Did you know that last Thursday marked 22 months that Mason and I have been on this breastfeeding adventure? I honestly can’t believe it. This time roughly two years ago (a few weeks off) I wasn’t even sure if I would be breastfeeding Mase, so that the fact that we are quickly approaching the two year mark just blows me away.
I’ve been getting asked, and hinted at, quite a bit lately (well since he was about a year and a half) when will I be weaning him, and honestly, I don’t know. He still nurses a lot. I mean a LOT. We were working on nighttime weaning, but when he started cutting in his top two eyeteeth and a bottom one all at the same time that sort of got thrown out the window. But full on weaning, yeah I don’t see that happening any time in the foreseeable future.
I know so many sites and blogs have covered reasons to breastfeed your baby, but not too many touch on why you should continue on into toddlerhood. So… I thought I’d give you some reasons to keep on and why breastfeeding a toddler (to me) is even better than breastfeeding a baby.
- It keeps the little dude healthy. I have kids prone to getting sick, John swears this is my fault since I too am prone to the sickies. A child’s immune system isn’t fully 100% and at the same level as an adult’s until the age of SIX YEARS. Breastfeeding helps to boost a toddler’s immune system, which if you’ve ever had a toddler you know how much grossness ends up in their mouth – especially when they are teething and those fingers just stay in their mouths. Plus just wait until that first stomach bug hits, you’ll be glad for a way to keep babe hydrated and comforted at the same time.
- It is nutritionally good for the dude. I know, you’re thinking “But wait, he has table food? Why would he NEED breastmilk if he is eating real food?” I’m glad you asked. Most toddlers aren’t getting all of their daily needs in vitamins and other goodies met in table food alone. Breastmilk provides a good amount of the protein, vitamins, calcium, and energy needs that a toddler has. Even formula companies acknowledge that toddlers have needs that just table food doesn’t meet, and several companies have formula tailored to the needs of toddlers.
- It isn’t hurting him any. No really. It helps boost his IQ, helps him develop independence since it lets him set the pace of his weaning, and is an easy and healthy source of comfort to times when he is upset, hurt, or sick.
- It is recommended. The American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization recommend it. The AAP says that as long as the breastfeeding relationship is mutually desirable for the mom and the toddler there is no reason to stop at any certain age. WHO strongly recommends breastfeeding at least until 2 years of age.
I say -
- Breastfeeding a toddler is pretty easy and painless. Go ahead and finish your laughing, then continue reading. Once you reach toddlerhood you have more than likely learned to deal with teeth and any biting issues. You have probably already even perfected a latch that isn’t painful. There might be a few hiccups as you have to learn new positions for you and your growing toddler, and a few off days as your toddler adjusts his latch to a new tooth, but it is actually remarkably easier and less painful.
- It is easier to set a schedule for the breastfeeding. Actually, by this point you and your toddler have probably already gotten into a schedule. This means that (or at least it did for me) that breastfeeding wasn’t something I had to plan around (which I didn’t often do, I had no qualms feeding him while we were out and about). It also helps with other parts of your toddler’s schedule with things like bedtime and naptime.
- There’s less guessing involved. There’s something to be said for breastfeeding a child who can ask for it. Mase can be crying and I’m not sitting here going “Ahhhh! Stop! Why are you crying at me child??? Are you tired? Are you hungry? Are you wet?? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?” (ok… I might be slightly exaggerating that…) Mase can now come up to me when he wants to nurse and he either signs “milk please” or he says “swee-sie” – Mason for “switch side” not sure WHY he decided to call it that, but he does.
- The cuddle time together is so dang sweet and fun. There’s something to be said about breastfeeding a toddler who is an active participant. Mason likes to be silly when he nurses, he likes to be tickled and to try to tickle me. He likes to pet my arm or collar. He likes to stop for a moment and blow raspberries on me. But my favorite thing is when he’s falling asleep, or semi-wakes at night to change sides he always pets my cheek first and then gives me warm sleepy milky kisses. Man, those kisses get me every time.
- It is absolutely amazing bonding time. I know, you got all that breastfeeding-bonding time in during the infant/baby breastfeeding time, but I would like to throw this out there – I think you get more of a bond breastfeeding a toddler. Or well, a different kind of bond. I think the bond you get with a baby is one of “I am yours and you are mine, and I love you so much.” I think with a toddler it’s more of a reaffirming type, it builds on that bond you created when they were little and it’s now one they can participate in. They’re starting to learn their own independence and learning that they don’t have to rely on you for everything, and they’re starting to learn feelings; that some things make them happy, some things make them not-happy. This is something they chose to do because it makes them happy. As they get older you can use that time to read to them, sing to them, talk to them, all sorts of things.
Now, I know I’m not any sort of scientist or expert, so feel free to take my reasons with a grain of salt if you must, because they might not be all true for everyone, but they are for us, and for several others that I know.
What are some of your favorite parts and reasons for breastfeeding your little one? (toddler or baby)
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