How Old is Too Old? I'll Let YOU Decide

Dear Delilah,

Your father and I are selective about which vaccinations you get and when you get them. This means that you end up going to the doctor's office more often than most babies for vaccination-only appointments to make sure that you don't get what we consider too many shots at one time. Yesterday, I took you in for one of these vaccination-only appointments. You were a delight to the other patients in the waiting room, by the way, "reading" your book, smiling and waving at everyone, and "talking" to the fish in the fish tank. One of the receptionists remarked how much you look like your daddy. We go to a wonderful Family Practice clinic, and the staff there, from receptionists to doctors, have been nothing but helpful, kind, and personable. That might be in part because your mama used to work there, but I like to think that all patients get such treatment!

When it was time to go back for your shot, we went with a nurse that we haven't seen before. Since we were new to her, I let her know "the drill", that I hold you on my lap during the vaccination so that you have easy access to nurse for comfort immediately afterward. With a slight raise of an eyebrow, she asked "Oh, you're still nursing?" It was at that moment that I realized that we've gotten to the point where for some people, our nursing relationship will be "a thing". Her reaction wasn't one of negativity or judgment, just surprise. I answered with a simple and firm "Yes", and we went on about our business.

After the shot, you calmed down immediately upon receiving the comfort that nursing brings you. The nurse looked over and smiled, and then said "I give you credit for still nursing." I couldn't identify why at the time, but her comment made me uncomfortable. She went on to defend the reasons why she hadn't nursed her own children very long, as though the very act of my nursing you implied some judgment toward mothers who didn't nurse, or who didn't nurse for as long as I am. The cycle continued as my reaction was to counter her defense with a sort of defense of my own "Well, I work part-time and go to school part-time, so I'm never away from her for more than a few hours at a time. That's made it easier to maintain breastfeeding."

I've figured out that the reason her comment gave me such discomfort is that I don't feel that the act of nursing you is something worthy of applause, nor is it deserving of revile. I don't sit around and pat myself on the back, thinking I must be mother of the year because I'm "still" nursing you. It's just what works for us. I'm doing two things that I assume most other mothers do: 1. The best I can. 2. What works for us.

Last night when I was catching up on some blogs that I read, a post on  Modern Mamaz entitled Breastfeeding: How Old is Too Old? caught my eye. She speaks of cringing when she sees a mother with a toddler at her breast, and goes on to say that while she mostly doesn't agree, she does "believe that, in some instances, there is some truth to those theories" that mothers who breastfeed "walking, talking" children are "perverted" or "disturbed". She goes on to ask readers how long they breastfeed their children, and what they think the age limit should be on nursing.

At 13 months old, you still nurse throughout the day. You still awake at night, seeking the comfort of my breast. That might make some people cringe, but we're doing the best we can. It's what works for us. Some mothers stop breastfeeding at a year, or long before it. They're doing the best they can. It's what works for them. Some mothers breastfeed their children until they're 4 or older. They're doing the best they can. It's what works for them. Still other mothers never breastfeed at all. While I have a harder time understanding the mentality of not at least giving breastfeeding a try, I have to believe that they're doing the best the can. It's what works for them.

To answer the question posed at Modern Mamaz, how old is too old? A breastfeeding relationship has gone on for too long when it is no longer mutually desired by both mother and child. I don't know how old you'll be when you stop breastfeeding, but it certainly won't be "too old", because we're doing the best we can. It's what works for us.



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Originally Published at Fine and Fair


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