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. :)