A Letter to My Nursing Toddler

By Megan Leary

My dear toddler,

You were tired. It had been a long morning in the car and then visiting with strangers. You rubbed your eye with one hand and said, “Nurse?”

At home I would have scooped you in my arms and cuddled you close while you nursed yourself to sleep. Then, I would lay you in bed and give you a kiss. But this time I reacted differently. You saw me look sideways at the room of strangers who have never been a part of your life and meant nothing to you. You saw me shift awkwardly in my seat. You saw me blush. You were confused. I hurt your feelings and you didn’t understand why. I made you feel like I was embarrassed by you. I was. You took a step back. You looked around the way I had, wondering what made me nervous.

I looked at your confused face and made a decision. I picked you up, pulled up my shirt, and nursed you. I kept my eyes on you because I didn’t dare look at the room. I put a soft smile on my face so that you would know everything was okay. In that moment I made an unspoken promise to you to never make you feel ashamed for asking to nurse again.

You don’t understand that its taboo for a mother to nurse her toddler in our culture. You don’t understand yet that the natural act of nursing makes people uncomfortable. Why would you? It’s not something you were born to understand. It’s not something in your nature for you to feel shame for. It’s not embarrassing for you to find comfort in something you’ve been doing everyday of your entire life that brings you close to me. Something that makes my busy legs stop. Something that makes my busy hands caress your hair and cheek.

My love, I promise to never do that to you again.

xoxo, Mom

Originally published on Mothering in Feb 2014

Megan Leary

About Megan Leary

I am a work-at-home mama of one darling girl and handsome baby boy! I am an advocate of natural and home birthing. I am passionate about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, eating well, and most things natural in a mama’s life. Visit me and my friends at our blog www.hippieswithbabies.com.


25 thoughts on “A Letter to My Nursing Toddler”

  1. Thank you so much for this reminder. My daughter is 2.5 years… I am often embarrassed that I still nurse her. My son was really done by the time he was 2 (had no real interest in it) ..my daughter is different. Nursing means so much more to her… and so I keep going. =). <3

  2. well done you for meeting your child needs, its hard, but is such a beautiful journey we all go on as a bfing mother and child.

  3. My daughter is over 11 years and I nursed her for more than 2 years (27 months to be precise). Whenever she was hungry, I have nursed her without feeling shy or embarassed. My husband and several friends have asked me how I was able to do that. Somehow, at that time, I felt that it was the right thing to do for my baby who had no one else but me to turn to. I have nursed her on international flights, in malls and several other places that I cannot remember now, but I know that I will never regret having done that in my lifetime.

  4. I’ve never experienced it as “taboo” here in the U.S. I know some individuals make it uncomfortable but I have never been met with anything but acceptance and understanding. I nursed for 19 months. She’s 2.5 years old now. I wish I hadn’t weaned so early. I miss it. It was a perfect reason to slow down and get away from my computer (I work at home). She still asks to “have a talk” or “cuddle” from time to time and in those instances it’s nice to remember.

  5. Thank you, everyone! One of the greatest things about the mothering communities is that there is always reassurance that you are not alone. I can’t tell you how much all these comments mean to me. :’)

  6. I have honestly had my own reservations about nursing toddlers, even though I know how natural it really is. And I have pondered how long I will be willing to nurse my son, and haven’t come to much of a conclusion. But this was beautifully written, and so absolutely touching that I also have tears in my eyes. I know that I wouldn’t be able to look at my son (3 months old now) and tell him no, for the sake of others, or even for myself. As long as he wants to I am for it!
    Thank you.

  7. Nursed all three of my beautiful girls until they were 3 – 3 1/2 – been in that same position countless times. Never a day of regret. My youngest is now 4 3/4. Your sentiments were beautifully shared. It’s such a shame that we should ever have that pang of embarrassment. Thank you for sharing

  8. So precious. And a good reminder. My daughter is 2.5 but very tall and articulate for her age, so people think she’s even older…and I know I have stumbled over fear of embarrassment with her requests before. I want to protect her precious innocence and safety with me!

