The truth about nursing for years

I’m tired of nursing. 2014 is the year of the Great Wean for us. One way or another, it will all be over soon. I’m hoping it will be on her terms, and we’re doing everything we can to make that happen. I have no regrets.

Not many babies nurse as long as Zoe has. I say that not to brag, but because it’s a fact. According to the latest CDC Breastfeeding Report Card:

  • 77% of American babies start out breastfeeding
  • 49% of those babies are breastfeeding at six months
  • 27% are breastfeeding at 12 months
  • And they don’t even track nursing past one year because it’s so uncommon (or at least unreported).

But the thing is, nursing gets so much easier the older little ones get. It becomes absolutely effortless and the benefits are still so great, for both moms and babies. It was challenging for Z and I early on, but after a few months of hard work, we became breastfeeding superstars. At some point, it actually became easier to keep going than it would have been to stop. As a working mom, nursing has always been such an amazing way for us to reconnect and bond after long days spent apart. And let’s face it, as a working parent, more of our days are spent apart than together.

We certainly missed the “sweet spot” for weaning, if there ever was one (maybe around 18 months or so?). When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to nurse until one year. Then, when she got to her first birthday, it was so easy and she loved it so much and it was so unbelievably USEFUL (when traveling, when she was sick, when she was tired, when she was hurt, and so on), that we just kept going.

When she got to age two, I couldn’t believe we were still nursing. I honestly thought she would have stopped on her own – but there was no sign of it. When she turned two, I started encouraging child-led weaning by no longer proactively offering nursing as an option. I didn’t say no when she asked (although I did start to delay a bit or offer alternatives, if she would take them), but I no longer suggested nursing. Instead, I suggested a snack or cup of water, a hug or cuddle, a favorite story book.

When she got to age three, I REALLY couldn’t believe we were still nursing. I was pretty over it for the most part – ready to move on, get my body back and encourage her to make other choices. Pretty soon we had ended all nursing times except bedtime and first thing in the morning. I’ve been told those are the hardest two for many little ones to kick.

Z is about to turn four in a few months, and four is my hard cut-off. She still nurses most nights at bedtime and again first thing when she wakes up. I have some major plans in place to help her wean completely before her birthday. Nursing now is a blessedly short occasion – and she can often be persuaded to accept alternatives. But I am so ready for it to be over. I’ll look back with fondness, with affection and possibly even with longing… but I do look forward to looking back on it soon.

I know many people are freaked out by the idea of an almost-four year old nursing, but here’s the thing: you don’t nurse your thoughtful, vocal, intelligent, articulate almost-four year old. You don’t nurse your active, running, climbing, swimming, playing almost-four year old. You nurse your sleepy, groggy almost-four year old. You nurse your sick, feverish almost-four year old. You nurse your just-waking-up, snoozy, warm, snuggly almost-four year old. And at those times, trust me – there’s not a whole lot of difference between your sweet, sleepy child and the baby she was.

Every day, I tell Z how proud I am that she is a big girl now and not a baby anymore. But then at bedtime, when she’s sleepy, she asks if she can still be my baby. Maybe a stronger woman than me could say no to that, and would have weaned by now. But not me. I say “Zoe my sweetheart, you will always be my baby.” And so, we nurse.

How about you – how long did you nurse your children? Any regrets about how or when you weaned? Any tips for our Great Wean of 2014? I’d love to hear in the comments.

About Lara K

Proud and loving mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog mom. Travel nut. Cupcake connaisseur. PR pro and social media maniac.

Comments

  1. Not freaked out here. ;-) My son just weaned this month, at age 3 years, 2 months. My daughters weaned at 3 years, 3 months and 2 years, 2 months. My “stop point” with #1 was going to be 3 years. Then she got sick right around her birthday and we ended up going another week, which turned into 3 more months. My other daughter weaned during my pregnancy with my son. My son was the easiest and most “natural” weaning of the three . . . and to be perfectly honest I’m glad to be done. No regrets on timing.

  2. I nursed until Lil was just under two years old. What’s helpful to remember is that everything but the boob can continue – snuggling, singing or quiet talking, holding hands, all the affections that come with nursing. When you focus on that, weaning can be a gentle process and your (bigger) baby will still be comforted.

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