I Nurse Him Because

I have heard it all about long-term breastfeeding.

“Stop nursing when he’s old enough to ask for it.”

“After a certain age, it’s for the mom’s benefit, not the child’s.”

“He’s never going to be independent.”

“As soon as he has teeth, you need to stop.”


“He’s just too BIG.  Only babies breastfeed.”

“It’s just gross.”

Etc.  It can get MUCH nastier than that too.

*   *   *

This post isn’t an argument against any of that.  I don’t have the inclination or the energy to argue.

This is just me and my son, right now, 2 1/4 years in, what nursing means to us.


The other day he hadn’t nursed quite as much as he usually does and when he finally started nursing, my other breast leaked right through my shirt. That hadn’t happened in many months, and it reminded me just how much nursing changes as you continue.

I’m not the leaky, milky mess I was when he was a newborn.   My breasts are soft, flaccid.  I can sleep on my belly now.  I don’t wear a nursing bra anymore.  My body is becoming more and more my own.

Sometimes he just wants to cuddle when he wakes up in the middle of the night. Sometimes he wants a snack in the afternoon, instead of our usual nursing session in the armchair.

It will be years before he fully weans, but in these subtle ways, it is happening.

I am grateful for these moments we have together, nursing. And sad (a little heartbroken) to see them go.

So here’s my list, off the top of my head, of why I nurse my toddler, right here, right now.

image (1)

I nurse him because his big hazel eyes lock mine for 10 minutes on a dark December afternoon

I nurse him because he is two years old and curls his soft, buttery body into my lap, kicks his legs up to my face

I nurse him because I nursed his brother and every day his brother needs me less and less (and some days more and more) and I miss his small body curled into mine

I nurse him because I used to watch my mother nurse my sister and she’d stroke my mother’s neck and play with her necklace and life was slow and quiet then

I nurse him because it reminds me take a break and sit for a while

I nurse him because he says, “Milkies, please,” and I like that he calls it that–his politeness is adorable

I nurse him because oxytocin-joy spreads through my body as he nurses

I nurse him because it allows us to linger in bed on weekend mornings and after his naps

I nurse him because it’s the easy way: easy to get him to sleep, to get him back to sleep, easy to stop a tantrum before it happens

I nurse him because I want to and he wants to

I nurse him because I know our time like this is short, his need for nursing temporary and outgrown in its own time

*   *   *

I don’t enjoy every second of nursing him.

It would be strange if I did.

In the middle of the night when he pulls on my lips and eyelids and keeps me wide awake when everyone else is sleeping, I want him off me NOW.

But then he falls asleep and sighs and I smell his head that smells exactly like him and it’s just the two of us breathing together in the midnight winter night.

*   *   *

I don’t think everyone needs to nurse their toddler, their preschooler, their child.

But I do know it is normal to do so, that suckling is a biological need that began with nursing, and nursing is the most natural way to fulfill it.

I know that nursing past a certain age doesn’t fit with everyone’s image of mothering.

That’s OK.

But this is what feels right to us, and many more mothers and children than you might expect.

And so, we nurse.

Like this.

image (4)

And like this.

image (3)

This is our normal, our reasons.

Our love.

*  *  *

Would you like to share your reasons, the ones unique to only you and your child, wherever you are in your breastfeeding journey?  Comment below 🙂

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76 thoughts on “I Nurse Him Because

  1. Amanda Bean

    Thank you so much for sharing your story.My son is 13 and we still nurse. Mostly in the morning and evening, but also when he’s not feeling good or wakes up scared during the night. I always wanted to breastfeed, but I had a hard time at first. I had a low milk supply and it was a fight to make it without formula for the first six months. That was really my goal, just six months, but when we got there I found I couldn’t bring myself to force a stop. I love the way he looks when his daddy brings him to me in the morning, all soft and sleepy and reaching for me. The way he snuggles next to me in the evening and strokes my chest while he drifts off to sleep. No one else in my family nursed so they don’t really understand, but thankfully no one is pressuring me to stop. If they try, I may have to show them this article!


  2. Christine

    It’s so sad that our culture takes something so beautiful and natural and tries to make it something weird or perverse. I nursed my daughter until 3 years and 3 months and my son weaned at 4 years and 10 months. That was only 3 months ago. At 44 years old I was a mix of feelings. Sad for that part of my life to be over and also relieved to not be pulled, prodded and poked anymore. But I know my children and I will always have the memories of those beautiful moments of peace together.


