I feel grateful to still have breastfeeding as a comfort tool during this time. I know it soothes Lo's physical pain to have my good warm milk washing over his sore gums, and it calms both of us emotionally to have hugs and snuggling while breastfeeding. The first set of teeth on a person is sometimes referred to as the "milkteeth," with it being the natural biological time for continued breastfeeding.
I am just about done reading a book on nursing toddlers, and it has helped me feel validated during this phase when I sometimes have a feeling of being "weird" or "different" from everybody else because of breastfeeding a toddler. It isn't normal in our country to exclusively breastfeed even the recommended 6 months, let alone keep nursing past the time a kid starts walking and talking.
Here are some of the interesting points I've come across in my reading on nursing toddlers:
- large mammals typically nurse until the young have nearly quadrupled their birth weight (Lo is still a few pounds away from that marker).
- primates typically wean when their young achieve about 1/3 the adult weight, with males nursing a little longer than females (since males will have a larger adult weight).
- many mammals nurse about as long as their gestation lasts, which would put humans at around 10 months expected nursing on that scale--except that large primates typically nurse more than six times the length of gestation.
- eruption of first permanent molars is also predictive of weaning in some mammals. Humans get their first permanent teeth around age 5.
- in cultures that are generally supportive of breastfeeding, nursing into toddlerhood is typical.
But I don't live in a culture that supports breastfeeding. Thus, unsurprisingly, breastfeeding is not the norm. We have 10 kids in nursery at church, and seven of them weaned by age six months or earlier. Actually, there is one of the children I'm unsure of in that number. Of the remaining three children who breastfed beyond their first year of life, one was weaned (mother-directed) before she turned two, and the other one has a younger sibling now so I assume he no longer breastfeeds though I haven't asked his mom. Anyway, it appears Lo is the only one in nursery who still breastfeeds. I don't document these details to make anyone feel guilty who weans earlier than the recommended time frames, but rather to point out that while Lo and I are socially outside the curve, we follow Nature's norm. And that is a comforting thought when breastfeeding gets challenging.