As I type this I have the urge to write "within reason," but I have to consciously remind myself that I do believe in child-led weaning for my family, and I do LOVE nursing, not to mention the fact that the longer I nurse, the more I lower my risk of ever getting breast cancer (what a perk!). I also highly doubt my daughter will be nursing past 4 years old, knowing how independent she is. I guess if she is still wanting to nurse at that point I will have to step outside of my comfort zone with her, like I do so often in my life now anyway just being a mom and figuring out how to balance both a public and a private life. P.S. In case you didn't know, my husband is a rabbi, so I often feel like I have a very public life and live in a "fish bowl" - as my dad put it when he sat me down to talk about the realities of being a rabbi's wife that I should consider before marrying Jordan!
I think Daliya and I are at a point now where more people are starting to look at us when we nurse in public - either that, or I'm just noticing it more often. I also notice that less people are choosing to be vocal about it. When Daliya was younger and smaller and less mobile I got complaints from people ranging from, (and I'm paraphrasing) "It is distracting to have you nursing in the same room as me and I can't focus on the things I'd like to be focusing on," to, and again I paraphrase: "Don't listen to this breastfeeding nazi," as I was overheard offering my phone number to a new dad who told me that his wife was having a hard time breastfeeding their newborn and might end up wanting to call me for some support.
My conclusion from reflecting on my public experiences and conversations with acquaintances is that it isn't necessarily discomfort with nursing a toddler that is the problem in our society. It is the discomfort with nursing in general, and the need to express that discomfort in inappropriate and disrespectful ways that is the real problem.
I have to wonder where the discomfort really comes from. Is this man someone who has just never been exposed to women and babies nursing in front of him and he is just embarrassed about being curious about it? Or is this woman someone who wanted to breastfeed her baby, but faced a lot of challenges and lacked a support system to fix things, so she became sensitive about the subject? I don't really know what's really behind the discomfort and the comments, but I can only assume that if these people had any clue what extended breastfeeding is really like, they wouldn't be so quick to judge.
I'm not going to pretend that challenges don't still come our way regularly. For example, every time Daliya gets a new tooth she has to re-learn for a few days how to get that perfect latch back. It must feel like she has a foreign object in her mouth that she has to work around! It is also challenging to satisfy her needs when my hormones ebb and flow throughout each month and thus my milk supply also ebbs and flows (so so much more than before she was about a year old). But if these people only knew what it felt like to have your little girl look up at you right after latching on with such loving and grateful eyes when she is having a hard day and just wants to nurse, or the feeling of knowing that your toddler who is sick with pneumonia is not going to get dehydrated because she is still nursing regardless of how sick she is, or even how wonderful and focused the giggles are when you play and snuggle during a nursing session.
This morning, Daliya finished her breakfast and signed to me that she wanted to nurse. I brought her to my lap and got ready to nurse, and as she leaned back into position she paused, looked up into my eyes, and said what sounded like a pretty clear "I love you" before latching on. It doesn't get any better than that. I'm so glad neither of us chose to stop nursing before this day - before she could express herself to me this way. I am so grateful.