The breastfeeding culture is pretty strong on the internet. So is the backlash community, to be fair, but I also feel that if you can get yourself connected with the right people, there are so many women out there who are willing to support moms through their breastfeeding journeys.

But so many of the questions and blog posts that I read online are about nursing newborns, or nursing infants to that holy grail of a date–their first birthday. Even though the WHO advocates for nursing babies for two years, my general sense has been that nursing a child to their first birthday is a milestone more women are reaching for. Just today, I read about two different local moms who reached out to a facebook group because their babies were 9 months old and they were heartbroken because “they just didn’t think they could make it to one” because of various bf’ing issues. And while it IS important to nurse a baby until one, it is also important to keep going (so long as mom and baby are both willing).

But very few people talk about breastfeeding a toddler.

In my own experience, I’ve found that people were overwhelmingly supportive when I decided to nurse my newborn daughter in 2013, and were delighted when we had a successful breastfeeding relationship throughout her first year. But as we stepped towards and passed her first birthday, the support sometimes turned into sideways glances, and the joy turned into thoughts of “well, to each her own…”

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience breastfeeding. I have never been told to cover up in public. I have never been shamed out of a room while feeding my child. I was once followed by a manager at Walmart as I was walking around, nursing my newly-two-year-old, but even he was too chicken to say something to me. But it’s this last experience that, to me, has been more indicative of society’s feelings towards nursing a walking, talking, eating child.

I’ve had friends who have told me–while I was breastfeeding my daughter in my own home–“She’s really going to town there….it’s kind of grossing me out.”

I’ve had family members who don’t look at me or talk to me while I’m nursing, like I’m not in the room.

I’ve also had family members who try to keep me in the conversation, but fail to realize how my voice and attention distract my nursing toddler, and in turn make it even more difficult to get the job over and done with.

I’ve had family members who are upset because I don’t nurse around them.

I’ve had friends who are upset because I DO nurse around them.

But through all of this, I kept nursing Norah.

For two years and three months, nursing was her primary source of comfort. It healed her when she was hurt, consoled her when she was sad, and mesmerized her when she was sleepy. For two years and three months, I nursed her to sleep nearly every night. For two years and three months, I nursed her several times throughout the night.

For two years and three months, she had her nannies (nah-nies). I was completely hers. And I loved it. I loved having the power to magically soothe her, and I loved the bond that it created between us. She is a mama’s girl through and through, and I loved that she still needed me first even though I worked every day. Deep down, I was even scared that, without nannies, I had nothing. How would I comfort her if I couldn’t nurse her?

I was ready to nurse her until she self-weaned. I hadn’t really considered how long that might be–perhaps until I got pregnant again and my milk dried up, or perhaps when she was 3 (or 4, or…5). I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t still be nursing a daughter going off to college, but you never know.

I would do it all (minus the college part) for her.

But over the past two months, nursing has been much harder than I had ever experienced.

I did get pregnant again in February 2015, and even now at 18 weeks I don’t think my milk has dried up any more than it had already regulated to the level of a nursing toddler (I stopped pumping when Norah was 22 months old, so I have no idea how much I really produce now). And Norah kept nursing as always.

Then around 12 weeks, I got a serious case of nursing aversion. I had experienced this before, usually when Norah’s going through a growth spurt or teething and nursing at the frequency she requested was less than desirable. It always evened out, though, so I held fast this time. I gritted my teeth, I tried everything I could to distract myself, and I tried to wait it out.

But it never subsided. It never got easier to nurse her, it never got “enjoyable” again, and it became more painful than ever. I haven’t cracked or bled or anything, but the pain was like nursing a newborn again. Every suck made my skin crawl, and I dreaded every time she’d come up to me and ask, “Nannie?”

I know the pregnancy hormones are to blame, but it made me so frustrated. I was upset with Norah for wanting to do what she had always done (nurse). I was angry at her for causing me so much pain during her 4 feedings per day, 3 of which were at night. Then I was angry at myself, for feeling this way about my beautiful daughter, who was doing nothing wrong. And I didn’t handle these feelings well. Of course my coping mechanisms weren’t working, they weren’t taking away the pain or the guilt. So I started down the slippery slope of wondering what else I could do to mask these feelings.

The rational side of me was getting very worried. Combined with the normal fears of pregnancy weight gaining, this former mess of a person was terrified of where it would land me. But my rational side was also starting to get seriously afraid that I would never shake this feeling, that I would be living with this sensitivity and this anger during nursing sessions into my time with my newborn. And I knew that I could never nurse another baby to two (or beyond) when I was feeling like this.

So I made the heartbreaking decision to wean Norah from nursing.

It goes against everything I believe in as Norah’s mom. My entire parenting being is focused around letting her do things at her pace, letting her explore her world on her terms, and supporting her (with reasonable boundaries, of course) where she is at. To take away something before she was ready–and to deny her main source of comfort, no less–was heartbreaking. It’s why I lived in pain and frustration for nearly two months.

I don’t think anyone in my life, including my husband, realized how difficult this was and is for me. I feel a tremendous amount of guilt for taking away Norah’s nannies, and for telling her “no” when she cries instead of giving love.

Because what nobody sees–because I don’t let them–is that I’m crying in sadness, too.

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