  9. Bless your heart! I think we all have gone through this moment of awareness when we are “out in the world” and feel uncertain about how other folks might behave. Sometimes family gatherings can be especially difficult this way. I nursed my two babies openly (but also with discretion as much as possible) by choice until they self-weaned. They are now 32 and 35 years old. I look back on my breastfeeding days with real joy. Those days transformed me. I tried to always be aware, however, that other women would learn by my example as a Mother. I enjoyed your sharing.

  10. Thank you, and yes you made me cry too. I am still nursing my 2 year old little boy. Had I planned on this long no but here we are and well we will be until he is ready. He is my last child; we have 3. I am enjoying every minute and I have felt this same way and I will remember this the next time my little guy wants to nurse and I feel those eyes. It is perfectly natural and we are doing what is best for our child. Thank you again!

  11. My baby is 6mths now. Still total bfing now as im currently full time mothering her at home.
    In laws were so critic that i am still bf baby. Keep asking me switch to solids and formula. As if im starving the baby as the older generation feel bm is more diluted not nutritional and not filling thus baby always cry for hunger. But they don understand baby is closer to mama as she face me alone everyday! So she is crying for mama! Cant imagining if i can bf till she 3yrs old, think people will start scolding me and laughing at the baby for unable to wean out from a crybaby. Cant stop those tongues wagging thou.

  12. That was so beautifully written, I’m totally teary about it!! Thank you so much for posting this! I still breastfeed my son who will be turning 2 in a little over a week. I get a lot of odd comments, not a lot of support for continuing to nurse him, even from my husband (who has since given up on arguing about it since it’s not hurting anyone). Our son will wean at his own time, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that he’ll just outgrow this like he outgrows his clothes — with none of my doing. It’s hard to not be embarrassed when doing it somewhere public, which hasn’t happened in a long time for me, but I will always keep this article in mind when it does happen. Thank you again!

  13. LOVE LOVE LOVE!! My wife enjoys feeding our 5 year old the exact same way! She runs off the soccer field and says “mommy me not get anuff breffass” and out comes the milk sack! Most parents just kind of look away (weirdos), but the 2 moms of the goalie seem to like watching.

  14. As a new mom, one who struggled to breastfeed and now one who feels awkward doing it in public even with a cover, this spoke volumes to me. I will no longer worry about others and nurse my son when he wants.
    thank you for sharing this

  15. I found it much harder to nurse my son at 2 than at 4 years (and yes, I did still feed him in public then). Somewhere I went from worried about what someone may think to truly not really caring. It was wonderful as I’m naturally shy and dread conflict. We were always discrete but we are out a lot and he loves nursing so much. So we did. I never had a word said to me…..but then I always just stare at him in delight – you can’t see others then! Now he’s older I’m so glad I did.

    By the time he was 5 he didn’t need to nurse to calm himself at times and so we only fed at home. My daughter is 5 now and she hasn’t wanted to nurse away from home for ages.

    Guess those days are gone…

  16. Very sweetly written! I had to stop nursing my daughter after only 5 months (after going back to work and then a medical problem that had me in and out of the hospital I just couldn’t produce anymore ). It was heartbreaking for me and I promised myself things would be different for my son who is now 2 months. I find that I don’t care at all what strangers think. Sadly, I’m much more self-concious in front of family, especially my in-laws.

    It seems like nursing a child at all (let alone in public) is strange to a lot of people these days. In our parents’ generation, so many women bottle-fed their babies from a young age that people just aren’t used to seeing babies nurse. And my generation finds nursing totally foreign because most of us did not grow up seeing our moms, aunts, etc. nursing their children. I only hope this is not the case for my children. I hope that growing up with family and friends that embrace nursing means that my children won’t have a second thought about seeing women nursing their children in public and if my daughter has children, it won’t even occur to her to be embarrassed about nursing them too.

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