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Think you might be nursing “To Three and Beyond?” This book’s for you!

Are you nursing a toddler or preschooler, or expect that you will be?  If so you'll want to check out a new book of stories about nursing to the third birthday and beyond!

Today we're pleased to share an interview with Janell Robisch on her book, To Three and Beyond:  Stories of Breastfed Children and the Mothers Who Love Them.   Her book, a collection of stories from around the world, is an exploration of the experiences of mothers who have breastfed past the third birthday.

Why did you want to write a book about nursing to the third birthday and beyond?

 When I found myself nursing my 4-year-old and living in a rural Virginia town, I felt quite alone and out of sorts. Being a La Leche League (LLL) leader, I was familiar with a lot of breastfeeding-support resources and books, but none of them talked about what to do when your child was still nursing beyond toddlerhood or how to balance your child’s needs with societal expectations.

 Even many of the good friends that I had met through LLL had by then weaned their children one way or another, usually through pregnancy or child-led weaning. I was sure I wasn’t the only one still nursing, so I started sending out feelers to see who would like to contribute to a project on long-term nursing (extended nursing, natural-term breastfeeding, full-term nursing, child-led weaning, or whatever it was being called at the time). It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was much more common than it seemed. Mothers, many “closet nursers,” were eager to share their stories and to connect with other mothers who had chosen similar roads. It took 10 years (and many twists and turns on my own parenting road) from that first idea to the published book, but it was well worth it. I am very happy with the way that it turned out, and I hope that it can be a resource and a source of comfort for many mothers now and in the future.

 What are some of the universal themes you see in the stories in your book?  What do these moms seem to have in common?

 First and foremost, I found that the women who shared stories and with whom I connected all wanted one thing: to do what was best for their children and their families. Their decisions were well thought out and compassionate. Many mothers came to a point where they realized that what society was telling them did not take into account the individual needs of each child or each mother–child nursing pair. These mothers made the brave decision to put the needs of their children and families first, even when societal repercussions, both real and imagined, were possible. In a society where some call any kind of breastfeeding pedophilia, I found this very courageous (as for the pedophilia charge, I don’t think those who say this realize that the human race—as well as every mammal on the planet—would be extinct without breastfeeding). Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and instinctual things that we can do as mothers, and I find it sad that it’s constantly questioned and attacked as a parenting choice.

 Which is your favorite story?

 That is a hard question! I really do love each and every story in this book. That’s why I chose them. While they all share a common theme, they represent women from many cultures around the world and in many different situations. When I read the stories, I laughed, I cried, I sympathized. Reading Diana Cassar-Uhl’s tale of nursing her daughter after a difficult surgery, I held my breath when the nurse found them nursing in her hospital bed after surgery. I inwardly cheered when the nurse only confirmed mama’s instincts to care for her child. I was so happy for Kimberly, who found a way to use breast milk—after her son had weaned—to help her son with his autism-related issues. Finally, I cherished all the pictures of kids just being kids, enjoying their mama milk and smiling for the camera. They know that breast milk provides comfort, joy, and nourishment. It’s simple for them: it is the stuff of life.