"Well done, you're still breastfeeding!" some moms occasionally tell me here in Rome. "Are you kidding?" I answer. "Don't praise me, I do it because it's convenient."
Kiersten, who just opened a shop for nursing moms in the Italian capital calls it "Lazy Parenting." And she's not far off.
I remember when a midwife asked a group of about 10 mothers taking part in a post-natal course (probably even more useful than the ante-natal one I attended) for how long we intended to nurse our babies. Some answered decisively "six months," others "Until he bites me," and another said "21 months, because that's how long my sister did in Brazil."
Then it was my turn. I had no clue!
I hadn't even thought about it, and I definitely didn't think I would be giving my daughter my own milk beyond six months (that was when I had reassured my boss that I would return to the newsroom). But I wanted to give a provocative answer. So I boldy announced "One year!" The other women looked at me askance. The midwife reassured me that as far as the baby's nutritional needs were concerned, that would be absolutely fine.
As far as I was concerned, it was out of the question.
Then, as the months went by, I realized nursing was hugely convenient. It was my saving my tail. There was no way I was going to give it up easily...
- at the beach, when it was feeding time there was my baby's meal right under my bikini.
- in the mountains, when my daughter was tired of playing with the snow, I could nap her while nursing in the sling.
- on planes, during take off and landing, my breast stopped her from ever getting earaches.
- at restaurants, while I ate my dinner, I could nurse her discretely with her hood pulled up in the sling.
- at night, when she would wake up, she would nurse and go straight back to sleep.
- at the supermarket, when she would get antsy, I would nurse her in the sling and continue buying groceries.
Now that my daughter is more than two years old, I still nurse her to sleep (no, I'm no masochist. When she sucks, she doesn't bite!).
It's the quick and easy: dinner, bath, story, breast, sleep. If we are behind (Swiss) schedule, I skip the story and go straight to the breast. It works instantly.
The price I have to pay? She still wakes up at night to nurse briefly. I know, I know: she associates my nipple with sleepytime (Big Mistake in the eyes of many experts). It means that if I am not there, putting her to sleep in other ways is far more time-consuming.
But I don't mind having to get up at night. And I'm not saying it to try to be a hero. It's simply that I have found a system that works for me (especially since we don't want to use the "cry it out" method). Instead of a baby bed in her room, we've put down a double futon. So when I hear her cry, I get up, go to her room, lie down next to her and once she's fallen back asleep I get up and get back into our bed.
If it's been a particularly tiring day, I fall asleep next to her -- snuggled up together. As for daddy, all I can say is that he can count the number of nights his sleep has been interrupted on one hand.
It's not the perfect system. It's anything but ideal. It's simply the most comfortable system at the moment and it won't be forever. Plus, since Dr. William Sears reassures mothers that extended breastfeeding creates greater security and long-term independence in children (as well as boosting IQ -- theirs, not ours!) I'm not worried.
How much longer will I nurse my child? Until I no longer find it convenient.
I'm pragmatic. Far from perfect.