  3. Ann

    I am still successfully nursing my 21.5 month old! I do it for all the same reasons, as well as for the stress relief! What I mean by this, is all the oxytocin and the hormonal changes that occur during this peaceful (sometimes only 10 min) time, I find myself relaxed and stress free. My brain is shut off for a free precious moments, and I get to revel in the moments that are just ours! Also because I truly enjoy the extra snuggle time. My little guy is SO busy (like all little boys), that these are our only times with each other to have a momemtary hug!
    I know these will seem only like selfish reasons (to the rest of the world), but I feel my son also relax and take a break, so I know it is still a benefit for him! Our nursing times are usually when he wakes up in the morning and after naps, when he is tired and has had enough, or when he is sick! (3-4 times a day)


  4. Nicki Cheney

    I nurse because it’s a special bond that ONLY I get with my kids. I nursed my daughter for 7 months before a deployment forced me to ween; it was devastating to both of us! At three years old, she still begs for our special quiet time so we can rock, cuddle, and softly sing together. I nurse because it fosters an unbelievably close relationship that’s grounded in comfort and trust. Now I get to nurse my 4 month old son and I savor every single second! I love that I can soothe him no matter the situation and, even when everyone else has given up on getting a few moments of silence, I can brag about my magical touch. They want ME, they know that they can trust me to do whatever it takes to make them happy. And I LOVE being wanted and needed, especially by one so picky in his caregivers. Nursing offers health and an extra boost. As a mother, I will do anything to give my children the best chance at a happy, healthy life as I can. Nursing is the foundation to everything that comes next.


  5. Jenn

    Beautiful. You had me in tears. Currently nursing my 5th. He’ll be 4 soon. He’s my 3rd to self wean. I can relate to everything you wrote! ❤️


  6. Julie Bennett

    i loved this article because it hits so close to home for all of us mothers who are still nursing their toddlers. I had nursed both of my girls and felt that I had to wean my first one at a year. Why I don’t know and I kick myself for doing it. My second daughter weaned herself at 13 months and now I was blessed to have a son at the age of 47 who has no plans to wean anytime soon and he is 22 months. It is bittersweet knowing too that this is the last time I will ever nurse one of my children. I will let him wean himself and cherish his little feet poking up thru my shirt. His cute little nursing tongue when he smiles up at me peeking thru his little lips. The best gift I have ever given to my kids is taking the time to nurse them


  7. Meg

    Love your story and I applaud you! Nothing could be more natural and beautiful than nursing that adorable little boy of yours! My girls are 15 and 11 and I nursed them for 3 and 4 years respectively. I nursed them because I believed it was the best possible thing for their health and their brain development. I nursed them because I had read that worldwide the average length of time for breastfeeding was 2-4 years and some medical experts were even suggesting that children should be breastfed up to five years. I breastfed my babies exclusively until they were 6 months old because my pediatrician told me that an infant’s digestive system is not ready for solid food any sooner and that starting cereal at 4 or 5 months can increase their risk of developing allergies. As babies, I breastfed my children whenever they were hungry, wherever I was – in restaurants, in the grocery store, at the mall, in church. After a year I became more private about nursing my children. My parents supported my extended nursing, my in-laws and husband, not so much. I taught my daughters, who were talking by the time they were a year old, to refer to nursing as “more to eat” so that if they asked for it in public it would not be awkward. As they grew older, nursing became less frequent but by age 2, they also didn’t want to stop. Nursing was the best way to put them to sleep, and the best way to comfort them when they were upset. I helped my first daughter wean at age 3 and two months because I was expecting my 2nd baby in 6 months and I didn’t know if it was ok to be nursing a toddler when the new baby was born. I knew my milk would be different for my newborn and I thought I needed to give my breasts time to adjust. My 3 year old was so interested in the baby that was on its way and was completely accepting of the idea that the baby would need mommy’s milk now. My second baby ended up being born 5 months prematurely and weighed only 2 ½ lbs. I pumped milk to feed her from a tiny bottle and wasn’t allowed to nurse her until she was two weeks old. She loved it and I continued to nurse her when she was a toddler and preschooler because she was still so very small for her age and I felt she needed every bit of the valuable nutrients that only breastfeeding can provide. She weaned when she was ready at 4 and like her sister grew to be a healthy active, smart, independent and loving girl who is currently passionate about dance. I do miss that special bonding time they each shared with me and enjoyed so much, and I miss them being little. I am grateful that nursing was a formative part of their early of childhood and my motherhood and now I love watching and supporting them as they grow into the amazing girls that they are.


  8. Anne

    Ok. I am 63 now and my daughter is 34. I nursed her until she was 22 months old. That was ’80 when nursing was just coming back and not everyone was on board with it. Her older brother was nursed until 15 months when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. They were both thumb suckers too. Best of both worlds. No bottles and no pacifiers. AND I mean no bottles meaning not even breast milk in a bottle. My friends and pioneered the art of Breast feeding back into the mainstream. Just remember to get it simple. You will never get that chance again. What does the commercial say? ” Priceless”.


