I am currently breastfeeding my 2-year-old, Exley, and my 5-year-old, Jack. I am one of those tandem breastfeeders you hear about. I don’t post many pics of Jack nursing anymore because he usually only nurses to sleep at night or maybe for a few seconds during the day when he thinks of it, but then he’s off again. So what people mostly see is Exley and me. He’s the baby, he nurses often, and I snap the pics.
The other day someone commented on a photo I posted to Facebook that “he is too old to breastfeed.” I was taken aback because I was sure I posted a pic of Exley. I checked the photo to see if it was Jack, but no, there was Exley — the baby. He is apparently too old to breastfeed at 2. It took all of my self-control not to post a photo of Jack under her comment and ask what she had to say about that!
There are so many things wrong with this perspective that I can barely think straight, but I’ll give it a try.
I can’t stand the way our culture forces the tiniest of humans to grow up so fast. Exley is not a newborn baby, but have you spent time with a 2-year-old? They are not that far removed from that stage with maybe some incomprehensible words and a terrible excuse for gross motor skills. He doesn’t even feel like a toddler to me, although I am sure that is what everyone is dying to correct me with (“He’s a toddler, Abby. He’s not a baby. You have to let him grow up sometime!” I assure you I have no ability or intentions to stop him from growing.
The game of semantics with our children just feeds into the whole notion that every day they are that much older and Exley really should look into getting a bank account. When we are at the playground and the older children run around, I often hear parents say, “Watch out for the baby!” — sounds right to me.
I remember this with Jack. We were so excited for what the future held with him that we wanted him to grow up really fast. When he turned 1, I said, “Well, he’s not a baby anymore, he’s a toddler!” I was really excited to have a toddler. I look back at pictured of 1-year-old Jack — baby Jack.
Right now I just go by feel. Just because Jack has the vocabulary of a 25-year-old doesn’t make him any older than he actually is. I have tried hard to remember that just because Jack is 5, and it sounds really old and society expects certain things from him he is still actually very young — closer to that baby description than any grown-up.
Exley feels like a baby. And just like breastmilk doesn’t magically change upon certain designated birthdays, neither do our children. I’ll call him a baby until he doesn’t seem like a baby anymore.
A 2-year-old is too old to breastfeed? What a sad fucking society we live in. Was he too old at 23 months? 22 months? 18 months? When is the cutoff? Who wrote this book of breastfeeding rules and where can I get a copy? Someone also needs to tell Exley that he’s too old. He doesn’t seem to know this. He nurses all day and all night. It’s like he thinks it’s normal or something.
Women have enough to deal with; there is so much stigma around breastfeeding and our bodies. It’s a sad day when someone can look upon someone else minding their own business, feeding their child, being kind, being loving, a mother with her child, and say there is something inherently wrong with it. A 2-year-old — I mean, wow.
I love being able to see how much my perspective has changed over the years. Exley seems like a young nursling to me, and Jack just seems normal. I know that I did not start out thinking this way. I know that I would have said five years ago that nursing a 5-year-old was gross. Actually no, I would have thought that, but I don’t purposefully say mean things to other people. Another annoying aspect of this thing: You think he’s too old? Great — no one asked you. Keep it to yourself.