was.  A nursing mother looks so powerful and peaceful to me.  The wonderful side effect of seeing other mothers breastfeed, is that it makes it seem so much less intimidating!  Once, I was at an open house at my oldest child’s Montessori school.  I was holding my infant at the time, though she wasn’t yet hungry.  A teacher approached me and told me that if I needed to nurse, to feel free to make myself comfortable wherever I’d like in the classroom that we were in.  She assumed I was breastfeeding my baby and went out of her way to make sure I knew that I was welcomed to nurse anywhere or anytime I needed to.  It was the most wonderful assumption!  She normalized what I was surely going to need to do in the next few minutes, before I had the chance to feel uncomfortable or awkward.”

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D4

“Growing up I only remember seeing one person in my life who nursed their child, it was my Aunt Cindy. I remember everyone giving her a hard time because she nursed her youngest son until 18 months. I have sent her several messages and thanked her for being such a positive example of breastfeeding in my life. I’m thankful that I had at least one person to show me what nursing was growing up.”

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P2

“I had an appointment with my primary care doctor the same morning I took a pregnancy test and found out we were pregnant with baby number two. I went in, still slightly shocked because it took us two years to get pregnant the first time and we never expected it to happen so soon this time. The first thing my doctor told me was that I would have to stop breastfeeding right away. She listed all these reasons why, and if I didn’t know people that had successfully done it, I would have honestly been freaked out. I messaged my OB that day, asking her opinion, and she responded exactly the opposite. I’m 22 weeks pregnant now, and my OB and midwives have been nothing but supportive about us continuing to breastfeed. The changes your body goes through with pregnancy don’t make it easy to continue breastfeeding. Sore nipples, nausea, an ever-expanding belly, I find that I have to be gentle with myself. I set more boundaries for how long we can nurse, we do a lot of counting or singing songs. My daughter has become an expert negotiator, “Just one more time Mommy…””

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T4

“After nursing for a year or so, I decided to let my daughter wean on her own. I didn’t come this far to take it away before she’s ready!”

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One thought on ““Breastfeeding Our Toddlers: A Full Term Nursing Series” by The Honest Body Project

  1. You powerful and strong ladies. Inspired to keep on going for as long as my son decides. So far we’ve had a wonderful 18 months, such a precious time.

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