You’ve heard of Superman and Batman. You’ve delighted in the heroics of Wonder Woman and the Power Puff Girls, but have you heard of the Accidental Extended Nurser?
That’s me! Hi! I should probably stop waving my hand like a crazy person .... I’m here to blow my nursing cover, which also sometimes doubles as a cape for my sidekick, the Amazing Amber.
I never planned to continue nursing my first and only child past her first birthday, but after a year, my little one was still latched. Amber is a self-soother, but she’s still into boob time with Mommy. We’re 18 months in and counting, until she decides it’s time to move on.
We have frustrating days, but overall, I adore this precious time with her. Life’s too short, people. If my girl isn’t ready to break up with the boob yet, that’s OK, because I’m getting a sweet deal, too.
Nagging Naysayers: Isn't That Bad for Your Kiddo?
I never had strong opinions about extended nursing one way or the other, but I admit before I had Amber, hearing about a five-year-old still on the boob did raise an eyebrow. Was the child in preschool or kindergarten? The only way I could picture extended nursing working was the child being homeschooled. There were multiple wins for the parent and the child, proximity to school and the boob, but otherwise — how’d all that work?
Like others, I sadly assumed that maybe those kids were struggling with attachment issues and other myths, without digging into the science for myself. Those kids adjust and socialize well, with good manners to boot. Boobful nutritional benefits don’t suddenly stop after a child’s first birthday, but you’re just supposed to stop, say the naysayer police. Then, I had Amber, and she kept nursing and nursing and nursing.
It’s not that extended nursing is unheard-of — it’s just strange to Western society’s concept of what’s normal. You can’t take a boob to kindergarten, but I hear kids bring the strangest things to Show and Tell.
These days, other parents get so excited and happy that you’re breastfeeding, cheering you on, even if that wasn’t their choice for their children. Six months is the average cutoff time, and many kids will wean themselves off the boob. The more you dig into the research, the more the expected times vary: the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years.
As we approach our second year of nursing, the comments from friends and strangers have become increasingly negative. Those nagging naysayers try to tell me I’m a bad mom who is ruining my child’s life and her future social skills. Even a few folks with initially positive reactions have had the same raised eyebrows I did, but my experience changed my mind.
Doing What’s Right for Us
I don’t blame people for being skeptical. Amber is smart as a whip, tenacious, witty and so aware of the world around her. She’s always trying to help me and loves being read to, getting involved in each story. I applaud her for doing things “right,” such as helping out and being well-mannered.
I was afraid that I was doing something wrong by not forcing her to stop nursing. I worried that I’m a bad mother, but that’s not true. Doing what’s right for us is more important than caving under the criticism, especially when doctors say extended nursing has benefits. Nursing isn’t just a soothing tool for our children. Breast milk has superpowers. It provides healthy Omega-3s, boosts kids’ immune systems and is rich in nutrients that are great for babies’ brain development. Suckling also helps teeth come in straight and supports vision as it improves.
Amber thinks her mom has superpowers, too, and as her hero, I can’t let her down. What’s good for my girl is good for her, end of story. This is our story, and we’re doing what’s right for us.
Sure, there are days where the milk is low; there are days where we’re both frustrated or hurting. The precious time we have together and the healthful benefits are the sweetest parts of the deal, though.
I’m the Accidental Extended Nurser, and I’m proud of my nursing cover, proud to see my Amazing Amber excel every single day. If she’s sleepy, grumpy, scared or wants some extra-nurturing nutrition, my boobs and I will be here for her — because my job as a mother is to be there for my little girl.