Have you ever been asked if you’re ‘still nursing’? That word ‘still’ grates on me each and every time I hear it. The first time I heard it used in relation to me and my body nourishing one of my small humans in the way it was intended to was mid-2013.
My now 9-year-old was almost 6 months and someone had seen a glint of white in her mouth. They knew it was a tooth and were both confused and bemused that we were continuing to have a healthy, somewhat happy nursing relationship and partnership.
Teething is not a reason to stop nursing
I could hear their intake of breath being sharper than the crisp morning air, “yes” I smiled back “Jemima has a tooth breaking through and yes Jemima is continuing to have my milk”. I emphasised the words ‘continuing’ in an attempt to convey there was no crime being committed. And what had changed. A small innocent tooth?
Whilst yes latch will change when teething occurs and biting can happen, there is no reason to stop nursing. It was during this tricky stage that I felt it important to teach nursing manners to my innocent human who had an overwhelming urge to bite down. So for us, I would unlatch Jemima, remind her to be gentle, and start again. Very quickly she realised if she wanted milk she had to be kind to me.
Nursing is a two-way partnership
Consent at a basic simple level is that we treat other people’s bodies with respect. Fast forward and she soon had a full mouth of teeth. She continued to nurse. She reached her birthday’s and the world thought and assumed that it was their primary business to intervene and dampen what was blossoming into a beautiful two-way partnership of feeding. I drowned out the noise and continued nourishing, supporting, and comforting my child and in turn, she thrived.
The world thought and assumed that it was their primary business to intervene and dampen what was blossoming into a beautiful two-way partnership of feeding
But why the word ‘harmful’? What pain does that cause? What damage? How many people are at their most vulnerable when they have not long since given birth? When their small human is unwell? When they themselves are sleep deprived from yet more cluster feeding, from being awake night after night with a teething small person?
Why does society feel the need to comment on nursing relationships?
Whether it’s Mavis in the cafe or Dawn on the school run, why do these people think it is up to them to pass judgment on when is the “right” time to wean? Does anyone actually get a say in that process? NO! Two people and two alone have a say and that is the person with the milk and the smaller person who is removing the milk. The word ‘still’, can, will, and does cause nursing relationships to end prematurely. It leads to guilty feelings in the person with the milk and causes self-doubt and questions to creep in. There’s no doubt about it, peer pressure is strong and can make or break a nursing relationship
The word ‘still’, can, will, and does cause nursing relationships to end prematurely.
Why does society feel the need and urge to ask continuously how long someone plans to nurse? Does the decision have an impact on them? And why, do so many, take the time (days, weeks, and often months!) to establish a nursing relationship only for when their small reaches a certain age to choose to wean them?
Natural term weaning
For me, natural term nursing has always been the plan with both my small humans, for they, and only they know when the time is right to end our journeys. As their mama, all I can do is hope it is when they are truly ready, not when those external to our family put unnecessary pressure upon their young shoulders.
My daughter weaned at 7 years and 4 months and it was beautiful, organic, and pure. I can only hope that when my son’s time comes (he is currently two years old) it too is as calm and peaceful as his big sisters.
My daughter weaned at 7 years and 4 months and it was beautiful, organic, and pure.
Are attitudes starting to change?
When my youngest started preschool a couple of weeks ago I was smiled at by staff when they asked if he was still having milk from me. This was in marked difference to when Jemima started the same preschool (several years before) and raised eyebrows were observed.
I’d like to ask if you are reading this, and have ever felt the urge to comment on a person’s nursing journey then choose your words with care. Use words from your heart and love when talking with those of us who continue to feed. How you phrase things can and will have an impact on how long their nursing relationship lasts.
And for those of you who are continuing to feed, resist the pressure to stop before you and your little one are truly ready.