I wear a gold horn pendant around my neck. Next to it dangles a small diamond teardrop that my mom made for me out of her engagement ring. When I’m just holding her, Eryn gnaws on the horn and twiddles the teardrop — and when I’m nursing her, she holds onto both tightly. At night when she wakes from a bad dream or from teething pain, I collect her into my arms, and her hand instinctively looks for the necklace. Even when it’s hidden by my hijab or underneath a sweater, she fingers the pendants through my clothes.
I never thought that I’d be nursing my baby at 15 months, and that I didn’t see an end in sight, nor want one. We both have a pretty healthy nursing relationship. Eryn nurses to sleep and has the occasional snack when she’s in a funk and needs to regroup or calm down. She asks for nursing only if she’s really tired or cranky — otherwise we have a good handle on when she likes to nurse and I am able to anticipate these times. Naturally when I miss out on her cues, I end up with Ms-whiny-pants or she grabs my attention by biting my clothes.
When I was pregnant and looking forward to nursing, the 6-month mark was my initial target, and then a year, but the 2-year mark always floated somewhere in the back of my head. The recommendation to breastfeed a baby to two years or beyond is not only encouraged by the WHO, but is also mentioned in the Qur’an (2:233) as the standard length of time to nurse offspring. And once breastfeeding was well established with Eryn, I was very happy with the idea of nursing her to two years (and beyond?).
I recently came across two lovely prophetic traditions mentioning breastfeeding that have made me reflect more on the beauty of extended breastfeeding. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.*
Straight from the mouth of babes:
Once while a woman was nursing her child by the side of the road, a stately rider passed by and she exclaimed, ‘God, please let my child become like this rider!’ The child stopped suckling and said, ‘God, please don’t make me like him.’ The child then resumed nursing.
After some time a woman passed by who was being heckled and teased by a group of people. The mother exclaimed, ‘God, please don’t let my child become like this woman!’ Again, the child stopped his suckling and said, ‘God, please make me be like her.’
Then the child explained, ‘The rider is an unbeliever and proud, but the woman is an innocent, falsely accused. Even in her suffering she says, ‘God is enough for me because God knows the truth.’
And on a mother’s unconditional love:
Some war prisoners were brought toward the Prophet, and among them was a woman distraught over her lost child. As she frantically searched for her child in the group of people, every time she found a child, she would take it to her breast. She continued her search until finally her child was found and immediately she took her child to her breast and gave it milk.
The Prophet said to his people, ‘Do you think this woman is capable of throwing her child into the Fire?’ The people answered, ‘No, by God she would be unable to do such a thing.’
The Prophet responded, ‘God has more love for believers than this woman has for her child.’
*These parables are retold in my words. You can find the originals in Bukhari V4, 56:672; and V8, 73:28.