After that last round of comments, consider me reassured on the subject of extended breastfeeding. I now feel like a young grasshopper compared to some of you. Seventeen months- while perhaps not "nothing"- is not even all that extended, really. I suppose it's another case of mothers feeling like they can never do the right thing. If you don't breastfeed for whatever reason, you feel guilty and judged, and if you do breastfeed, you feel furtive and odd if you don't flick the "off" switch on your boobs by the child's first birthday.
I often get the sense of disjointedness in living in a culture which pays a lot of lip service to the benefits and promotion of breastfeeding, but where relatively few women actually seem to do it. Or if they do, they seem to stop relatively soon. No doubt a lot of it depends on your personal circumstances and surroundings but I sure seem to be the odd one out. When I was still in the hospital with Botany, I shared a room with three other women in the maternity ward, and I was the only one breastfeeding. All the other babies lay in their cots, sleeping contentedly having slurped down bottles of formula, while Botany wailed through the night like a pinched monkey. I was then the only woman in my postnatal group (of about fifteen mothers) still nursing after six months, never mind seventeen months. And if I mention it to certain people, I do quite often get that slightly raised eyebrow accompanied by a comment along the lines of "Oh, really? Still nursing? When do you plan to stop? ", as if I had already missed some important deadline.
So while the experience of breastfeeding has (for the most part) fortunately been a breeze, there has been that vague sense of isolation at times. It is therefore particularly nice to know I'm not the only one with a dedicated boob monster on my hands.
Having mulled over the formulation of a plan to get Botany to stop, I suddenly realised I'd rather not be so driven by my underlying fear that if we don't stop soon we'll never be able to. That and the sense that there is some hidden clock ticking, counting down to a point my child becomes scarred for life by my inability as a parent to get a grip and make her grow up.
You see, I often worry that in my attempts to keep all the plates spinning, I may end up being too permissive with Botany. That sometimes I do things so as to avoid additional hassle and stress, only to find I've created problems for myself. The nap thing is a good example. I avoided putting her down on her own for months and months because I just couldn't stand what I predicted would be hours of screaming and protest. I loved napping with her, so what was the big deal? Well, after a couple of weeks of napping in her cot, she woke up after a very short time. I wanted her to sleep longer, so I resorted to the tried and true method of curling up in my bed with her. Mmmm; cosy baby with warm feet pressed against my tummy, mmmm nappity nap the afternoon away. Except ever since then she has taken to waking up early at nap time and wanting to nap with mummy. It's hard to resist- she is a snuggly item and it's very endearing the way she takes me by the hand and leads me to my room before trying to clamber up onto the mattress. What to do? If we go back to that old way, then it looks like naps on her own become a battle again, which I do not relish. But having had a taste of a break during the day, I am not keen to forego that free time either.
Anyway. What I decided was that at this stage, nursing is working for Botany, it works me for me on a lot of levels. The reasons for forcing her to give it up are nowhere near as compelling as the joy and other benefits of carrying on. I do think it very likely that we may come to the point of my wanting to be done before she is. But whenever we get there, we'll muddle through it, much as we have with all those other little developmental milestones; solids, taking the first steps, sleeping through the night. (Wait. Sleeping through the night?)
Ultimately, I want Botany as much as possible to take away from her childhood a sense of comfort and security. I remember as a child being very attached to certain objects and having these things taken away or lost, because I was a big girl now, because it was silly to carry around that [teddy/blankie/pacifer], because it blew out of the car window by accident and there was no way to drive back. And I can still recall that small, crumpled forlorn feeling when the thing I loved was gone forever. That feeling may be an inevitable part of life, something to be faced up to, and it will no doubt be something Botany will experience no matter what I do. In the meantime, I want her to have as much comfort as I can give. For her to know that I will always be here for her- even if the boobs are not on offer.