That Will Never Be Me

by Leah Raup
Originally Published: 
breastfeeding toddlers
lokisurina / iStock

We sat in a circle, some of us on metal folding chairs and others on musty floral couches that most certainly had their genesis in the 1980s. As I looked around this gathering of mothers, some cuddling infants and others not, I wondered, “Why am I here?” I stared in awe as a child firmly into her second year of life toddled around the room, occasionally returning to her mother’s partially exposed breast for a quick swig of breastmilk.

“It’s just a boob. Don’t stare!” I told myself. “It’s her personal choice to continue nursing her toddler, even if it makes you squirm.”

These were the words rolling around in my head as I forced myself not to stand in judgment of the women attending this La Leche League meeting.

A new mother myself, I was looking for advice on best practices for nursing in public. I had a baby boy at home, and breastfeeding was thankfully going well for us. But each time I nursed him in public, I immediately grew self-conscious and invariably found myself fumbling nervously with my nursing cover, trying desperately not to expose myself.

As a lawyer, I was accustomed to formality. Motherhood, breastfeeding, and discussing poopy diapers with ease were new and unknown experiences for me. And at this La Leche League meeting, I was a stranger in a strange land. Thankfully, my best friend attended the gathering with me (after a bit of arm twisting on my part) and as we walked to our cars afterwards, I remember saying, “Can you believe the woman who was nursing the toddler? That was crazy. That will never be me.”

Ah, the naive words of a judgmental younger version of myself.

Today I have a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 2-year-old (who I am still nursing). In fact, I have been breastfeeding for the past six years straight. I nursed straight through two pregnancies and tandem nursed my kids—a baby on one boob and a toddler on the other—before weaning my boys when they were each about 3½ years old. Yes, I breastfed my kids until they were well over 3 years old.

And here’s the thing: I never hopped on some crazy extended breastfeeding train. I never joined a club where everyone nursed their preschoolers, or slavishly devoted myself to some parenting ideology that said, “Babies should be breastfed for the first __ years of life,” or “All mothers should strive to breastfeed their children.”

Because honestly, I have nothing but disdain for those so-called mommy wars. As long as you’re feeding your child in a beneficial and medically appropriate way, it’s all good with me.

I am just a normal mom, with normal kids, winging this parenting thing most of the time—just like you. I am not part of some fringy extended breastfeeding movement. In fact, after attending two meetings, I never did join the La Leche League. I am simply doing what works best for my family.

And although you don’t need it, you have my blessing to do what works best for yours. Because bottle or breast, you know what’s best.

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