  9. Shyla Urban

    This is an inspiring story. I just had my first baby 6 days ago & breastfeeding is new to me. I love reading post like this! I personally love it especially the bonding!


  10. Lauri

    I am currently nursing my fourth and she just turned 1 on feb 7th. I hear so much negativity, just like you said. I lean on my husband so much for support and luckily, he is the best at that job. I told him that it’s my decision when I stop and he said it’s not really, it’s her decision and she’ll stop when she’s ready. I love our special time every day. Sometimes its three times in a 24 hr period, sometimes it’s 10 times(and that’s when I don’t like it too much). I will never get this time back with her and I’m hanging on tight!


  11. Jessica Dimas

    Ahhh tears!!! All the tears right now!! Our sons are about the same age and I’m nursing him too, for all the same reasons. Beautiful post.


  12. Tracey

    As I lie here beside you watching you sleep I am thankful for you, my baby to keep. I am thankful for breasts to help you gently drift off to sleep.
    The love we share is so special, it’s between us two. As we gaze into each other’s eyes only we know of our bond, the deep love that we share. I choose to give you my love and to keep it there.
    For others that have not experienced this, it is strange, some say repulsive. But we do not care. It’s our love for one another that continues to grow. Would you stop something that’s the best thing you’ve known?
    So we will continue for as long as you wish, I give you my child the ultimate gift!

    I will allow my Son to self wean when he’s ready 💙


  13. Debbs

    im still breastfeeding my 4th child, who will be 3 in June! It’s a comfort thing for him and I’m still loving the cuddles, even though it’s annoying too especially in the middle of the nite when he climbs into our bed, it’s been so long since I slept through, but it’s not forever and he loves his Daddas as he calls it! Hopefully he will self wean soon, but till then he is still getting lots of good stuff and and I get lots of cuddles and my husband is very supportive! I’m an older mum being 45 too!


  14. Rowena

    I love the vulnerability & beautiful sharing of this piece.
    I personally have learnt over the years that explaining my reasons to others for how often, for how long, & why I breastfeed is really not necessary. It only supports my need to be right or that I need others approval. Which I don’t!
    I think that breastfeeding really is an experience that varies a lot from person to person along with any beliefs about it. This includes people that have never breastfed.
    Currently I think there is a majority of people that find it a difficult topic to empathise with. How can a person possibly understand something so personal about another persons experience? I’m sure there are many a culture out there where the people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a woman spending her years nursing infants & toddlers. (Not saying those communities are without judgment also) But of course, our affluent, intellectual culture knows best right? (some may argue disconnected or brainwashed too).
    What I learnt is that anything childrearing related is an intrinsic part of life that triggers people off into all sorts of emotional spaces. So be it!
    Unless a person is genuinely interested in learning I really see no point in discussing such a personal life choice.


  15. charlotte

    Thank you for sharing your stories. I still nurse my 22 month old. Some times I wish I didn’t but most of the time I’m so pleased I do! If she falls it shops tears if she is ill and doesn’t want food I know she will want milky. When I get in from work and she runs to the chair and clears off any toys so I can sit down and nurse her. Its so special, and I know that it won’t be forever. I’m in my twenties and other friend who have babies don’t nurse they don’t understand why I do and why I still want to, they don’t know why I dont want to go out on a night I would rather nurse my baby to sleep in my arms I would rather be woken up by her shouting for mummy in the night. I think breast feeding a toddler needs to become more the norm… people don’t know they are the ones missing out on a very special experience!!!


  16. elizabethgwilliam

    Thank you for this. It reaffirms why I feed my little girl at 17.5 months. I stopped at 15.5 months with my first and that was fine, she was ready and getting very irritable and distracted and was fine without. This time round my second daughter is a bit more keen on continuing and I’m happy to do so. She points and says boobies, and it makes me smile.
    I’m severely disabled and I love that only I can do this and give this to her.


  17. Angela L.

    A beautiful story. Honest and without shame. They are your children, therefore your choice. Bonding to a child is priceless.


  18. Kerri M

    I just have to say that I wish I had been able to put these words out there. I’m currently nursing my 19 month old and feel very judged by many people. The best answer I give when people (rudely think it’s any of their concern) ask me is that it’s just right for us. My daughter is an independent, spirited toddler who likes to cuddle only when she nurses and I’m a mama who has loved breastfeeding from the beginning, even while working through supply issues caused from getting my period five weeks post-partem (and every 3 1/2-4 weeks since). Thank you for telling your (our) side of the story so beautifully and respectfully.



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