I'm going to tell you something that may surprise, shock, or horrify you. My daughter is over two and we're still breastfeeding.
Actually, if you follow me on Twitter, this shouldn't come as a surprise at all.
I may have been very lucky, but I have had very few issues nursing C. She was an excellent eater from the beginning and initially, I received a lot of support. My support network started to wane after I hit the one year mark, but when I told people that the WHO recommends nursing for two years and beyond, and that our health care provider indicated that C would benefit from nursing till at least two due to her asthma, they usually backed off.
Now that she's two, the gloves have started to come off. What was once the best thing I could give my daughter has now somehow become freakish, strange, and stunting--this aspect of our relationship, something she has known since birth, is now deviant and should be eliminated.
A week or two ago, C and I had a really rough spell. It culminated in her ramping up her need/desire to nurse at a time when I did not want to be touched. It was hard. I felt horrible--I felt like I was failing to live up to what she needed because I needed space from her. Her reaction was to cling to me as tightly as possible. So, I asked for help in an online breastfeeding forum I've participated in since C was born. Specifically, I said that I believe in child-led weaning, that I fully intend to let C wean herself when she is ready, but that I'm having problems setting limits because she's refusing and I'm tired and frustrated. Please Help.
While I did get some virtual hugs and sympathy, the lion's share of comments were, I once thought as you did and when it got too hard I weaned and we were fine, so you should wean too.
This is not to say that for all people weaning is wrong. In our situation I feel to the very depth of my soul that weaning would be the absolute wrong thing to do at this point in time. I know that the reason she clings is because she needs more; my problem was that I didn't have more to give her and I didn't know how to fix the balance.
I was told that nursing is a relationship--when it's no longer working for both parties it should end. Again, while this might be true for some people, this isn't exactly what I want to teach my daughter about relationships. I want her to know that relationships can be hard, but that doesn't mean they're broken--it doesn't mean they have to end. Often, in improving communication and in making changes, the relationship can be improved and made stronger...better...than it was before. That's what I wanted and needed to hear.
I did hear it...from another online friend and from my LLL leader. I learned that what I'm feeling is not uncommon among mothers who are nursing toddlers and preschoolers. Most importantly, I learned different ways of approaching the limits I needed to set with C, and when to allow those limits to relax.
So, why this huge story about my deviant parenting techniques? Because I'm really starting to realize how little support mothers, and perhaps parents in general, receive from their communities--the community at large and even specific parenting communities. Why was the answer to my difficulties with C "wean now, you hippie freak?" Even hearing, "You know, sometimes toddlers are just really needy; it doesn't last forever," would have offered me more of the support I needed at a very difficult time.
The experience has brought home the importance of recognizing that we don't know what's going on in other people's families and that the miracle cure in one home may not achieve the desired results in another. The breastfeeding and cosleeping that have been vital to my parenting and my relationship with C will not necessarily work the same way in other households. I need to respect that when I share my experiences or my reasons for doing the things that I do. I'm happy to hear of the experiences and reasons why other parents choose to do what they do. What I don't like, and what I don't find supportive, is the notion that this worked for me and it will work for everyone--you'll be so much happier when you wean/sleep train/etc. like we did.
That old adage about the village raising the child is true. I bet it will be easier if we base our village on Sesame Street rather than Witch Trial Era Salem.