Not everyone knows this about me: I'm still nursing my boy. He turned three over the summer. I'm not embarrassed by this fact. In fact, I take a page from my son's book and don't really see it as a big deal. It's just something that we both still enjoy. We snuggle. It calms him when he's upset. (What mother doesn't want that?) It still provides him with health benefits such as added immunity.
I'm not always super giving with this information, however. I don't bring it up often. When it does come up, though, I am very matter-of-fact. I don't make excuses or apologize. I wish other mothers who nurse older children would be open and vocal about it. I wish there were more books written about it other than the well-known and widely-read Mothering Your Nursing Toddler and Adventures in Tandem Nursing.
Luckily there is another book in the works. The book is To Three and Beyond: Stories of Breastfeeding Children and the Mothers Who Love Them. The editor, Janell Robisch, is in the process of collecting and curating stories and images to be included in this book, due out in the summer of 2014 from Praeclarus Press.
If you have a story to tell, this is a great way to share and support other mothers who may feel alone in their decision to nurse well past infancy.
Janell was kind enough to answer some questions about this exciting project.
Can you briefly give us your own nursing history?
I have three children. I always planned to breastfeed because I knew it was best for baby. With my first, I admit it was just a little information from my birth preparation classes and hard-headed determination that got me through cracked and bleeding nipples until my son and I got it right. When he was 10 months old, I found La Leche League. It was the first time I witnessed a mother nursing a newborn and a toddler at the same time. When my son was 2, I became a La Leche League Leader myself and started supporting other mothers on their journey. Most of all, I had come to believe that mother and child should nurse as long as they both desire it and are comfortable with it.
My son weaned when he was 5 years and 3 months old after a period of months of discussion and a bit of nudging. My biggest impetus was fertility issues. I felt that his nursing might be the reason I was having trouble conceiving again, and I also knew that he was at the point where weaning wouldn't be traumatic for him. I got pregnant right around the time he turned 5 but miscarried at 9 weeks. I still don't know if his nursing really had any impact on my fertility (I had issues before he was born), but I did get pregnant again shortly after he weaned.
After that, nursing was just pretty normal and run-of-the-mill for me. My experience with my son and with helping mothers through La Leche League gave me the confidence to get through oversupply issues and never feel weird about sleeping with my babies or constantly carrying or wearing them.
My second child, a daughter, was my "easy" one, and she was followed by our surprise baby, another girl, just 21 months later. I tandem nursed the two of them until my first daughter weaned before her 5th birthday. She probably would have weaned later at her own behest, but I was a bit "touched out" by then, and I felt she was ready.
My youngest weaned "early" and completely on her own at 3 1/2. She liked milk fine but was never attached to it to the extent that her older siblings had been and was not dependent on it for sleep. I think that was mostly just her own personality, but also I think she just got relaxed vibes from me about nursing and also liked (and still likes) to do whatever her big sister was doing.
How was the idea for this book born?
The idea was actually born when my son was 4 and still nursing. The whole nursing in public felt really threatening to me, especially because we were living in a small, conservative town, where we had moved when my son was 3. I did nurse him when I needed to, but I was very uncomfortable and self-conscious, afraid someone would freak out and call social services or something. I hated being torn between what was best for him and that intense fear. I felt like Mothering Your Nursing Toddler didn't go beyond 2 years old to cover those issues. Even La Leche League seemed to find it hard to give enough support to those nursing older children because they were focused on infants and on not scaring mothers away by making them think that all the women at La Leche League nursed their kids until college. I started work on the book, but life kind of got in the way. Now, 8 years and two children later, the idea kind of got a reboot in my head, and now, it's full steam ahead.
Who do you hope will read this book?
I hope it will be like a La Leche League meeting in a book for those nursing older children. I hope that mothers nursing older children, mothers nursing infants and toddlers, and those who support them or who are just curious will read it. Learning about the experiences of other individuals and how they came to the places that they are can change everything.
Where are you in the process of editing this book?
I am currently in the late stages of collecting the actual stories and artwork/photographs. Concurrently, I am sending out acceptance letters and requests for revisions. I will soon be starting the editing process for the stories I have accepted, which will include fixing basic grammar and punctuation and improving the flow of the stories and then weaving them together in a good order. Each mother will get a chance to read her story one more time before the book goes off to the publisher early next year. I guess I know what I'll be doing over the holiday season!
What stories would you still like to add to your book?
My latest blog post details some of the things that I'm still lacking, but mostly I need stories focusing on challenges to long-term nursing, support that mothers received, special situations (like nursing a child with autism), and weaning. I would ideally love some stories by those who are grown and who nursed as an older child, but I've yet to receive any of those, because those individuals are harder to single out as a group and thus ask! I'm also collecting breastfeeding photographs and artwork as well as humorous anecdotes and names that mothers and children use(d) for milk.
How should mothers who may want to contribute go about doing so?
First, they should visit my blog at http://tothreeandbeyond.blogspot.com, which has a Call for Stories page that details how to contribute and also several helpful posts on writing your story and some more of my history. Questions and stories can be directed to me through email at
Any last thoughts or information you'd like to add?
First, I want mothers to know that they can submit more than one story!
Also, I am really glad to have the opportunity to work on this book, but I really need more stories for it to be as helpful as possible. When mothers are writing their stories, they should think about what part of their experiences they wish someone had shared with them, and that will give them a big idea of what would work best for this book. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to share!
The deadline for story submission is drawing near! Please submit stories by October 15, 2013. Keep your eyes out for the book next summer!
Olivia Hinebaugh is a stay-at-home-mom to a three-year-old boy and baby girl. She is an aspiring novelist and steals time whenever both kids are sleeping to clack away at the keys. She tweets about mothering and writing @OliveJuiceLots
She can also be found on Facebook.
First, last and bio photographs taken by Lauren Preti