I feel as if I am coming a bit “out of the closet” as I disclose that I am still breastfeeding my almost 3-year old daughter.
Of course, it is heartening to have at least one professional organization, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), encourage breastfeeding up to two years and beyond whenever possible. I also draw support from books such as these, which reaffirm me in the true physical, psychological, emotional, and economical benefits, and offer tips for certain situations. But when I take a personal inventory of acquaintances, I find I know not one other person who is currently breastfeeding a toddler as I am (unless they too are in the closet?), and knowing that there may be others like myself who desire community of this sort prompts me to share some encouraging thoughts.
Most moms of young children these days cease breastfeeding relationship early because they must return to work, sometimes by 6 weeks. As we prepared for marriage, Jeremy and I agreed to work towards the goal of my being able to stay home to raise our children when the time came. This has not happened easily. There have been many challenges, and it is something we pray for guidance to continue to do. When our daughter turns 3, we will have breastfed for 156 weeks! Not something I can put on her birthday cake I suppose, but I would like to celebrate it anyhow. Those 156 weeks will represent for me a mother-child relationship I never dreamed could be so close.
I could go on for hours (and have!) about all the benefits of breastfeeding we have experienced. Another post, another time. Simply, though, it has given our daughter a healthy start in life in those areas previously mentioned (emotionally, physically, etc.).
One humbling thought: no one will ever have this same relationship with her. No one will ever be able to experience the closeness we share, the snuggles, smiles, and caresses we have exchanged. I wonder how many hours, minutes it has been? A million indescribable moments remain fixed between us in a bond that will last forever.
We also co-sleep (there goes another closet!), and I wish I could describe for you the joy of waking up together. From the time she was a tiny baby, it was the most precious, magical time of the day. Some may imagine that the rest of the household, the husband/father and/or other children, suffer from this consumption of the mother’s time and energy, but that is like imagining that parents have only so much love and that another child will take away from everyone else’s share. It simply does not happen, and is only imagined by those who do not know that it can be any other way. When the quality of any relationship increases, it benefits the entire family, and in the case of breastfeeding, the result is a joy-filled child and mother whose cups brim over and spill out to the whole household.
A bit too poetical? Not even close.
In the same breath I will attest to the many challenges of breastfeeding, but they seem entirely inconsequential when I hold this growing child close and realize it will not last forever. And I must add, it is all made possible and easier by a loving, supportive husband who is entirely a blessing to me.
And so we thank Our Lord for having this time together, for it is a blessing from Him. Those who doubt the existence or closeness of a loving God-Father may doubt my prayer, but I don’t. There is something of Truth and Beauty reflected in this love my child and I share. He is in every moment.