Today my son and I reached 30 months of goodness! The World Health Organization, UNICEF, American Academy of Family Physicians, and essentially every pediatric health organization in the world recommends a minimum 24 months of human milk for human babies (with at least the first six months being exclusive breastmilk).
Bare minimums are typically not enough for me... so I tacked on six months to the 24, and made breastfeeding for 30 months my goal. I strived to do nothing that would inhibit our nursing relationship or my milk supply (no pacifiers, no supplementation, no forced night weaning, no artificial hormones, no close consecutive pregnancies, etc.) and everything I could to ensure we were successful (early pumping when there were issues, lots of babywearing, lots of sleep sharing, exclusive breastfeeding till 10 months, baby-led weaning, etc.)
Today, I admit, I am elated, because this goal has been reached! Not without trials along the way (especially in the early weeks when my son was not latching/sucking properly due to birth trauma), but with rewards and benefits that far outweigh any culturally-derived challenges we've had to overcome.
When I posted our photo in celebration on Facebook, I ventured a guess as to how long it would take lactiphobic onlookers to flag it for being 'obscene' and my account would be removed... But in a beautiful twist of happenstance, as soon as it posted, several other mommas were encouraged to share photos of their happy, healthy nursing toddlers. And so, we decided a photo gallery is in order to celebrate the many joys of nursing our little ones for a normal duration of time.
In Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, Norma Jane Bumgarner writes,
Nursing for the child is a kind of 'fix,' but a healthy one. It is not addictive [...] but just the opposite. The child's craving diminishes over time. It is no wonder that some families call mother's milk 'joy juice.' Nursing has all the restorative powers of a morning cup of coffee without the 'caffeine jitters.' It is as relaxing as an evening cocktail, with no bleary aftereffects.
Sucking is a necessary restorative for rapidly growing little people, so much so that most children who do not nurse seek an alternative - bottle, pacifier, thumb, fingers, hair, blanket-corner, etc. They show us through the persistence of such behaviors that young children need the calming and reassuring effects of sucking as much, or more, than some adults need our 'pacifiers.' They are so young, so unfinished, so without experience in this world, while at the same time they are undergoing enormous growth and change.
Comfort from sucking is a blessing given to babies and little children which helps ease them through the physical and mental upheaval, greater than that of adolescence, that propels them from the womb into childhood in just a few short years. Children can be awakened and relaxed, soothed and pacified through sucking. [...]
The best place for this sucking to happen is in mother's arms, at her breast, where it is entirely natural. The simple act of sucking within the embrace of mother and child, is transformed into the complete act of suckling, where there is give and take and understanding between mother and child. And of course, the child receives a bonus not possible with substitutes - the gift of his own mother's living milk, made specifically for this moment in the child's life. [...]
When children talk about nursing, they talk about something very warm and special to them. Nursing is their soul food.
If you'd like to include your beautiful little one in our Joy of Nursing Toddlers Gallery, send to: JoyofNursingToddlers@gmail.com
If you're a mom or dad seeking additional information on healthy baby nutrition and the natural progression of human weaning, here are several great places to start:
Natural Weaning ~ Norma Jane Bumgarner
A Natural Age of Weaning ~ Katherine Dettwyler
Natural Weaning Age ~ Linda Palmer
Mothering Your Nursing Toddler ~ Norma Jane Bumgarner
How Weaning Happens ~ Diane Bengson
Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby To Love Good Food ~ Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett
Breastfeeding Older Children ~ Ann Sinnott
10 Reasons to Nurse Your Todder
Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond ~ Hilary Flower
Natural Family Living (one chapter) ~ Peggy O'Mara
Take Charge of Your Child's Health: A Parents' Guide to Recognizing Symptoms and Treating Minor Illnesses at Home (one chapter) ~ George Wootan & Sarah Verney
Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent (one chapter) ~ Meredith Small
Emma Kwasnica, founder of Human Milk 4 Human Babies
"I stepped out of the shower and was attacked by a wee boy on a step stool while his sister made funny faces in the mirror!" ~Bianka