I kind of stole, but was actually more inspired to write my story from, this story. Yes, I am still nursing BBZ. Still. As we approach his second birthday, I cannot help but feel some doubt about our continuing nursing relationship. He's almost 2, shouldn't he be able to go to sleep without nursing? He's almost 2, shouldn't he no longer need to nurse at all? Questions like this flood my mind, all too often, when I am nursing him to sleep each night. Shouldn't he...? But what am I basing that on? My baby is who he is, and I know no different. Can he go to sleep without nursing? Yes he can. Does he when at daycare and when we have a babysitter? Yes he does. Is something wrong with us? No, there isn't.
There is nothing worse than feeling doubt about my decisions as a mother. Should I do this, should I do that, am I damaging him? What will happen to him if I do this?
Am I making a mistake?
These thoughts plague my mind as a mother. I like to think I am making the best decisions for my son and for our family, but doubt certainly sneaks into our household none the less. What I can say of our continued nursing relationship is that it doesn't feel like I am doing anything wrong. Should he be able to put himself to sleep at night? Perhaps, but who is writing the rules on what children should and should not be able to do? And I don't know about you, but I feel much more at ease at the end of a long day when I have someone who loves me close by when I drift off to sleep. I imagine it is no different for BBZ, whose little body snuggles in close to mine each night before bedtime. He is growing more independent in every way! Even at bedtime he has begun to ask to go to sleep. It sounds more like "nigh-night pease mommy, nigh-night pease" as he snuggles his face into his silky "diety" (aka blanket). He asks for a drink of water from the sink and prefers to be the one who turns on his fan. He will sometimes ask for a book, but often asks for "ma-mai", his word for nursing. I think of these other tasks he adds to his routine as small pieces he is setting up which will eventually replace his need to nurse to sleep. But for now, he still relies on nursing.
The issue has more to do with me than with him. He cares very little what others think about him and his need to nurse. It is what he knows, what he wants, and what makes his life predictable and comfortable. Am I damaging him by extending his nursing? I don't think I am. But I do think that if I stopped today and said no more, that I would certainly do some damage. Imagine if you were able to kiss your husband good night every single night only for him to one day say that you are too grown up for that and you should be able to go to sleep without that kiss. How confused would you be? Would you not kick and scream and protest in disagreement? Would you think something was wrong with you to be denied something that showed such love? I cannot imagine denying BBZ the love and tenderness associated with nursing. He nurses first thing in the morning and to sleep at night. On weekends he nurses to sleep at naptime and during the week he occasionally asks to nurse when he comes home, but that is becoming a rarity.
So the doubt will likely continue as long as I am a mother, so I am learning to cope with it. But be sensitive next time you ask if someone is "still" doing anything, one is likely filled with enough self-doubt without having to defend themselves to outsiders.
One last story. At the recent wedding in Colorado, BBZ and I stood back and enjoyed the outdoor wedding from afar (in other words he was too chatty to sit still during the ceremony) and while he dug in the dirt near the lake, another little boy and his mom approached us as he was apparently also a bit too chatty for the ceremony. We said hello and introduced ourselves and our sons. I asked how old he was and she said that his 3rd birthday was this very same day. I said happy birthday to him, a sweet blonde boy who had a pacifier in his mouth, and the next words out of her mouth were a long speech about how she knows the pacifier is bad but he loves it and she knows he's 3 and she should really take it away and on and on she went. I felt awful for this mother who clearly felt the need to explain her son's use of a pacifier to me, a perfect stranger. I smiled and said that I am still nursing him, which is considered controversial, but as moms we do what we have to do to get by. She smiled and said that she wished she could have nursed her son longer, but they only made it 8 months. I shared that there were many days (and nights) that I wished BBZ would take a pacifier, but he refused. So the thing we each thought had to be explained was the wish of the other. How funny. And how sad that we both felt pressured by what others would think to have to explain and defend our decisions as mothers. While I am often comfortable sharing that I still nurse him to strangers, I am concerned about how loved ones view my choice to continue. But actually to me, it doesn't really feel like a choice. I feel as though I am providing something for my son and to deny him of it would be what would damage him.
BBZ is loving, tender, happy, well adjusted, seeks love and affirmation from others, smiles all the time, says please and thank you, knows how much his mommy and daddy love him, is secure, is bright, is empathetic, and is the light of my life.
So the answer is yes, he is still nursing.