Category: breastfeeding

“H, do you think you’ll be nursing when you go to college?” My tone is playful and light.

The college thing gets thrown around in jest in some of my parenting support groups sometimes. To allay fears that early bed sharing will become a forever sleeping arrangement: “Oh, don’t worry, he won’t be driving home every night to sleep in your bed after he’s gone off to college.” In riposte to judgment-tinged questions about just how long a mother is planning on breastfeeding her baby: “Oh, probably until she goes to college.” Or in self-mocking half jest about how long one plans to keep a child rear facing in a car seat: “AT LEAST until he goes to college!” And so on.

H unlatches to ask, “Where is college?”

This is a direction I hadn’t envisioned the conversation taking, but of course it’s going there. College is a concept that he’s not yet encountered at age 3.5.

“It’s a place you can go to learn things if you want to.”

He considers this for a moment.

“I want to go there sometime with you,” he says, then re-latches without ceremony.

“Okay. We can do that,” I say. “I would love to do that sometime with you.”

And so my question remains unanswered, at least by him, but it’s not a question that I needed him to answer anyway. I am not certain about how long he will continue to breastfeed, but I am certain that he will be done long before he goes to college. If you ask me though and I sense an agenda, I just might suggest it. I will say it playfully, as a way of keeping things light. I will smile, you might smile, and H will go on to breastfeed for as long as it works for both of us. And someday long after that, he might go away to college.

“Milk is in English,” H declared at bedtime, just before nursing.

“Yes, milk is English,” I agreed.

“Milk is in English,” he confirmed.

“I wonder what milk is in German?” I mused aloud.

“Lekker, lekker, lekker!” he said with gusto.

I couldn’t help but smile. Lekker is German for delicious or tasty.

I had always looked forward to the day when H could tell me about his experience with nursing. It turns out that it is every bit as delightful as I thought it would be.

When H is nursing, I may or may not be thinking about how many months have passed since his birth, how long he has grown, or how he is able to tell me with words that he would like to breastfeed.

When H is nursing, the furthest thing from my mind is that his age, height, or language ability ought to disqualify him from breastfeeding eligibility.

When H is nursing, I may or may not be thinking about the healthy fats, protein, and vitamins my breast milk provides for him; how he continues to receive antibodies through my milk that help him fight the illnesses to which we are both exposed; or that meeting his dependency needs for as long as he requires may in fact be the best way to support his independence.

When H is nursing, the furthest thing from my mind is that I am stunting him physically, immunologically, psychologically, or emotionally by following his lead in continuing our breastfeeding relationship into his toddlerhood.

When H is nursing, I may or may not be thinking about the benefits of breastfeeding to my own health and well-being, including the reduced risk of breast cancer and the positive emotional boost from the oxytocin release that comes with each let down.

When H is nursing, I am, truth be told, rarely thinking about how it benefits me, though there are many ways in which it does.

When H is nursing, I may or may not be thinking about how the American Pediatrics Association “recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, with continuation of breastfeeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant,” or how the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine concur.

When H is nursing, I may or may not be thinking about how breastfeeding is one facet of our relationship, how it has become a dance that ensures both of our needs are met moment to moment, or how lovely it is that we have this connection and tool at this point in our journey.

When H is nursing, the furthest thing from my mind is that it is okay for someone else to tell either of us what we are doing is unnecessary, bad, or wrong; or that it is acceptable for someone else to intervene or dictate the terms of our breastfeeding relationship.

Our breastfeeding relationship is ours. It is mutually agreeable. It continues to be beneficial to him as a toddler and to me as his mother and as a woman. It is lovely. It is normal for us.

It is ours.

“Can you please give the nipple some space, M love?” my sister asks her toddler. 

She is carrying him, and they are walking a handful of steps behind me and H on the side of the road. Our own mother is walking between us.

“Like some milk!” H shouts.

“It doesn’t take much, does it?” our mother laughs.

No, it really doesn’t take much at all.

“Milk on the big couch!” he says, and so we are on the big couch, his body twisting away while still attached to mine, his free arm like a windmill. When he is done with milk, he crawls down.

“I’ll be right back! Milk stay right here,” he says, patting the couch.

I pull my nursing shirt down.

“Open milk!” he orders. “Just be running around.”

He runs off down the hallway.

“Milk, milk,” he says when he returns, lifting my legs so that he can travel between the couch and the coffee table.

“Would you like some more milk?” I ask.

“No!” he says, grinning at me from the side chair.

I wonder if he realizes that I am not the milk, even though the milk comes from me. It amuses me to consider that perhaps he does not, and I smile.

I have been tandem nursing lately. So far, I have breastfed, at H’s request, my Kindle, his toothbrush, a white crayon, a parking garage ticket, Tumble Bumble, my keys, an orange castanet, a Stief lovey, the skeleton of his lacing sheep, a stuffed zebra, the male catkins from a pine tree, and a dime.

“All done. H,” H says, when he has deemed his nursing mate has had enough.

Before moving over to that side, he repeats what I have told him so many times. “Nice you,” he says.

“Yes. It’s so nice of you to share your milk, sweet baby. I agree.”

I was studying H’s hands while nursing him to sleep tonight. He has rubber band wrists, dimpled knuckles, and little hammocks hanging on the palm side of his fingers from the knuckles to the first joints. His hands are small and deliciously plump.

I thought about my impressions of his hands when he was first born. His pinkie fingernails were so small that they could barely be seen. They were, of course, visible, but they were very, very small. His thumbs also seemed impossibly small. Holding his hand felt like holding something fragile and delicate.

As I was studying H’s hands tonight, I marveled at how huge his little hands have become. And that it’s all because we nurse. Amazing.