Thursday, July 7, 2011

Am I Crazy?

So, over the holiday weekend I had opportunity to spend time with family and friends who I haven't seen in a while. Inevitably, the question came up: "Are you still nursing?". Given my recent problems, the answer to this question is currently a bit complicated. It led me to telling the story of the Eskimo biting me and drawing blood and how he hasn't had nearly as much interest in nursing lately (incidentally, he seems to be regaining interest now, but that's not the point of this post). I was expecting perhaps some empathy from my family and friends. Both have nursed their children, though both weaned well before six months (no judgement here, just fact), so they have no experience with extended nursing. But what I got was pure, unfiltered shock with a touch of disbelief. They looked at me like I was crazy for continuing to nurse. I was not prepared for this.

Their reactions left me questioning myself. Am I insane for wanting to continue to nurse my son even though he has bitten me repeatedly, hits me while he's nursing and shows little interest anymore? He eats and enjoys plenty of solids, doesn't need to nurse in order to fall asleep and has never really used nursing for comfort. So why am I so stubbornly fighting this uphill battle? I have a few reasons.

My first reason is a bit selfish. I am not ready to be done nursing my baby. I don't know if I will have another child and this might be it for me. I am having a difficult time accepting the fact that my baby is now a toddler and is growing more quickly than I ever thought possible.Weaning seems like a very big signpost in the middle of the road telling me we have left baby-dom and are now entering the world of toddler-dom and beyond. Next thing I know he'll be headed to college. I kid you not, this is where my mind goes. I am not ready.

The second reason is the obvious health benefits for my son associated with nursing. He has been incredibly healthy throughout his first 13 months and I want this to continue as long as possible. If I can prevent or lessen the symptoms of one cold, then this has all been worth it. And I know he'll be receiving balanced nutrition from at least one source. I try very hard to provide healthy foods, but let's face it: sometimes it's frozen pizza night.

Another reason, and this is where the crazy comes in, is this sense of failure that comes over me when I feel like he's weaning too young. What did I do wrong? Yes, we've used bottles and pacifiers and I'm sure we introduced them too early. We don't cosleep. I introduced solids early and he took to them like a fish to water. We night weaned fairly early, too (though the Eskimo did this mostly on his own) and he's been sleeping 11-12 hours a night for a few months now. Check, check, check. But with every one of these actions, I was doing what I thought was best for my family. So who cares what anyone else might think, right? Except I do care what others think. I've established myself as a breastfeeder and I'm not prepared to fail at that just yet.

But, here I am, with my 13 month old, battling to keep him nursing. My friends and family think I'm nuts. I'm starting to think so too. No wonder so many mamas wean early. Were it not for my ridiculous stubbornness, I'm sure I would have given up weeks ago. But I'm one of those people who doesn't know when she's fighting a losing battle and who perseveres. Sometimes it's a waste of time and energy, but sometimes you end up with something amazing.

I've been told by multiple people, "You've done an amazing job nursing for so long. It's okay to wean." This is not what I need. I'm not looking for permission or an "out". I'm looking for support. For someone to listen and say, "It's awful that he bit you! How has it been going since then?". Choose your words carefully, mamas. Something you may think is supportive may actually be undermining another mama's confidence.

So, here's a final thought. Mamas, let's be supportive of one another. Parenthood is difficult on the good days and next to impossible on the bad days. We are all doing the best we can with the information and resources we have. Lend a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on when necessary. We all have our own ideas on parenting and I think that's amazing. And I'm not going to wean yet because, well, I'm crazy. :)


  1. Your not crazy. A 13 month old is such a baby too me still. All my kids were still nursing then. My odd weaned at 19 months and my son was 2.5. I'm guessing you don't live in an area with a lot of other crunchy parents.

    My mom asked me when I was going to quit when the baby got teeth when my first was a baby and through the years I educated her on the topic citing how other cultures nurse and how it still provides immune benefits and comfort for a toddler and blah blah blah. They stopped asking in a negative tone after a while. Just sound confident and sure of yourself.

    Don't feel bad with how long he nurses for if it ends up being sooner than you thought but it is common to have nursing strikes too at that age so maybe that was going on or maybe not. I have been bitten before but thankfully it only happen once or twice per kid.

    How is he doing now? Has he bitten again? Is he showing interest again?

