Breastfeeding a Toddler
Glances of disgust, unsolicited advice from your mother-in-law, lack of support from your friends, your motives being questioned…these are what you may be encountering if you are breastfeeding a toddler. You enjoy those quiet moments with your toddler at your breast and at the same time feel guilty when you are faced with comments like “he’s too old for that” and “Don’t you think it’s time to wean her?”
A Global View of Breastfeeding Duration
Extended breastfeeding (breastfeeding beyond 12 months) may raise eyebrows and criticism in our culture, but let’s take a more expanded view on the matter. Typical breastfeeding duration across the globe is 2-4 years. Aristotle even mentioned in his works that the recommendation for breastfeeding duration among ancient Greeks, Muslims, and Hindus was 2-3 years. While the popular US opinion is critical of extended breastfeeding, it is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding
- Shortened length of ear infections
- Immunity antibodies are still present in breastmilk after one year
- Studies show a link between extended breastfeeding and decreased rates of childhood leukemia and lymphoma
- Increased breastfeeding duration reduces the risk of premenopausal breast cancer for mom
- Gives your child focused one-on-one attention from you
When Your Child Demands the Boob
You are strolling the aisles of Target when your toddler starts demanding your boob-meltdown style. The words that she uses at home just lost their cuteness being screamed in the sporting goods section. “Milky, mommy! Miiiillllkyyyy!” You’re now experiencing more shirt-grabbing than you ever did in the backseat of your high school boyfriend’s car and you’re pretty sure that guy trying to avoid eye contact is your son’s baseball coach.
The nursing relationship is just that- a relationship. Extended breastfeeding gives you an opportunity to teach your child boundaries. Your daughter is looking for the comfort that she experiences at the breast. Reassuring her that you will nurse her when you get home teaches her that she can no longer nurse on demand and it reaffirms your relationship. Speak in concrete terms so that she understands where the boundary is. Establishing routine times and places gives her the security of what to expect.
Breastfeeding Length is Your Call
One consistency among our experiences as parents is that people will always have their opinions about what you should be doing- and they will voice them. They voiced them when you named your baby, when you chose to have a hospital or home birth, when you decided to breastfeed, when you decided to return to work or not. The list goes on and on. You made those choices based on what was best for you and your child. Deciding when to wean your child is easiest when you stay in tune with that. If you and your toddler are still enjoying the breastfeeding experience, let that guide you. You and your muchkin will know when it’s time to stop.
The Complete Book of Breastfeeding is filled with information on extended breastfeeding.
For continued support and breastfeeding information: