|I make milk. What's your superpower? Tshirt at expressiva.com|
This weekend, we're going on a trip to visit friends in Seattle. Tye is a well-traveled kiddo, and every flight but one in the past has gone supremely well (and that one wasn't even bad- just not perfect). This trip, on top of worrying about Tye sitting still and refraining from her random pterodactyl screams, I have a new concern: How will the strangers around me react when I start nursing my toddler?
I realize the silliness of this concern- that these are strangers, so why would I care what they think; that I'm doing what I always do, so why is this location any different? I know the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend nursing to the age of two or beyond. I know what I'm doing is what is best for Tye, and it's working well for both of us. But being able to argue against the concern doesn't make it disappear.
When other breastfeeding mamas and I encounter people who are surprised that we are nursing toddlers, I often remind the other mamas that the other person's shock likely comes from simply not knowing any better. It's easy for me to remember that, because once, I was that person. Until I was pregnant with Tye, I didn't know the benefits of extended nursing and thought most people weaned around the age of 1, certainly before the child could walk up to nurse or help herself to the breast, and likely before she had many, if any, teeth. When we lived in Ithaca, my beloved little "hippie commune" of a town, I saw women who nursed their children who were much older and though I never thought poorly of it- "to each their own," I would say to myself- I never thought I would be doing it later on.
Several years later, here I am, nursing my toddler. She is over one year old, can walk across the room, says several words, has four sharp teeth, and tries to reach down my shirt to help herself to a snack when she's hungry/tired/cranky/bored. This image of myself is a new one to me, one I've only had a little over a year to prepare myself for, which I think is partly why I'm not as confident with it as I wish I was. I'm working on it, though. At the first La Leche League meeting I attended when Tye was only four months old, I was already interested in support for extended nursing. I've met other fantastic moms at Holistic Moms Network who are nursing older toddlers and even tandem nursing. I'm always quick to thank them for setting such a good example for us mothers of younger babes so we can follow their lead. I know that as I practice seeing myself in this role of mother-who-nurses-a-toddler, and as I have the opportunity to continue nursing Tye in public, I'll gain more confidence.
Until then, the idea of breastfeeding Tye in a crowded plane, so close to others, intimidates me. Hopefully after our first nursing session, I'll realize it's no different than it was when Tye was just a few months old, and I won't even think twice about it on the way home. And if the other passengers on the plane learn something about extended breastfeeding, that would be icing on the cake.