My first baby, who could have napped and nursed however he liked, quit nursing during the day at just over ten months and started trying to transition to one nap before his first birthday.
My second baby, at fourteen-and-a-half months, needs to nap twice a day. She still loves to nurse, not only before she naps, but throughout the day. She pats my chest or, if it’s more urgent, she lifts up my shirt or sticks her hand down the neckline. She nurses for anywhere from five seconds to fifteen minutes. If I’m sitting on the floor or in a chair she will often stand up on my thigh, making an inverted ‘v’ with her body, and wiggle her bum in the air. She uses her inside hand to grab my bra or shirt or stroke my free breast. Sometimes she reaches up with that arm and waves it around in the air. I call that “yoga nursing” because she looks like she’s doing the triangle pose.
She asks to nurse when I’m cooking dinner, and I hold her with one hand and stir with the other, with her wispy hair and her still-tiny ears curled in over my chest.
She asks to nurse on transit, in museums, while walking down the street, and, as much as I can, I say yes. I have mastered the art of nursing with her in the Ergo, something I never managed when she was younger. I have become an unintentional advocate for normalizing breastfeeding and know that my country supports my right to feed my baby wherever, whenever I choose. I have become almost immune to accidentally flashing strangers when she unexpectedly decides she’s had enough. The milky smiles make the potential embarrassment worthwhile.
She asks to nurse at night, and I still say yes, although if she wakes up too early in the night I send in Q. who tells her gently that it’s “sleepy time now. No milk. No milk. It’s sleepy time.” When she wakes to nurse closer to the dawn I sit in the rocking chair and hold her close and breathe her in. In those moments she is still, calm, content. I am still allowed to cuddle her, to smooth her one tiny curl and kiss her head
My nursing relationship with my son ended badly, much earlier than I had hoped it would.
And so, to my daughter, I say yes, as much as I can. Yes, I will hold you. Yes, I will cuddle you. Yes, you can nurse now.
She is my last baby, and I am in no hurry to wean.
She is my last baby, and my maternity leave is almost over.
She is my last baby, and so she does not get to have what she wants. She will have to nap only once, so her brother can be picked up from school. She will have to nurse less, because I will not be there.
She will adapt.
She will be fine.
I will be fine, too.
Going back to work is the right decision, on many levels.
But right now it doesn’t feel that way.