Before I was pregnant with my first child I had known plenty of folks who breastfed, but really hadn't gotten into semantics about it. For all I know they only did it for a few weeks. During that pregnancy I talked to several girlfriends and the longest anyone had nursed was about 10/11 months. She stopped after being bitten. Made sense to me! I thought she was amazing and I immediately set a lofty (or so I thought at the time) goal of making it atleast that far.
When my son was just a few weeks old we went to visit a family member who had her second child about two months earlier than me. Through emails during our overlapping pregnancies I had learned that she was a breastfeeding advocate, so naturally it came up in conversation when I was at their home after the birth of my child. She causally mentioned that she had nursed their older child until she was 4 years old. I wasn't grossed out, but I sure was surprised. I had never heard of such a thing! I talked to my husband about it later that night, and he pondered if the toddler was nursing straight from the breast or if she was just getting pumped milk. I remember feeling like "oh yeah, duh, she probably is just getting pumped milk." Ha ha ha... oh how naive and just plain dumb I was on the whole topic. ::face palm::
When my son's first birthday came and went I'm really not sure why I didn't wean him. We started cows milk, he barely drank any of it. I think had he really taken to it our breastfeeding relationship may have taken a different course. Maybe? Who knows. At 12 months old he was 18 pounds, so still pretty little. Part of my concern was his size and taking away breastmilk made no sense if he wasn't going to be getting fatty nom noms from something else. Also, I was in a parenting class with about five other moms who all had boys roughly the same age and no one else was weaning. I certainly didn't want to break ranks! I did have a handful of disapproving comments from family members, subtle mentions about how they knew someone who nursed their child to an age where the child could basically 'help themselves' to the breast and how creepy it was. I think my motto at the time was "when he can spell it he's too old for it". Oh, and for the record... children can 'help themselves' straight out of the womb.
Once we got past 15 months the thought of weaning was a distant memory. I just nursed whenever he asked for it. It was winter, cold & flu season was rampant. I had read somewhere to never wean a child during cold & flu season. The antibodies help protect them from getting sick and/or if they do get sick the cold won't last as long. Seemed like a good idea to me!
When he was 17 months old we started trying for another baby, and it didn't take much trying. This added a new twist onto things! The first trimester was sensitive and painful some nursing sessions, and others we were just dandy as though nothing was different. Several times I thought we were going to stop, but I kept him on atleast once a day hoping that it would get better and that he'd be around to help me through engorgement once the new baby was here. I know, I'm selfish.
Around 22 months I'm pretty sure my milk was gone, but he was perfectly happy comfort nursing and getting a little colostrum (cat nip for toddlers). I remember thinking that I'd "let" him nurse until 26-27 months to make up for the 2 months he was robbed for the full 2-year minimum recommendation because by then my milk would have returned with the new baby.
At 25 months tandem nursing was introduced into my world. I was overwhelmed and a little touched out at times... but the majority of it was amazing, wonderful, and made our bond even stronger.
27 months came and went... weaning just didn't make sense. 2 years old was the MINIMUM. Right?? Why on earth would I take away my tantrum tamer, booboo fixer, and chill pill at such a fragile time when his world had just been rocked with the introduction of a baby sister?
Now we're 4 months shy of his 3rd birthday and no signs of stopping. I am now in a strong community of friends and family who support me. Chicken Little is now getting in the range when children naturally wean, although I could only be at the halfway point. Only he knows. I'm happy we stuck with it. Was it learning that someone nursed their child to the age of 4? Was it being in a peer group where no one else weaned? Was it just that my son wouldn't drink anything else? Probably a combination of everything I've been through. It might just be mentioning it to that ONE person that changes their breastfeeding relationship forever.
So, thanks to everyone that normalized nursing and full term nursing for me. Look at the monster you helped create. :)