On Nursing a Preschooler

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When I was preparing for my daughter Ava’s birth, there were a lot of uncertainties about what motherhood would have in store for me, but there was one thing I knew for certain – I would breastfeed. I didn’t have a time limit set on how long I would breastfeed, I just knew I would do it, as my mom had done with me and my siblings.

My daughter Ava is now just three weeks away from her fourth birthday and she is still nursing. I am sometimes conflicted about how I feel about it. After all, it’s not like I began my nursing journey saying, “I want to nurse my child until she’s at least four.” I did, however, believe I wanted my child to wean when she was ready, but I didn’t anticipate how I might feel or what I might do if her idea/time frame of weaning readiness differed from my idea of when I thought she should be ready.

Ava nursed pretty much on demand, or, a phrase I rather prefer, on cue until she was around 2 years old. It was then that I was pregnant with her brother Julian and decided I need to cut back her nursing frequency a bit for my own peace of mind. A few months before Julian’s birth, she was down to nursing once per day (before bed) and that’s pretty much what she’s been doing ever since (for the last year and a half).

A few months ago, I toyed with the idea of weaning her by her fourth birthday, so I threw the suggestion out there to her. At first she seemed amenable to the idea, but has since changed her tune, citing, “But I love mama milk,” which made me smile. And then she also added, “I’m going to nurse until I’m 8!,” which made me shift a little uncomfortably in my seat.

I feel like overall (with the exception of a few difficult months during my pregnancy) we’ve had a great nursing relationship and she’s received so many wonderful benefits – great health, emotional security, bonding with her brother at the breast, etc. – over the past four years. I know it would be bittersweet if she weaned now, but I would feel very good about what I’ve been able to give her, as well as what she’s been able to give me. However, I don’t think she’s ready yet and, as much as I’d like to just be nursing one child again, I don’t think I am going to insist that she wean. I may still make suggestions and talk up the very rare occasions that she goes to sleep without having “na-na” by telling her how proud I am and what a big girl she is, but, for now, I think that’s as far as I’m going to take it. When all is said and done, I really do want her to be able to decide when she is done.

Ava, almost 4 yrs oldI didn’t set out to nurse a preschooler, but somehow along the way, my sweet little baby grew from an infant to a toddler and eventually blossomed into a preschooler in what now seems like the blink of an eye. I am confident this won’t go on forever and when I look back on this time when she’s 10 or 20 or 30, and I look at the young woman she’s become, I am hopeful that I will feel good about the choices I made and have no regrets.

Amy @ Crunchy Domestic Goddess

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3 thoughts on “On Nursing a Preschooler”

  1. Thanks for sharing Amy, it’s very inspiring to read stories from mamas who are nursing preschoolers. We’re nursing 19 months today and I can’t see it stopping anytime soon 🙂 We all enjoy it too much!

  2. I am currently nursing my three-year-old who is very much in need of nursing still. Emotionally he’s a wreck without it. I’m also nursing my 11-month-old, who seems less attached than his older brother. I’ve enjoyed my nursing relationship with both children, though the relationship with the older one has suffered at times when I’ve let the pressures of our society get the best of me. I’ve tried cutting down his nursings to twice a day (morning and night) but it hasn’t been successful. He usually needs it at naptime and occassionally throughout the day. When I let the opinions of family/friends/society tell me what to do, then I’m not looking out for the best interest of my children. I’ve just recently been more at ease with my decision to let him nurse as he needs it, and I think it makes a difference in his behavior and attitude, and definitely in mine. Thanks for sharing your story. It helps to know that there are other moms out there nursing preschoolers too. My husband’s biggest concern is that my son’s first memories will be of nursing. He thinks that that is weird, especially for a boy. But, I don’t think that it will be an issue–it’s a special relationship that he will remember with me, not my breasts. Any thoughts or insight you have regarding this, would be appreciated. Thanks!

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