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Outgrow. Outlast. - The Finale of Our BF Journey

To be completely honest, I almost didn't write this post. While I'm usually fairly open about my opinions and parenting choices, I've held this one pretty close to the vest in recent years, because it is a more controversial - and personal- decision than most others. Sadly, it is one that many Western mothers are also unfairly judged for, despite it being completely natural in many other parts of our world.

The choice: full-term, aka "extended," breastfeeding. Little L and I chose to continue our nursing journey beyond age 2, and 3, and even 4. In fact, we only weaned a couple of weeks ago. We had already stopped nursing in public and nursing on demand several years earlier, but it was only recently that Little L was ready to completely wean from her nighttime and early morning sessions; she had finally outgrown her need to drink from my milk. The most clear signs of this were her growing desire for "privacy" and alone time, and her "nye-nye" sessions getting shorter and shorter. Sometimes the total duration was a minute. I think my milk production was also slowing down, although Little L claims that I was still producing sweet, yummy nye-nye

It was certainly a marathon for us, though; I outlasted everyone I know in the breastfeeding department, and continued even longer than I had initially planned. However, I chose to wean on Little L's schedule for a few reasons, including attachment, immunity and health. My little girl, whose anxiety at times is off-the-charts, found great solace from nursing, so I didn't see the need or value in removing this coping mechanism at a time when she didn't have very many other ways to handle her big feelings. 

That's not to say that we didn't attempt weaning much earlier on in her childhood. Every birthday that passed, and every quarter year, we initiated the discussion and tried to reduce the frequency or duration of her nursing sessions. It was always met not only with tears, but a tremendous grief and anxiety that we sensed was borne out of not feeling ready for that kind of separation. Originally, we had hoped to set the hard limit at age 4, but when she came down with the stomach flu while we were in Palm Springs that Christmas, nursing was her single most effective method of keeping hydrated and recovering quickly, so our plans were postponed indefinitely.

Before you think this is an incredibly freakish or unnatural process, though, let me tell you that the natural/biological age range for humans to wean is somewhere between 2.5 and 7 years of age. So, technically, we aren't too far off the mark in that we fall smack dab in the middle of this range, although I am keenly aware that Western practices tend towards a much younger weaning age than some other cultures. My suspicion is that there are some moms out there who would have preferred to breastfeed for longer, but were prevented from doing so because of subsequent pregnancies, health issues, work, social pressure, or life circumstances. There is also probably a population of mommas like me who simply stop talking about breastfeeding after the "common Western weaning ages" come to pass; the stigma and criticism that oft-accompanies such a decision to continue is enough to drive moms "underground." So yes, while I would say that a majority of Canadian mommas probably weaned their babes well before age 2 (and in some cases, never breastfed at all), I would like to suggest that there are other populations of moms out there who also believe that "fed is best," no matter what form that takes.

I'm putting this blog out there for the sake of that small population of mothers who may be wondering if they're the only weirdos who are still nursing their kids. You're not alone. Honestly, you're not. And while nobody else around you may be breastfeeding their preschoolers, it is one of those decisions that is entirely up to you, and doesn't diminish your judgement or your worth (nor increase it) as a parent whether you have chosen to full-term breastfeed or not. It's okay to outgrow nursing at any age, and it's also okay to outlast everyone else when it comes to breastfeeding. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.


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