What is it about me that enables our breastfeeding experience to continue so easily? I can tell you right off, its not that I love breastfeeding. It's not that simple. And to be perfectly honest, I haven't been fond of it much lately. But my desire to breastfeed and my feelings around the action of breastfeeding are different. Whether I happen to like it or not, I still do it. Why is that?
Breast Milk is a need
There are lots of needs we must attend to that we may not want to do. Chores come to mind. How many times have you thought "Oh, I can't WAIT to wash that pile of laundry. It's gonna be so awesome!" We don't love doing laundry. Perhaps some do. But those of us that don't, still do laundry. We recognize the need for clean clothes and find a way to get it done.
Breast milk is a need. No matter what age or development stage they are in, it is a need. During the course of a child's development, breast milk changes from nurturing their bodies to nurturing their soul. Well, it is more accurate to say that breast milk always nurtures their bodies but as kids grow they get nutrition from other sources. Breast milk becomes more about comfort, security, love, attention, reassurance, and less about satisfying hunger. My kids' need of breast milk constantly changes; sometimes they need more and sometimes less. But in the moment when they ask, they need it. Just like they need to drink water, eat food, be clean, play, etc. I can't deny them this need any more than I can deny them food or water.
My kids' needs are equivalent to my own
If I had the power to meet everyone's needs, we'd be in nirvana. It is unrealistic to believe that each time my kids ask to nurse, they do. It's not that way. With every need that arises, there are circumstances to consider. Sometimes I am available and will nurse them on the spot. Other times we compromise by nursing for a short while, or nursing in a few minutes, or waiting for a more convenient time. The important point is that my needs are equivalent to their needs. Each moment is evaluated as a stand alone situation. There is no trump card (for example: I always satisfy my need first before theirs or vice versa) and there's no rule set we follow to determine which need should be satisfied first. In the moment, considerations are made based on what's going on, and I have to make a decision. It doesn't always work out without tears or frustration, but everyone knows that their needs are equally important, will be considered, and I will try my hardest to satisfy them.
Only my kids can know what they need
This is the last piece of the puzzle. From birth, I have known that my kids know what they need. They may not express those needs in adult ways. Babies cry. Toddlers are physical. Older kids communicate in ways we recognize; with sentences, words, thoughts, ideas, etc. Just because they can't sit down and have a rational conversation doesn't mean they don't know what they need. Babies know when they are hungry. Toddlers know when they are overwhelmed. My role is not to run around satisfying needs that are developmentally appropriate or needs the experts say my kids have. Rather, my role is to listen to them and determine what needs they are expressing and satisfy those.
Because breast milk is a need, and everyone's needs are equally important, and my kids know best what their needs are, there is only one path. And that is to breastfeed until my kids tell me they don't need it any longer.