I 'Baby' My 3-Year-Old, And IDGAF What Anyone Thinks About That

by Elizabeth Broadbent
BrianAJackson / iStock

“Me have mama milk now,” my son squeaks. He is jumping on my bed in his red and green striped pajamas, an older brother’s Christmas pj’s of yore, and he is ready to go to sleep.

“Go to our spot,” I say. He bounces over to the far side of the bed, which is really a queen with a sidecar twin. He curls up on his side just below the pillow.

“Mama milk, mama milk,” he chirps.

I lie down next to him and pull down my collar. He latches on and curls against me. He starts to suck deeply, blissfully. I hold him close. He is 3 years old.

And IDGAF what anyone thinks. Yes, my 3-year-old still nurses when he goes to sleep, and sometimes in the middle of the night too. My others were night-weaned by 15 months when I got pregnant with their younger brother. But for Sunny, there’s been no younger brother, and no pressing need to wean. No pressing need to kick him out of bed, especially when the bed is so big. So yes, I still baby my 3-year-old. And I don’t care what anyone thinks.

If you ask him, he’ll tell you that “me baby.” Sunny refuses to do things because they’re for big boys. He, he maintains, is tiny. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t do them. That just means appeals to maturity don’t work. He is, for example, fully potty trained and has been since before his 3rd birthday. That’s much earlier than my older two sons, who trained at 3 ½ years old each. He always, always, has to hold my hand, which is adorable, but a pain in the ass when you’re trying to juggle a purse and two bags of library books. If he’s not holding my hand, he’s holding his oldest brother’s.

He also still gets worn on regular occasions. We take a wrap on all our hikes. After a certain amount of trekking, he wants a rest, and up he goes in a woven wrap. We wear him at church sometimes because even though he behaves quite well, if he gets bored, no one wants to hold a squirming 3-year-old. After my husband wrecked his back in two successive weeks, he agreed: We need a wrap on hand. He goes up in Target. He goes up when he’s very sad, and I need to do something else. He’s a small 3-year-old, so truthfully, it’s not as if I’m wrapping a 40-pounder. But he weighs a good 28 to 30 pounds, so it’s a workout.

I breastfeed him. I co-sleep with him. I hold his hand all the time that he’s not wrapped. Most of America would think it’s pathological. But it works for us, for two reasons: It works for Sunny, and it works for me. Sunny’s happy to be the adored baby. He likes to play on his cuteness and hold his hands up to be carried. These things make him happy. And he still wants them. As an attachment parent, I feel that as long as they aren’t hurting him — and they aren’t — he has a right to them. They help him feel safe, give him an anchor in the world. They make him special among three loud, boisterous boys.

But I have other reasons for babying him as well. Sunny is the last biological child we’ll have. There are several reasons related to sickness and necessary medication and lifestyle that make it impossible for me to get pregnant again. He is our last biological baby, though we haven’t ruled out adoption. Sunny is the last sure thing, the last sure baby I get to breastfeed, the last sure baby I get to co-sleep with. He is, at the very least, the last baby we’ll have in our house for a while.

So I soak up what baby love I can. I’ll miss nursing and babywearing when their time is over. I’ll miss the small hand in mind, the little voice that insists, “I tiny.” Soon his little legs will make it through a full hike. Soon he’ll move to his own bed, if only to sneak into mine later in the night (if his brothers are any indication). He won’t be 3 forever.

I’ve seen it happen twice already. First 3, then 4 then 5 then 6 then 7. Seven. My firstborn is 7 already, big enough to read chapter books, big enough to discuss the finer points of Harry Potter. He thinks Monty Python and the Holy Grail is funny, and has gotten big enough to watch shows I hate, like Ninjago. His 5-year-old brother is learning to read.

So I’ll keep my baby as long as I can, thank you. That doesn’t mean I’ll stunt his growth, or go on nursing and wrapping him until he’s 5. That’s not for us. But it does mean I will unapologetically enjoy every minute of babyhood I can get. And most importantly, my baby’s happy. He’s cuddled. He’s loved, and he knows it. I couldn’t give him a greater gift.