Last week I ran into a woman around my age who said that she was still breastfeeding her baby. I asked her how old her son was, and she replied somewhat shyly, "13 months." I affirmed her and told her how great it was that she was still breastfeeding, reminded her of the health benefits for continuing to breastfeed, and how the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least two years. I asked her, "Do people give you funny looks when they find out you are still breastfeeding?" She said yes, and I told her that I am still breastfeeding my 18 month old daughter, and people are usually confused and give me funny looks about it too.
I never thought I would be one of those women who breastfed their walking talking toddlers. Back when I was breastfeeding Ada around the clock 8 to 12 times a day, I kept reminding myself "only for a year, just a few more months, then I am so done!" My original breastfeeding goal was to breastfeed Ada until late February, when the flu season started to end. When the end of February came, I thought why? Why should I stop? Because other people think it's weird?
Actually, worldwide the average weaning age is 3 years old, and the rest of the world would call us "weird" for weaning at one year or sooner. Breastfeeding has been such a normal, consistent thing that I've done with Ada several times a day for the last year and half. The day we do end breastfeeding, whenever that day will be, that day will feel weird to me. I imagine it will feel like how I felt when I wasn't pregnant anymore. Feeling Ada's kicks inside of me, carefully balancing while I put on my shoes and my pants, rubbing my stomach thinking about my unborn child--all of that stopped when Ada was born, and it felt weird to not be pregnant anymore because I had gotten so accustomed to it.
At this point I am breastfeeding her for about 10 or 15 minutes, twice a day, right before her nap or bedtime. It is no inconvenience or burden to me, in fact, it is way more convenient. When it's time for sleep, she gets her bunny and blankie, climbs up into our pink rocking chair, and waits for me. I breastfeed her, sing her a song, put her in her crib and tell her goodnight. Breastfeeding before bed helps make her sleepy, and means fewer tears at bedtime. Also there were two different times where she was sick (a weird fever and rash, then an ear infection) and breastmilk was the only thing she really wanted to eat. The breastmilk also helped her fight the infections she had so that no trip to the doctor or medical intervention was necessary.
I know breastfeeding a toddler isn't for every mom. Some women are happy and relieved to be done when they reach the year mark, or whatever goal they set for themselves. Any breastfeeding goal is a good one, because every ounce of breastmilk is great for your baby. If you are like me, who feels this weird pressure to wean your toddler to fit in to our culture, even though your instincts tell you to continue, I just want you to know that your instincts are great and you should totally follow them!
In other news, Ada has been learning the sounds of all kinds of animals lately, so we took a fun family trip to the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines. This was a great trip to take with a toddler because most of the park is shaded and you can see everything in about 2 hours. Our favorite thing was feeding the cute giraffes! When you are face to face with them you really realize how HUGE they are, but they are so gentle and sweet. They have very long purple tongues that stretch out and twist around the leaf you feed them. So fun!