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Is breastfeeding a toddler something to be ashamed about?


When people ask me if I'm breastfeeding, I can honestly answer "yes." The thing is, they're probably asking whether I'm nursing my seven-month-old son. I am. But I am also nursing his sister, who will be 3 in September. Most people don't know that part.

This wasn't the plan. I remember the first time - well, the only time, before I had kids - I saw a toddler run up to his mom and ask for breast milk. At that point I decided - if they can walk up to it, if they can ask for it with words, they're too old to be getting it.

How things change.

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Of course, no mom starts out nursing a toddler. I started out nursing my brand-new baby. And then she grew, and grew, and grew.

Then I got pregnant. I had no idea whether our daughter would wean on her own before our new baby was born. She didn't. So there I was. Without planning for it to happen, I was a tandem nursing mama.

This doesn't necessarily mean I nurse both at the same time. A new baby needs very frequent nursing - a toddler does not. Mostly they nurse at separate times, but there has been the occasional early morning, languishing in bed, with one child on each side, tenderly looking at one another through their dreamy, milky hazes.

There are upsides to this situation. Before I trained the new baby to sleep through the night, I could nurse both kids into an extra sleep session in the morning, which allowed me some more desperately needed rest. Nursing is one more tool in my parenting toolbox for calming down a distraught two-year-old. It means I don't have to worry about nutritional intake on a picky eating day. However, I do not like to advertise the fact that I am tandem nursing. Just as I thought the concept of nursing a toddler was gross before I had kids, I worry that other people will judge.

It's ironic. Moms get applauded for nursing - after all, "breast is best." And both the World Health Organization and my provincial health authority vaguely note that breastfeeding "may continue for two years or more." And, yet, I feel I've somehow crossed the line from doing something that is widely approved to doing something vaguely eccentric.

And nursing two at once? Now I sound like a downright hippie! But I'm not. I'm just a regular suburban mom.

Surprised Tandem Nurser is an Alberta mom.

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