They say they’re too old once they can walk up to you and ask for it.
They say you should stop if they’ve got all their teeth.
They say it’s definitely time once he’s hitting your chest and yelling, “MILK!” in public.
I know they say all these things, because I used to say them. Back when I had never held a baby to my breast, I would quote this conventional wisdom whenever the topic arose.
But that was back before I had my sons.
My first son nursed until a few months after his first birthday, when my belly, growing larger with his younger brother, scooted him off my lap. He hopped down ready to play, content with a sippy cup instead.
Now when I hold my second son on my lap, his legs dangle well off to the side. He is nearly two years old, and every day for those last two years, I have held him close to me as he nursed. My half-hearted attempts at weaning have gotten us nowhere, and so here we are, with me nursing a toddler.
When I look down at my son snuggling on my lap, I don’t see a toddler who has grown too big to nurse. I see my preemie, who was first fed with spoons and droppers. I see my baby, born with a stiff neck and that meant he would only nurse strapped to my chest in carrier, while we walked mile after mile. I see my son who has asked me for milk, with words or cries, since the day he was born.
I don’t continue to nurse my son because of any certain ideology or goal. He wants to nurse and I let him, because it’s easy, because he wants to and I (mostly) don’t mind, and because to me, he is still my baby.
They say it’s time to stop nursing once they can talk. I don’t buy that anymore.
We snuggled together in the rocking chair last night. I scrolled through my phone lazily, wondering if he would ever get around to weaning, as he nursed happily. For the half hour leading up to this moment, he had been crying, yelling “milk!” over and over. “After Papa and Grandma leave,” I whispered in his ear. “After you’re in your pajamas. After we finish reading stories.” He was finally where he wanted to be.
Suddenly he stopped, and looked up at me. “Tank ‘oo, Mama.”
Sometimes I look forward to the day that he stops nursing, when I can simply be his mother, and not his feedbag. When I can get away for a night or two, with no one relying on my body for the first time in years. The inability to be alone when you have young children can leave you, at times, feeling very lonely.
But not tonight. “You’re welcome,” I whisper, smiling. He hopped off my lap and walked over to his crib.
They say you should wean once they start talking. They don’t know what they’re talking about.