Why nurse such a large human being? Well, for one, genetics not withstanding, I suspect breastmilk contributed to his robust development. You likely have heard all the benefits, but take a gander on KellyMom for a refresher. My favorite reason is that for those times Austin takes a professional wrestling size tumble, mommy's milk can calm him instantly.
You have to realize (well, you don't have to...but you might want to consider) that nursing a toddler is nothing like nursing an infant. I've heard people say that once the baby can ask for the breast, it's time to give it up. Well, maybe if the baby can write a Haiku about breastfeeding, or a play in three acts, I would have to agree. But, honestly, I love it when Austin brings me the Boppy pillow and I heave him onto my lap as I sit in our big fluffy nursing chair. And we sit and nurse and he plays with my hair, or looks at the way my diamond engagement ring catches the light. These are moments so fleeting that I just sit quietly and soak them up. And when he's done, he looks up at me and smiles so brightly, and sometimes he'll giggle. Then, he'll pop up from my lap and go bang on something.
So, how often does a toddler nurse? Not often. Not like an infant. The days of the Nursefest 2006 are long gone. Most days, we just nurse at night as part of our bedtime ritual. (And yes, Dad can get him to sleep too--no breasts required!) If Austin is sick, I'm so relieved I've not stopped nursing yet. He recently got an ear infection, and he was symptom-free in a day! He may nurse in the morning on the weekends, but he's just as likely to bring me a book and hop on my lap to read.
I ought to be more of a lactavist, but I really don't nurse him in public, mostly because he's not interested. He's a busy boy and has places to discover. He knows his nursey is there when he needs it. At about 11 months, I was really unable to nurse him in public any more. He was so interested in his surroundings. He'd be nursing, and then he would hear or see something exciting, whip his head around to see what it was and try to take his nursey with him. Pleasant.
I would nurse him on a plane (or in the rain, or on a train...) to help his ears, but for the most part, we nurse at home. Austin did get his 18 months shots last week, and was understandably hysterical. As I sat in the little chair in the exam room with this 33 1/2 inch tall child on my too small lap, the situation seemed a bit absurd. But he calmed so quickly, that I nursed him for a few more minutes, with my arms outstretched to balance him. (Did I mention he's also 27 pounds? My arms are quiet toned.)
And, in the interest of full disclosure, here's what I would probably tell you after having a glass of wine (appropriately timed, of course) are the drawbacks of still nursing after 18 months:
- I would really like to get my teeth whitened. No tooth whitener for you until after you stop nursing.
- I would love to drop those last 3 pounds off my hips. My body is convinced famine is around the corner and insists on retaining the fat reserves for Austin's next meal, just in case.
- I would like to spend the night away from my baby (I know, shocking! But Hallmark moments aside, sleeping until 8:30 a.m. sounds like Heaven.) I did actually spend three nights away from Austin in September when I took my daughter Anabel on a trip to Seattle. I brought the breast pump along, but seeing as I stopped pumping at work when Austin was about 13 months old, we didn't get along too well, my breasts and that pump. I barely got any milk (and the former liquid restrictions were in effect at that time, so who wants to pay to Fed Ex 4 ounces of breasts milk home?) So, by the third day, I was getting slightly uncomfortable, and nursed my little guy the minute my plane touched the ground.
- I would like to have a frozen yogurt. Little guy is still lactose intolerant. Recently, the barista accidentally made my latte with nonfat milk instead of soy (which I didn't notice and only discovered a week later when said barista profusely apologized for his oversight) and Austin was back to his infant colicky ways for two days.