Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why "To Three and Beyond"?

First, I want to say that I bear no ill will toward anyone whose child weaned (child-led or mother-led) before age 3. I believe every nursing relationship is unique and beautiful, and each ends in its own time.

However, to understand the scope of my book, here is a little of my own experience. When my first child was nursing, I quickly became a dedicated breastfeeding advocate. There are few things in life I believe in as strongly as I do in the beauty and benefits of the gift of breastfeeding. I became a La Leche League Leader when my son was 2 and decided to let him nurse until he no longer needed to continue.

When he was 3 1/2 and still going strong, we moved out of the suburbs of a big city to a small, rural town. As he continued to nurse, it was hard to come out of the closet. I felt the pressures of the town's conservative values pressing in on me, and I was a bit afraid to nurse in public, although I still did when my son really needed it. I hate to admit that sometimes he had to really get upset to let me know that. He is also on the autism spectrum. Although I didn't know it at the time, I did know that he still needed to nurse and that there was nothing wrong with it at all. I also knew that more people needed to know that.

In my search, I found a glaring lack of support or only smidgens of tangential support. Although I knew many women through La Leche League that practiced extended/full-term breastfeeding, it often seemed closeted. Leaders were cautioned to be careful about the topic so as not to scare new mothers away or to present the expectation that every mother must nurse their child into their teens (yes, being sarcastic here.).

There were books that touched on the topic, such as Mothering Your Nursing Toddler and Adventures in Tandem Nursing, but nothing that said, "Yes, your child is old enough for preschool (or elementary school), and it's okay to continue nursing." or "Here's how to talk to your family when they say that your child is getting to old to nurse." or "Is it okay to night wean your child and still continue nursing during the day?"

Thus, the idea of To Three and Beyond was born. When I began, I didn't know if it would be a book or an article. I gathered over 200 surveys from women with the idea of putting together a compendium on the subject.

Through life circumstances (including my son's diagnosis and the births of my two daughters), the book got put on the back burner, with me doing just a little work on it here and there. In the meantime, Ann Sinnot published Breastfeeding Older Children, which covered the same topic. We had discussed our projects with each other before and agreed that they would complement each other as they approached the topic from different angles.

When I finally began stewing on the idea of the book more seriously, I realized that what really inspired me was reading all of the mothers' stories on my surveys and not just listing the advantages, disadvantages, and strategies of full-term breastfeeding. When that realization hit me, I became mobilized. I wrote a new outline and approached Kathleen Kendall-Tackett and Praeclarus Press with the idea, and it has moved forward from there.

I am really excited about working on and completing this book. I want it to be like a support-group meeting in a book for all mothers who are considering or actually breastfeeding a child past the third birthday. It is normal and extremely beneficial. People just need to know that.

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