As my first born daughter was placed into my arms, I never thought I would end up nursing her for a year. That seemed like a looooong time to me, someone who had never experienced the swiftness of the years of baby/toddler/childhood from the mother's perspective.
Then, after Noah was born and I went to work when he was five weeks old, I was determined to not let working full time get in the way of him receiving the same benefits of breastmilk. I pumped while at work, nursed at home, and we made it a year as well.
Many years later, there was no question as to whether or not I would nurse the third baby. And from the very beginning we had it easy, she was a pro, and after much more internet research and experience in those in between years I naturally relaxed into a "nurse on demand" "don't watch the clock" rhythm with Ruby. How very relaxing and freeing it was to not stress about how many hours it had been, or try and pump and give bottles. I think because I had lived the newborn stage when I was so young, and realized how VERY quickly a year goes by, I was in no rush to stretch out feedings, and I wasn't embarrassed or awkward about just feeding her whenever, wherever, so it didn't impede our comings and goings hardly at all. Barring some issues with reflux, and me having to completely cut out dairy for about 9 months, we had it very easy. I didn't rush starting solids, and she maintained a good weight and overall good health.
And, as I suspected, her one year birthday came entirely too suddenly for me!
That year just wooshed by, just like the ten it's been since I first became a mother.
At the time of her turning a year old, Ruby was still nursing 2-3 times a day. And it wasn't because I made her or offered when she didn't want to. She was still happily nursing in the morning, at nap time, and bedtime. She also ate a good variety of other foods. She just still wanted to nurse. I didn't feel pressured to stop, and the benefits of nursing past one year have been repeatedly proven. I wish more people knew that some magical timer isn't going off somewhere and all the benefits for their baby aren't disappearing into thin air that hour past their first birthday!
Following her birthday, our life went kind of topsy turvy. She did slow down on nursing during that summer, sometimes just once a day, but then we moved, were under a ton of stress, and then spent a very long winter enduring multiple sicknesses.
As anyone knows, a nursing infant will instinctively increase nursing when they are sick. Even though Ruby did get sick several times, I am sure that her continued nursing did help her get better and not suffer even more than she already did. So, throughout this move, the stress, the job changes, the sicknesses, we were still nursing strong, twice a day, more in the night when she was sick.
Yeah, I was getting pretty tired of it. But I did not want to force her, because in all honesty it still just didn't seem like that big of a "thing" to me. We were both happy. It wasn't inhibiting my ability to function, and really, on matters like this I learned to just do what I want and what I think it best and not really ask for opinions anyway, ha ha. Contrary to what many may think, it hasn't turned her into a weird kid, who cries and clings to mommy everywhere we go and who can't be a regular kid. She is extremely confident, has never cried when I leave her in her church class, and she easily interacts with other kids and adults, and is definitely not traumatized by her extended nursing, ha ha. (really, some people just have no idea about anything! seriously!)
In March of this year, we were faced with another sudden move. Which coincided perfectly with a horrible stomach virus that took quite a while to make its rounds through the family....*twice*. Insert another increase in night nursing for the 22 month old. I will never forget as I snuggled up with Ruby that night in the recliner, my mother in law taking such good care of us. I hadn't really discussed the nursing progress lately, so I cautiously told her that Ruby would probably want to nurse. My mother in law didn't even flinch (outwardly that I could tell anyway! ha ha!). It was so incredibly wonderful to be supported in what isn't a mainstream decision. I know many people that I know of who would have gotten some serious negative feedback from nursing a toddler of that age. The same with my mom, she hasn't given me any kind of negative feedback about nursing, or the length of time we've been at it. They have both been nothing but supportive with all of my breastfeeding decisions, from the time I brought Katie home, then Noah, and now with Ruby.
And, most importantly, I have to express thanks for a very supportive husband. He, more than anyone, has been the support for me when it was hard, and has gone along with my dietary needs for Ruby, and hasn't complained, pressured me to stop or to do things differently to make it seemingly "easier" (I don't think I could prepare a bottle if I had to without explicit instructions! ha!). I know that many husbands are not supportive, get angry or jealous about the bonding, or just disapprove in general, but Corey has never been any of those things toward me. It would be difficult to continue to do something that especially in the beginning can be challenging to a post-partem woman, if the opinions expressed were negative and critical of that choice.
Now, for the reason for this post.
It seems that this entire journey has now come to an end. Ruby, after getting settled again, and staying healthy for an extended period of time these past few months, has, * I think * stopped nursing now.
The last time that I can remember was July 3rd or 4th (you'd think I would have paid more attention! ha!).
It has mostly been directed by me. But not forcibly. I just simply felt it was time.
We gradually moved down to one night time nursing, at which time I started telling her when we were done. Then she started getting distracted with music games before falling asleep and just stopped asking. I honestly think that if you go for a year, that waiting for them to be able to understand and reason a little more really makes a huge difference when the time does come. I was able to say "later" or "wait" and she understood me perfectly. We went for a month with about a week in between her nursing sessions. And now it's been another week.
It is truly, truly bittersweet for me. Who knows if we will ever have more babies? She could very well be the last, and another reason I was in no hurry to rush. Time just goes by so swiftly. These two years and almost two months I know will turn into ten years ago so very quickly. And I've shed more than one tear about her turning into a toddler and talking up a storm, pretending to read, and before long I know she will be potty trained and learning her letters and numbers.
I have enjoyed my time with her as my "nursling" and will never ever regret not stopping the clock at the 12 month mark!