So when I started my breastfeeding journey, never did I imagine that I would still be nursing my son 21 months later (before having kids I would have said that was crazy). My goal was always a year and after that I just thought we would stop. A year had come and gone and my son Liam had other plans and we continued nursing. It was second nature for us and Liam didn’t seem anywhere near ready to wean at that point. So we just did what felt right for us and continued.
Here is my healthy breastfed toddler Liam!
Most people actually don’t even know that we are still nursing because it’s so laid back now and he really only nurses in the morning and night and sometimes before nap time. When I do tell people that I’m still nursing, I get a mixed response. Some people say “really” (in a that’s totally awesome type of way) and some people say “really” (in shocked, weirded out type of way). Even some of my own family are starting to make comments about when we will wean. Although at times I feel judged about my decision to let my son self wean, I mostly feel proud about our nursing relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding your toddler is not all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes it just plain sucks. Sometimes I just want my body back. Sometimes I am just too busy and the thought of sitting down to nurse him annoys me. If you ask me on any given day I may say that I’m done and I’m ready to wean, but that is usually short lived. Nursing my son into toddlerhood has so many awesome benefits that totally outweigh the negatives.
First I will say that I like to research everything. If you know me, you’ll agree that I’m obsessed with knowing the facts and getting it right. I try not to be too preachy, but I do love to share my knowledge. When I started to do some actual research on the benefits of extended breastfeeding, I was just blown away. WOW, there is a lot of resources and info on the subject. I won’t go into great lengthy detail, but I’ll provide all the links to the sources.
So here are some of my favorite reasons why nursing your toddler is just plain AWESOME!
- According to Kellymom.com breastfeeding toddlers between the ages of one and three have been found to have fewer illnesses, illnesses of shorter duration, and lower mortality rates. Breast milk has a ton of immunologic properties that increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) there is a reduction in leukemia that is correlated with the duration of breastfeeding. This is huge for me since I take care of pediatric cancer patients. I know what those children and families go though and anything I can do to help avoid any type of cancer is awesome!
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that breastfeeding should continue up to two years of age or beyond and the most recent AAP guidelines recommend breastfeeding one year or longer as mutually desired by the mother an infant.
- The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) also recommends that breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired.
- In the second year of breastfeeding toddlers still receive a ton of nutrition from breast milk.
- This is a great podcast that also talks about some important aspects of breastfeeding and more specifically nursing a toddler.
This diagram from The Alpha Parent is great!
So besides awesome benefits for the toddler, breastfeeding has awesome benefits for mom’s as well. According to the AAP:
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian, uterine and endometrial, and breast cancer.
- Studies have shown a decrease in postpartum depression as compared to mothers who do not breastfeed or wean early.
- Continued breastfeeding leads to natural child spacing due to lactational amenorrhea. This is awesome because as long as I can hold off my monthly cycle the better. I didn’t start my cycle again until 15 months postpartum. Including pregnancy, I was period free for over 2 years! That is awesome!
And my number one reason that nursing your toddler is awesome is that NURSING YOUR TODDLER PAST INFANCY IS NORMAL. I know the american culture and norm would disagree which I hope will change one day, but worldwide it is absolutely the norm.
My absolute favorite part of nursing still is that I no longer have to pump! I hated to pump and I felt that I was attached to the damn pump for most of the first year since I work full time. I can go 24 hours without nursing and it’s no big deal which is just so much more laid back than nursing an infant. I almost prefer the laid back feel of nursing a toddler much more than the heavy demands that a nursing infant has.
Since nursing also provides a lot of emotional comfort as well, I am easily able to comfort Liam when he is upset or just needs some extra attention. It’s funny when I see another toddler in the middle of a complete melt down or hurt and in the need of some attention, I often say to myself, “that child just needs to nurse”.
I feel that if the general public were more educated about the health benefits of extended breastfeeding, than it would be much more widely accepted. Those that don’t agree or think that it is weird or wrong are usually just not educated about it. So my goal is to help change.
So while nursing my son into toddlerhood is never something that I thought would happen, I have been very open and happy that our journey has led us here. I don’t know when or how the weaning process will happen for us and I am just sort of going with the flow. The one thing that I do know for sure is that Nursing your toddler is AWESOME and can only hope that this post may reach some one and make a difference in the way that they view or think of extended breastfeeding.
~ I love to hear comments and answer questions so please leave a comment and share with friends!