I think the picture on the front of the Time Magazine this week was deliberately chosen to be provocative and controversial. That being said - while I tend to shy away from being controversial for the sake of controversy - I was that woman two years ago. I'm about a year away from being that woman again. Samilicious Boy nursed until he was closer to four than three. Julianna is two and still actively nursing. And it's baffling to me that this is an issue for anyone.
I never planned on nursing past a year. Initially, my prime motivation was to avoid having to pay for formula, that stuff is expensive! But I learned that nursing is about so much more than just feeding a baby. It's about safety and nurturing and comfort and knowing that you are exactly and utterly what your child needs at that very moment. Jessie nursed until she was about eight months and then just lost interest. I expected that my son would do the same, but from the beginning, he was much more needy. He needed to be held, needed to nurse. He had colic and reflux, and nursing was what made it better. Even with 24/7 nursing on demand, he was still on daily meds for the reflux and there was a phenominal amount of crying, on both our parts. It seemed ridiculous to cut him off from what was, for him, such a source of comfort at twelve months. I made the decision to nurse as long as he needed too. Thank goodness, I had supportive friends, both of whom had babies around the same time and they were both in it for the long haul. I also had the amazing support of my husband, who was as committed to doing what was best for our children as I was.
There's also considerable medical evidence to support extended nursing. The AMA recommends nursing for a minimum of a year and then as long after as the mother/child desire. The WHO recommends nursing for at least two years. My pediatrician was very supportive as well. Because when you think about it - how many toddlers do you know who are still on a bottle? Or still using a pacifier? I know a lot, because even if they aren't nursing, there's a fundamental need to suck that comforts kids. My oldest may have self weaned before she was a year, but she was falling asleep with her "fier" until she was four and half or so.
Toddler nursing just isn't that big of a deal. More and more women I know are doing it, because it makes sense. I love that nursing is still a part of my relationship with my toddler. I love that when she was puking, I didn't worry about dehydration at all. I love that my son didn't get sick at all until after he stopped nursing. He'll be six in a few months, and has never been on an antibiotic. My baby hasn't ever been to the doctor for anything other than a well baby visit.
Extended nursing, extreme parenting, toddler nursing - it's all the same thing, and honestly, it's really not worth the drama that gets attached to it. It's not sexual, and nobody I know ever planned on nursing for years. But you do, sometimes, because it's what your child needs.
In the end, we all make parenting decisions based on what we think is most important, on what's the best fit for us, for our kids, for our families. Some families homeschool, some do public school, and some unschool. And that's fine. Some mothers are more comfortable transitioning to formula earlier, some mothers like to nurse until the need is outgrown. And that's fine too. Some families co-sleep, some kids cry it out. I make the decisions for myself, and my family, based on what we want and need, and not necessarily what's socially acceptable at that particular time. And really, isn't that what we're all trying to do?