By Natalie McCain – Full-term nursing has nothing to do with being “mom enough” and it isn’t “extreme.” We don’t do it for sport, to win an award, or to be recognized above anyone else. We don’t do it to prove a point, to make a scene or to be praised. We are just mothers nursing our children.
Below is a collection of portraits and stories from mothers who breastfeed their children beyond 12 months. The name of this series is We are not “still” nursing, we are just nursing. My hope with this series is that it will open the eyes of many who are wrongfully judgmental towards extended nursing.
No mother deserves to be judged for how she chooses to feed her child. I personally nursed my children while they were toddlers and I can speak from experience when I say it is a very natural, beautiful thing. It’s time we support one another. What works for one family, may not work for yours, but that does not mean it is wrong.
We Are Not “Still” Nursing, We Are Just Nursing
“Extended breastfeeding is something that has empowered me to stand up for my beliefs. Sadly, many women who choose to do this find themselves having to hide or defend their decision. There is nothing more natural than a mother breastfeeding her child, and the fact that THIS is something people choose to get worked up over, despite all the other horrific stuff going on in our world, will always baffle me. Find something you’re passionate about that will make a difference in the world. Fight a good fight. Work for a good cause. There are so many other things that energy could be used towards that could make this world a better place. Being offended by a child breastfeeding is not one of them.”
“From the outside breastfeeding a child who isn’t a ‘baby’ anymore may seem strange. But as the mom nursing a child
‘this long’ I can tell you it just feels like another stage of nursing following the one before it. I’ve held this child and nursed her day after day since the day she was born and though over time she has gotten bigger and heavier and nursing has changed she is still my baby girl and it still feels just as right as it did the first time I nursed her.”
“‘Will they ever stop?’ Yes, yes they will. As my daughter approaches 5 years old I have even asked myself this question but I know that her breastfeeding journey will end. It will end exactly when it should for us. Every breastfeeding relationship is different and unique. Research and trust your heart, you will find what is right for you and your child and it will be amazing.”
“It bothers me to hear people say, ‘When they can ask for it, they don’t need it anymore.’ Children ask for nourishment from the second they enter this world. A newborn asks by crying, sucking their lips, and putting their hands in their mouth. An older baby might ask by tapping your chest or signing. And now my toddler asks by yelling, ‘MILKIES,’ and pulling at my shirt! They ask from day one. They’ve just learned different and more evolved ways as they get older.”
“Tandem nursing isn’t always easy but I imagine not tandem nursing wouldn’t be all that easy either.”
“My initial goal for nursing was to just get over the first two weeks which I’ve heard is the biggest hurdle and to go from there. As our nursing journey has progressed I then set some milestones like six months and one year. Once my son reached a year it dawned on me… why do I have these ‘goals’ for how long I feed and nourish my child? We are almost three years into this breastfeeding journey. I never once had the thought of ‘I’m going to stop nursing at such and such age.’ Self-weaning is what is working for us. When my son feels he is done is when we are done.”
Lead image: “There will be a day when he will no longer choose to nurse and I trust my son enough to tell me when that will be.”
Natalie McCain is a photographer, the creator of The Honest Body Project and mom to two children. The Honest Body Project shares photographs of women who bare their bodies and souls, and gives them a voice to share their honest, beautiful stories. “I want to help the next generation of women we are raising to have healthy body images. Let’s show them what women look like when they aren’t photoshopped and empower mothers everywhere to wear your postpartum body proudly. Show your children that what size your pants are doesn’t change how much you love yourself.”
You can follow Natalie and The Honest Body Project on Twitter and Facebook.