Saturday, December 18, 2010

How old is too old? I'll let YOU decide.

Dear Delilah,

Your father and I are selective about which vaccinations you get and when you get them. This means that you end up going to the doctor's office more often than most babies for vaccination-only appointments to make sure that you don't get what we consider too many shots at one time. Yesterday, I took you in for one of these vaccination-only appointments. You were a delight to the other patients in the waiting room, by the way, "reading" your book, smiling and waving at everyone, and "talking" to the fish in the fish tank. One of the receptionists remarked how much you look like your daddy. We go to a wonderful Family Practice clinic, and the staff there, from receptionists to doctors, have been nothing but helpful, kind, and personable. That might be in part because your mama used to work there, but I like to think that all patients get such treatment!

When it was time to go back for your shot, we went with a nurse that we haven't seen before. Since we were new to her, I let her know "the drill", that I hold you on my lap during the vaccination so that you have easy access to nurse for comfort immediately afterward. With a slight raise of an eyebrow, she asked "Oh, you're still nursing?" It was at that moment that I realized that we've gotten to the point where for some people, our nursing relationship will be "a thing". Her reaction wasn't one of negativity or judgment, just surprise. I answered with a simple and firm "Yes", and we went on about our business.

After the shot, you calmed down immediately upon receiving the comfort that nursing brings you. The nurse looked over and smiled, and then said "I give you credit for still nursing." I couldn't identify why at the time, but her comment made me uncomfortable. She went on to defend the reasons why she hadn't nursed her own children very long, as though the very act of my nursing you implied some judgment toward mothers who didn't nurse, or who didn't nurse for as long as I am. The cycle continued as my reaction was to counter her defense with a sort of defense of my own "Well, I work part-time and go to school part-time, so I'm never away from her for more than a few hours at a time. That's made it easier to maintain breastfeeding."

I've figured out that the reason her comment gave me such discomfort is that I don't feel that the act of nursing you is something worthy of applause, nor is it deserving of revile. I don't sit around and pat myself on the back, thinking I must be mother of the year because I'm "still" nursing you. It's just what works for us. I'm doing two things that I assume most other mothers do: 1. The best I can. 2. What works for us.

Last night when I was catching up on some blogs that I read, a post on  Modern Mamaz entitled Breastfeeding: How Old is Too Old? caught my eye. She speaks of cringing when she sees a mother with a toddler at her breast, and goes on to say that while she mostly doesn't agree, she does "believe that, in some instances, there is some truth to those theories" that mothers who breastfeed "walking, talking" children are "perverted" or "disturbed". She goes on to ask readers how long they breastfeed their children, and what they think the age limit should be on nursing.

At 13 months old, you still nurse throughout the day. You still awake at night, seeking the comfort of my breast. That might make some people cringe, but we're doing the best we can. It's what works for us. Some mothers stop breastfeeding at a year, or long before it. They're doing the best they can. It's what works for them. Some mothers breastfeed their children until they're 4 or older. They're doing the best they can. It's what works for them. Still other mothers never breastfeed at all. While I have a harder time understanding the mentality of not at least giving breastfeeding a try, I have to believe that they're doing the best they can. It's what works for them.

To answer the question posed at Modern Mamaz, how old is too old? A breastfeeding relationship has gone on for too long when it is no longer mutually desired by both mother and child. I don't know how old you'll be when you stop breastfeeding, but it certainly won't be "too old", because we're doing the best we can. It's what works for us.



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  1. This was really eye opening for me. I honestly know nothing of breastfeeding since I do not have children. I love how you look at things Joella. And you know what - I agree with you. I wouldn't care what other people think. Like you said - its what works for you and Delilah. Thanks again for educating me on something I knew nothing about. Love your blogging.

  2. Thanks for following!
    I'm now following you back.
    Mika (

  3. Thanks for following me. Following back!

  4. Beautiful! I am delighted to have found your blog. You might enjoy a recent post I did on breastfeeding older children.

  5. i breastfed my oldest until he was 26 months, when he weaned of his own accord. he is now almost 3 and i have to say i cant imagine nursing him now. however, im sure that if he hadn't weaned, i would still be feeding him and it wouldnt seem strange.

    it seems that it's impossible to talk about breastfeeding in any capacity without offending someone. lol, you missed the HUGE dramaz on my facebook a month or two ago when i dared make a status saying how pleased i was that Squish was gaining so well on my milk *sigh*

  6. I have 4 children. They have all nursed for varying lengths of time. The longest was 4 year and one week. I must say that when he weaned (one week after his baby sister was born), I understood why some people are judgmental and/or disgusted by such extended breastfeeding. Not that I was either of those things, myself! But seeing his 4-year old sized body laying in the bed on one side of me and my little one-week-old newborn on the other... it really did LOOK odd... and feel odd. But the continuum is what kept it so normal and so right and so appropriate... for US. :)

  7. I love your site. I am sure I am older than you but you are a wise soul. I did the same thing. Vacs were one shot at a time and only if my babes were feeling good and well. My youngest is 2 1/2 (a 40th b day gift from God)and my oldest is 19. The number of shots they want little ones to get now has almost doubled. Scary!

  8. ps... I am still nursing my 2 1/2 year old though feel the time is near to wean.

  9. I LOVE how you are an "extended breast feeder" yet you do NOT bash those who do not nurse or don't nurse for as long as you are. I find that, that is hard to find in women and I believe you should be applauded for that fact!
    When I had my daughter (my first child), I was a 16yr old mother, I nursed her for 3 months, through all the pain just to find out that I have a medical condition in which could either make me nearly immobile or I could stop nursing her to have the tests done (CT Scan and they had to give me Iodine intravenously)and the medications I had to be on were not safe for my nursing baby. After I stopped breastfeeding she had CHRONIC (NON STOP) ear infections, I couldn't help but to blame myself.
    W/my second I was 20yrs old, still in daily chronic pain, but over the previous years I managed to work through the pain more and more each day. We breastfed for just over 12 months and then he self weaned when I became pregnant with my youngest son and now we have been nursing for three months.
    I have dealt with my daily chronic and sometimes debilitating pain to make sure my children are the safest and most well nourished since Oct. 09' when I found out I was pregnant with my middle child. I'm "bashed" by FAMILY members who should be supporting my decisions, but instead they make me feel as if I am doing something WRONG or disgusting by breastfeeding. Even when baby is just a newborn and then they throw in my face that I stopped nursing my first child when she was only 3 months old I should do the same with the other two and they would be just fine as well. I ignore them and continue on w/what "works for us", but it still picks away at me in the back of my head.
    Sorry this is so long, I just couldn't seem to stop typing. :)

  10. Two years later... just wanted to say that I am new to reading your blog and really like this post. I am currently nursing a 17 month old, which wasn't necessarily our plan, but I'm doing my best and it is working for us.

    1. I always love getting comments on older posts; it gives me a chance to re-read them and get all nostalgic! :)

      I'm glad you and your nursling are navigating the terrain and doing what works best for you! <3


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