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He’s Just a Baby

When my first son, Jack, was about 18 months during his second Christmas holiday. As usual my little sister was visiting from NYC. She is 11 years younger than me and has no children. She came to visit a couple of times a year and had spent time with Jack only a handful of times.

By this time breastfeeding was going strong and I knew I would breastfeed him until he was ready to stop. My sister said to me, “I would have thought breastfeeding past a year would be sort of weird, but I look at him and he’s just a baby.”

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, with sister and son.

For so many people 1 year is such a big deal. As if this is some major milestone. Yes, it is a great celebration of their 1st birthday, it means so much to the adults, but to the child it is not so significant. They are the same baby they were yesterday and 1 month ago.

There is nothing magical about this day that makes them walk or talk or start filing taxes. Nothing happens to your breastmilk on this day to make it less valuable. They do not develop some sort of psychological allergy to breastfeeding that will cause them to have emotional problems.

Quite the contrary, the closeness, the nutrients, the security and attachment continue to be extremely valuable. They are, as my sister said, still just babies. We so much want to push our kids to grow up. I do this myself and I understand why we do it. We love to get to know them and as they grow there is just more to learn about them. It’s exciting and we want more! We want to see them succeed and learn and conquer. But the best thing we can do for our children is let them be babies for as long as we can.

We don’t like this word “baby.” We even use it as an insult. We call people of all ages “babies” when they express big emotions, cry or need attention. I guess those things are really horrible, even though they are things that we all need and deserve!

Some people say I am trying to keep my kids little and fear them growing up. I am sure that is true, we all know we will miss this when it’s over. But I feel deeply, as a mother and a social worker, that I am meeting their needs in each moment. I believe that they need to be nurtured, held close and treated like the little babies that they are in their brains and minds for as long as I can. My kids have plenty of limits and boundaries, but their emotions are met with gentleness and nurturance.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding her son.

I am still breastfeeding Jack at nearly 5-years-old. It still provides him with all the things it has this whole time. There are other ways this can be provided to him, but this works for us. I am also breastfeeding my second son, Exley, who will be 2 years old in a few weeks. He is old to many people, but I am always surprised when I take a moment to look at him at how young he is. He is a little older than Jack was during that Christmas with my sister. He is still a baby. Yes, he is still my baby, he always will be, but he is also a baby! His needs have not changed all that much since his birth.

Don’t ever feel that you are doing your child a disservice because you are treating them like a “baby.” Most likely it is simply our cultural values of growing up fast, independence and emotional stifling that are coming up for us. Our initial reflex to nurture will never steer us wrong when it comes to our kids. I promise you that much.

Comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    Love this, good for you!! 🙂 I love breastfeeding and my 17 mo doesn’t show any signs of stopping!

  2. Rebecca C says:

    I always thought breastfeeding toddlers was totally weird. The whole “if they can ask for it, they are too old for it” (such bunk, I now know, even newborns “ask for it”). I always assumed I’d BF for a year, like my mom did for us. Then a year rolled around and my little didn’t get the memo, and had no intention of stopping. By then I’d been to many of our local BF and crunchy mom playgroups, and seeing women nurse toddlers was getting more and more normal. My little is 19 months old, and she’ll stop when she is darn well ready. She really is still a baby in more ways than not.

  3. I am currently feeding my 2 year old (28 months) daughter and my 8 month old son. I get a lot of stupid comments from family. They’ve backed off a lot though since my first daughter, who breastfed for 14 months. My 2 year old is a very emotional child, this is what she needs and that is all that matters.

  4. Adriana N says:

    I still BF my 2 year old (26 months). She is showing no signs of wanting to stop any time soon in fact, some days it seems that she BF like newborn. Last Christmas when she was 20 months old, someone asked me how I had weaned her to which I answered something along the lines of: “I will let you know when I do”. Everyone at the table just looked at me like I was a freak and that started a whole discussion on how she had teeth and could talk and it was not normal. “That’s what cow’s milk is for”, someone said. At that moment, I felt attacked and somewhat embarrassed and didn’t really say much other than we think its the best for our daughter and tried to change the subject. A few days after, it occurred to me that they are the ones who have it all wrong. How is it better to give my daughter cow’s milk (which is made for calves), than my milk (which is specifically made for her)? Because she has teeth?? Because she can ask for it?? . I really hope that more people realize that BF is normal and beautiful and its important for the little ones regardless of their age. In the meantime, I will just keep doing what I think its best for my DD and let other people believe what they believe.
    Cheers mammas.!!

  5. Thank you so much for being a voice for families with breastfeeding toddlers – my son is 19 months old and doesn’t show any signs of stopping! I don’t have any family or friends that have breastfed this long. I’ve been fielding questions about how long I intend to keep this going, it’s so intrusive and convoluted! As long as it comforts and nourishes him, he’s welcome to do it!

  6. I love this. I was so intent on getting to 1 year. We’re at 8 months now and I intend to carry on breastfeeding until my little boy decides he has had enough. I’m sure I will get negative comments and I think I already get raised eyebrows! This is a great post because it reminds me that I’m not alone and that it is completely natural and normal.x

  7. I would have loved to breastfed my little one longer but I got sick when he was 9 months old and was put on medication that was not good for him and on top of that my breastmilk predation when down so I had to give formal

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