A funny thing has been happening recently, and it’s cute and sweet and sad at the same time. My baby boy is becoming simply a boy. He’s getting taller, lankier (if that’s possible), and he’s becoming a lot more independent. It’s hard at times for me to watch the change because he’s the only child I will ever call my own. I want to cherish all these moments and savor every single hug and snuggle. I know in a few years the hugs and cuddles will not be as frequent, and that I will no longer be the top priority in his world. Slowly he’s been moving more and more to daddy. He wants to spend most of his time with daddy, and playing with mommy is just really not on the to-do list for my little man.
The one thing we are still doing that I can’t believe we are is nursing. He’s still not weaned, and he doesn’t want to be weaned. For the most part doctors have been supportive, and it has only been the dietician to suggest we wean him off the breast. I can’t believe how attached I am to those moments I get with him. He’s fully weaned off my milk in the morning. He now just gets some here and there through the day. I do not offer it to him, he always asks me for it. He was 3 in October and I keep saying we need to be done then. I don’t know why I keep saying that, but I feel a lot of pressure from society that I need to be done. What if I’m not really ready to be done? What if he’s not ready to be done? Von has been incredibly healthy since November 2014. Yes, he has life threatening illnesses that we treat daily, but he hasn’t had a virus or stomach bug in 9 months. That’s a long time for this child who couldn’t go more than a week without something prior to November 2014. I continue to breastfeed in part because every milliliter of milk he gets has thousands of antibodies that help his body fight infection. It helps his body that cannot fight infection on it’s own have a little extra boost to keep him thriving.
Another benefit I didn’t realize is that Breastfeeding a toddler actually reduces tantrums. When Von is having a fit about something, upset or even scared, I can hold him closely and everything he was afraid or mad about is no longer a consideration. He has a very happy and easy disposition, and we rarely deal with any bad behavior. Breast milk has hormones in it that make him feel good and also calm me. It’s kind of a win/win situation for us.
I had no idea that extended breastfeeding can also help my long term health. The longer I breastfeed the more I reduce my chances of ovarian, cervical and breast cancer. It helps my overall cardiac health and long term blood pressure. It’s also really good for my mental health because every time I nurse him my body releases oxytocin. This is the love hormone Von’s endocrine doctor told me. It makes me feel really happy and just super relaxed. It’s probably a reason Von has such a happy disposition too.
Breast milk also contains fat in it that is essential for brain health and growth. This part is probably the number one reason I keep on nursing him. My son has an abnormal brain. His disease is so difficult to manage, and as a mother I want to be able to provide him help. Giving him medication doesn’t feel natural to me. It doesn’t feel like mothering. He has to take these medications to survive, and I have no option but to give him them. However, I do have the ability to provide him a milk, that contains fats and proteins that can help his brain grow and thrive. Von will never be neuro-typical, but I can rest my head at night knowing that I’ve done my job as his mom by giving him the best chance at brain development I can.
There is a stigma in society that we only should nurse our infants, but we are the only mammal that weans our off spring on to another mammal’s milk. Think about that for a second. No other mammal expects another species to feed their young their milk. We do that as humans. We as mother’s can take this back, and own our nature given ability to feed and nourish our young. We should not feel ashamed for providing them a substance that is full of nutrients, antibodies, fat and protein. We are the only ones that can decide that nursing a toddler or preschooler is wrong. I challenge you to start thinking about why you think it’s weird or wrong. It’s actually the most natural thing a mother can do for a child. We have breasts for our infants not for the pleasure of our spouses. Do not feel ashamed or hide your journey with extended breastfeeding. I do not hide it from anyone, and I am not ashamed. I know as a mother to a medically fragile child that it’s the best thing I can do for him.