Images and text by Molly Stepansky.
My name is Molly. I am a stay at home mom to three wonderful kids. E will be 6 this summer, N just turned 3 and little L is 7 months old. People who know me know that I am passionate about most everything I do. In a former life I was a passionate high school teacher, a (not so passionate) chemist, a passionate sailing instructor, a (just to make ends meet) waitress and a (first job passionate) child care worker. Most people know that I breastfeed my kids, and some know that I have breastfed beyond infancy, but only a few know that I have been breastfeeding almost continuously since July 14th 2008. I had a short break, about 3 months, between the time my son weaned and my third child was born. I don’t call attention to myself when it comes to nursing my kids; I am just being their mother. I am giving my kids what they need to survive, develop confidence and providing them the best start in life that I possibly can. My goal isn’t to advertise or self-promote, I’m just keeping it real. I hope that by reading this, you’ll join me in my attempt to quietly normalize breastfeeding beyond infancy. Here’s my breastfeeding story:
My first job was at a day care center. I was an assistant teacher in a classroom of 12-18 month olds. Most of them had been in the day care facility since they were 6 weeks old. Most were formula fed but a few moms pumped and brought breastmilk in for us to feed their babies. There was one mom who was “one of those” who sent her child to daycare with cloth diapers, breastmilk, avocados and mangoes for snacks and dressed him in wool pants made from old sweaters. Most of the day care teachers were quite annoyed by this mom because we had to make special arrangements for her son. Honestly, now that I think back, the only out of the ordinary thing we did for him was to put his diapers in a bag to take home rather than in the trash like all of the others. One afternoon, when his mom came in to pick him up, she sat down on a bench near the window, and nursed him before they left for home. I remember hearing from the other teachers that this kid is WAY too old to nurse! (he was probably 15 months old). So naturally, being 17 years old myself, I adopted their way of thinking and thought that it was odd and unnatural for a mother to breastfeed her child past infancy.
Fast forward 20 years, I am now that mother. I have even made my kids wool pants out of old sweaters myself! When I was pregnant with my first, I knew that breastfeeding was important and I planned to nurse until I thought it was time to stop. I never imagined that her time to wean would be at 4 years old. My daughter E nursed until she was 4 years old, 18 months of that time she tandem nursed with her younger brother, who weaned by himself at 2 years old while I was about 7 months pregnant with my third child. For me, breastfeeding creates an indelible bond between mother and child. It is so completely natural and became a huge part of my life with my children.
Breastfeeding is a relationship. It changes over time. A newborn nurses constantly, around the clock, day in and day out. It changes when they learn new tricks like pulling your hair or playing with your necklace. It changes when they learn to crawl and walk and talk. It changes when they start preschool. For me, nursing my firstborn was just a natural part of our daily routine. By her second birthday, she nursed a few times a day and shortly after that her brother was born. Breasts are pretty smart…my milk supply dropped when I was pregnant and then changed to colostrum after my son was born. I again had a newborn to feed. I had the typical new baby engorgement and let me say that the BEST cure for engorgement is a nursing toddler! I didn’t expect her to continue nursing for very long after that. To my surprise 18 months went by and both were still nursing! For my daughter it was only once a day, but she still found comfort in breastfeeding. We talked about weaning a lot. I went to a Le Leche League meeting and asked the other mom’s what the best way/time to wean a child was. The answer was when it’s no longer mutually desirable. So, I didn’t find any reason to stop and neither did she. As she approached her 4th birthday, SHE decided that she would stop nursing on her birthday. We took her to Chuck-E-Cheese, get her a Tom and Jerry Cake and sang “Happy Birthday”. And that was that. She didn’t nurse again. It was an easy transition, and a perfect way for her to wean.
My son, who decided that stopping to nurse meant that he couldn’t push his monster trucks around stopped on his own a few months after his second birthday. I’d ask if he wanted to nurse, and he’d say “no thank you”. And that was that.
I never thought that I’d be this passionate about breastfeeding. Like I said before, I don’t like to advertise, or be pushy. I haven’t been to a nurse-in or preached about my right to breastfeed in public. I’ve nursed in just about every place imaginable; on the top floor of the tallest building in Chicago, in the ocean, on trains, airplanes, boats and a million other places. I’ve never been questioned or confronted. I’m just being me and a mother to my children.
My little precious baby is 7 months old now. We’ll see if she decides to nurse for as long as her big sister and brother. I hope she does.