A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

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.