But all the limits only seemed to make her want it more, and I couldn’t bring myself to refuse her entirely. The way her whole body relaxed into my lap, the way she gazed up at me with those big, adoring eyes, the way she snuggled into my arms — she didn’t seem like a big kid. She still seemed like a baby. My baby

The right moment to wean just never arrived.

After her brother was born, I cut her back to two sessions a day. We talked about how big kids don’t need mama milk, and none of her friends drink it. But if I hoped that peer pressure would embarrass her into quitting, I was wrong. It made her appreciate it more. Like she was getting cake while all the other kids ate vegetables. She started telling her friends the “secret” that she got to drink mama milk. She even announced in children’s church once, as they discussed gifts that demonstrate love, that “my mama gives me mama milk because she loves me so much.” Sweet, right? She thinks it’s a gift of love. I sank deeper in my chair and contemplated switching churches while I prayed desperately that no one would figure out exactly what she meant by “mama milk.”

She wasn’t embarrassed at all. But I was.

So I cut her back more. I replaced her bedtime session with ice cream. (Because that’s healthier, right?) It’s been a month since she nursed at bedtime, but she still asks for it. I rock her instead and sing her a lullaby, promising that she’ll have mama milk in the morning.

And while I do that, I wonder why. Because ice cream is certainly not better for her than breastmilk, and rocking a 5-year-old in my arms is much harder than lying down to let her nurse. And if you can forget about the hang-ups our society has about breasts, if you can think of them as just another body part, like hair, or a hand, or a foot — then you’ll realize, as I have, that trying so hard to wean her is a little ridiculous.

If your child wanted you to tell her a story every time she got upset, would you say she was overly dependent on you? If she begged for a story before bed, would you insist that she shouldn’t need that and ought to be able to go to sleep alone? No. You’d trust that she would outgrow that ritual on her own when she was ready. And if she didn’t — if she still asked you to read a chapter to her from her favorite book when she was a teenage — you wouldn’t refuse. You’d know the time was fleeting, and that she’d outgrow it all too soon.

Does that mean I’ll let my daughter breastfeed until she’s a teenager? No way.

But I’ve let her breastfeed this long for her. And when I finally persuade her to quit, I’ll be doing that for me.

(photo: Bocman1973 / Shutterstock)