Dear Family, Thank You for Not Judging Me for Breastfeeding My Toddler
by Risa Kerslake
Photograph by Twenty20
I honestly didn’t know what you would think of my extended breastfeeding. No one in the family had done it before and I wasn't sure what everyone's reaction would be.
I had no problems nursing in front of any of you. I was trying to normalize it and, therefore, you needed to see me doing it. I endured the slightly awkward comments from some of you in the beginning and I remember some of them very clearly. Most of them involved Mom all but pushing Dad out of the room I was in and telling him, “She’s feeding the baby. You have to get out of the room!” Dad would then give an eye roll and then the whole thing was this uncomfortable circus of shuffling people and averting eyes.
I get it. Nursing used to be a very private act and Mom, you were just trying to support me. It wasn’t helping me and my whole #normalizebreastfeeding—but, hey, it was a start. Still, I admit I was preparing to go on the offense with some of you when I continued to nurse my daughter into her second birthday.
Surprisingly, none of you spoke up. You would watch my daughter pull at my shirt when she was in an especially feisty toddler mood and instead of commenting on how she’s too old to be nursing, you just laughed. While nursing her in public was a seldom event due to her uncanny ability to expose my entire breast to everyone within a 50-foot radius, I still periodically did it in front of you all. And no one said a thing.
No one told me she’s too old. No one told me if I didn’t quit, she’d be breastfeeding in college. No one told me I was scarring her for life or that I should quit or that things were starting to get embarrassing for you.
Admittedly, I was nervous every time my toddler would give the tell-tale signals of wanting to nurse while I was with you. I think it’s because your support in this meant more than any stranger on the public street. Nursing a toddler when no one in your family ever has brings forth some vulnerability and being that I tend to be a pretty sensitive person, I probably would've fallen apart if one of you gave me a hard time with it.
Extended breastfeeding was so important to me, and it still is, at almost 28 months in. I had a hard time getting pregnant and a hard postpartum recovery. Nursing was the one thing I could do and the one thing that came so naturally. We’ve never really talked about all this, but there it is.
So, to my family, I don’t think any of you truly understand that you all are a reason why I was so successful in my breastfeeding journey. I never felt shame for doing what I so desperately wanted to do for my daughter and I know there are so many women who can’t say the same. I want to say thank you for your love and encouragement, even though you probably have no idea what role you played in my decision. I’m so grateful for your support.
Your daughter and sister
P.S. The toddler sends her regards too, as she insists she has no plans on stopping any time soon.