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I'm Still Breast-Feeding My Toddler, and I Can't Believe It Either

extended breast feeding
Photograph by Getty Images

My son celebrated turning 21 months old by waking up at 5:15 a.m. and nursing for over an hour. I won't paint a cozy picture of us from that morning, because the truth is I was irritated he was up so early and annoyed he wouldn't fall back asleep without sucking on my breast. I stayed awake thinking about the day ahead. And I thought about nursing.

Honestly, I am shocked I am still nursing him. My plan was to hit the year mark when we could transition him to organic cow's milk and then see what happens with the nursing.

I'm not a breast-feeding advocate—I think it's too personal of a decision to impose it on anyone. I don't tell people how to have intercourse, and I don't tell them how to feed their babies. I am not a member of La Leche League, though I did go to a meeting when I was pregnant with my son's older sister. With her, I battled my way through the first few months of nursing, earning the surreal right to brag about bloody nipples. Eventually, I returned to work, dragging my breast pump and counting the minutes until she turned one so I could stop pumping and have my breasts back.

But before I hit that year mark with my daughter, I got pregnant with my son, and my milk dried up. There was no decision to make, no hand-wringing about whether it was the right time to wean. The milk was gone, so she moved on to other sources.

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Back then, if you would have told me I would nurse my son for 21 months (and counting), I would have hit you on the head with my hooter hider. In my mind, a mother who breast-fed beyond 15 months was way more granola than I am. I don't wear Dansko clogs or natural fiber outfits, nor do I garden or maintain a compost bin.

That hypothetical mother in my imagination was a stereotype that I didn't question, because it wasn't me. Except now it is. Except for the clogs, the natural fibers, the garden and the composting, I am that woman who breast-feeds a child who is old enough to say, "I want to nurse."

It seems like I should be proud of nursing this long, but, since I never planned it, I don't take much pride in it.

It's working for us, and that's all that matters. Although, sometimes I feel a tiny nibble of guilt at the edges of this experience, because my son has nursed so much longer than my daughter. But I simply can't keep their scorecards perfectly balanced.

It seems like I should be proud of nursing this long, but, since I never planned it, I don't take much pride in it. And I am not ashamed about our extended nursing, either, though sometimes when my son asks to nurse in the middle of music class, I feel embarrassed because I don't know the other mothers. I am afraid they are judging me.

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When people ask me how long I will keep going, I give them an honest answer: "I have no idea." And I don't. I guess as long as it's working for us. When it starts to be a burden for me or a bore for him, we will put that part of our relationship away, and I will probably have an array of emotions. But until then, it's just what we do because it works for us.

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