The joys and benefits of breastfeeding, yes, even a toddler, yes even a 3 year old

Breastfeeding!  You know, it’s amazing.  I used to think it was gross, that it wasn’t natural, that only “sick” people did it for an extended period of time!  How could something so natural have so many judgements about it, so many incorrect perceptions and notions?!  How did this happen in our culture, where in every other continent in the world, it is so natural, it is so universal, it is so supported, encouraged and taught?

I think that North America has been so lost for the past while, so stuck in expectations, perceptions, being better, having more, and we’ve all lost touch with ourselves, with what we can do, with what our bodies can innately do, with what our hearts truly want, all of it.

Since Zara was born, our now three year old daughter, I knew I wanted to breastfeed.  My dear, dear friend Natalie was such a role model for me in so many ways.  She taught me about breastfeeding, she introduced me to La Leche League (, she taught me about cloth diapers, reading parenting books, and parenting from a place of love and respect.  I hold her in such high regard!  And she is hilariously funny and is such a wise, deep soul.  She goes for life, she challenges herself all the time, she taught herself how to sew, cook, and now she’s learning to be a midwife.  All in all, she’s impressive and inspiring.

Back to the story.  I knew I wanted to breastfeed.  As time went on, I saw how helpful it was for Zara, how it calmed her, helped her get back to sleep, how it made her feel better when she was teething, awake in the night, or when her body didn’t feel right for whatever reason.  As she grew, I saw it’s integral role in bringing her comfort, nutrition and helping to ease her transitions through her early years (crawling, eating, walking, talking, etc).  I read some super helpful books about breastfeeding an older child, How Weaning Happens and Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, and both of those helped me to see that you couldn’t force a child to breastfeed, that weaning happens in its own time, how mothers naturally start to help their children wean as they get older and how weaning naturally instead of when it is the mother’s choice to do so, can be quite helpful and less traumatic for the child.  All of it lit up my heart and made me see how helpful it was, that I wasn’t forcing Zara to do it, that I could support her in her growing years through breastfeeding and that I would naturally help her to wean.

As I started to heal, I saw how I was holding onto breastfeeding because it made me feel needed, how it gave me importance, how it helped me fulfill the huge fears I had inside about being abandoned and lonely.  Jean (the healer/coach/guide our family sees) helped me to see this when I was at her house one time and my right breast started throbbing.  I told her about it and she encouraged me to go to the pain, to see what it was about.  All this terror and fear about being alone, being abandoned, about being unimportant and useless came up for me.  It was very upsetting and disturbing.  I was so glad to feel it, to release it so it wouldn’t be unconsciously be influencing Zara, preventing her from growing up in her own time.

It was quite a journey for me in the next weeks after that healing because there were more releases at home as Zara was taking longer breaks between nursing and it brought up more of the fear and pain within me.  There was one night when I felt it acutely and I cried and cried and cried and unfortunately, because it had been so deep and so present (despite my lack of awareness), Zara felt the pain too from within her, and we both sobbed and sobbed.  Robbin came upstairs and he was like, “Bradlee, are you sure this is okay, what is going on, are you sure you’re not just stuck in the emotions, that they aren’t taking over?”  I told him we were both releasing it, somehow I knew it, I knew it would be over soon.  I felt so horrible, so guilty that all of that was unconsciously in me, that Zara was feeling it, that it had been in me and therefore in her heart too because we’re all so connected, so we both cried, I think it was like 45 minutes.  I just held her and told her it was all leaving and that it would be over.  Then I was holding her and this bright blue flash went across my eyes and then the bright blue light turned into a bird and it flew away.  At that point, we both stopped crying and we went to sleep.  It was very profound.  I knew we had been supported by God, by the universe and that it had been essential for me to allow that release to happen, no matter how hard it was, and that Zara and I would both be so much more free because of it.

So here we are, about 8 months after that time, and she is still breastfeeding.  I’ve doubted myself over these past few months, wondering what I was doing to  make her hold onto nursing, especially since I had been gone over night once and she had made it through the night without nursing (she still wakes at night and I help her get back to sleep with nursing), and since I had taken a Groove Method facilitator course and had been gone from 8-5pm two days and she had been without milk from me.  But at the same time, I’ve giving myself tons of credit.  I’ve released so much from the abandonment fears, I’ve released so much to allow all three of us to be ourselves, and that, like all nursing toddlers and children, Zara will eventually decide that she doesn’t need milk anymore.  Will it be tomorrow, no.  Will it be in a few months, who knows?

Now, I’m just focusing on what I know.  All I really know is that I love her sooooo much, and that it is an honor to be able to hold her in my arms, to comfort her, tickle her and bring her peace and joy as she gets used to being in our world, which can be pretty damn crazy sometimes.  That’s my sacred responsibility as her parent, to love her, guide her, teach her and comfort her, so that her transition into the world can be filled with love, instead of hatred, fear, loneliness and confusion.  And if my breasts can help with that transition, so be it, they’ll be doing more than looking nice under my shirt:)


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