  2. Thanks for the support, Mama! I actually live in Austin, TX, a very crunchy area, but I guess I just don't hang out with the crunchy crowds. Now that DS is a bit older and my life doesn't revolve completely around his nap schedule, we are starting to go out a bit more and make friends. Hoping to find additional support soon.

    He has gotten a little better about nursing, though still not very interested. Hasn't bitten me again yet, but still scratches, hits, etc. I guess that's just little boys for you! It's a delicate balance: I want him to nurse, but I'm not will to let him beat me up either, so I hesitate to end a nursing session because he's hitting me... Oh well, one day I will look back on all this and laugh! Until then, I'm going to enjoy my little boy while he's still little!

  3. Ehlane, I'm filtering through your older posts here. I think I can feel your pain on this post. My baby hasn't even been born yet (we're expecting him in the next couple of weeks), and I can't get the support from my mother for breast feeding nor cloth diapering. My mother did not cloth diaper and she did not breast feed me or my siblings. She has made numerous excuses as to why she chose not to when my breast-feeding sister and I have pressed her on her decision. We get a different excuse every time. I told my mother that I planned on breast feeding for at LEAST a year, and would consider two years, if that was working for me and the baby. My mother responded with, "I've never heard of anyone breast feeding that long. That's just way too long!" My first thought was, "how the heck would you know?" For what it's worth, my mother also defiantly disobeys rules that my sister and I have set in our households (my brother is still in college) regarding junk food and soda. I know my mother and I are going to have to sit down and have some difficult talks once my baby is born if this behavior continues from my mother. It's just very frustrating to have so much support from my father, and almost none from my mother. My sister has also expressed apprehension about various aspects of how my husband and I plan to birth and raise our child(ren), and I'm closer to her than anyone else in my family. Sometimes it hurts - I can't imagine what we're in store for in the coming years...

  4. Lori: I've found that when people question my parenting, it's best to either let it slide off my back, or be incredibly informed. When I talk to folks about the fact that I'm still breastfeeding my son at 22 months, I discuss it like it's the most normal thing in the whole wide world, even if I can see in their expression that they think it's totally weird. I try to turn it around and make it seem like they're the weird one and I'm the normal one.

    The problem is, there's a big generation gap when it comes to breastfeeding. For a long time, if you had the money, you bought formula. Only "poor people" breastfed. So there was a stigma attached to it, and we lost an entire generation of experience and knowledge. Then, because all those babies were formula fed, when they had their own children, they either did what they knew, or had no one to turn to when they ran into problems. Thankfully, there are a LOT more resources out there now and the tide is starting to turn in our favor. Chances are, your mom didn't breastfeed because she didn't know any better and didn't have the support she needed to be successful. She may not be very proud of that fact, hence the unwillingness to talk about it.

    In the end, no one but you can decide what is right for your family. Many people will try, but the decision is yours (and your husband's!). You can try setting up some boundaries with your mom, but if that doesn't work, there is no law saying you have to leave your child alone with her. If she's never heard of someone breastfeeding for two years, then it sounds like she's fairly uneducated on the matter. Maybe some facts and literature would help to change her mind. My family shut up a while ago because I have a very happy, healthy baby boy. Can't argue with results. :)

    And no support on cloth diapers? Is she nuts? The list of reasons to use them is enormous. But from a financial standpoint alone, it makes a ton of sense! I always tell folks I didn't want my son to start out his life with a landfill named after his diapers. :)

    If you need anything or have questions, let me know! Even if it's just to complain about how little sleep you've got. You'll do great, and you can always find support outside of your family. Good luck, mama!

  5. Ehlane, I don't think 13 months is too old too nurse either. I nursed my son until he was almost 19 months. He wanted to go longer, but I just was really over it and wanted my body back. I love BF and am so glad I did it as long as I did, but for me it was time. Every time I went to my grandparents and relatives, Aunts, etc-they would always ask me if I was still nursing and act like it was insane that I was still doing it after a year. I ran with a really crunchy crowd in San Diego though, and my best friend nursed her son even longer that me, until he was two. BF has so many benefits, but there is a definite stigma, especially from the older crowd. Keep it up as long as you both want to do it! <3 Honey

  6. Oh, and we still co-sleep and he is three! We get lots of comments about that too ;)

  7. Honey: Any time we make a decision that doesn't fall in line with the "norm", we're going to get criticized. We chose not to co-sleep as I am a very light sleeper and just couldn't handle it, but I think it's a fantastic thing to do. I wish we could have done it! Maybe we'll give it a shot with the next one. :)