Breastfeeding A Toddler
Mothers who nurse for a long time have given their children a precious gift and should feel exceptionally proud, says the Sister Lilian Centre.
No doubt, you’ve been exposed to lot of opinions about when to wean your little one. Since breast milk plays an essential nutritional role for the first year, nursing your tot after she turns one is termed ‘extended’ or ‘prolonged’ breastfeeding. But this is no indication that continued nursing is not still beneficial for your child. In fact, not only is it common in many cultures, but the World Health Organization officially recommends that moms continue to breastfeed their babies for two years or more.
Extended breastfeeding benefits
While breast milk’s nutritional importance declines somewhat after a year, continued breastfeeding still provides excellent benefits:
- Nutrition: Even though your toddler will be eating more solid foods, breast milk gives her a nutritional boost, providing your child with protein, fat, calcium, and most vitamins
- Immunity: Breast milk provides significant protection from various ailments. Studies show that toddlers who are still breastfeeding are ill less often than those who aren’t
- Comfort: Nursing can be very calming and reassuring to tots, especially when they are upset
- Toddler independence: The idea that breastfeeding makes little ones overly clingy is a myth. Feeling connected and close to Mom helps your toddler to mature and develop confidence, as her emotional needs are being met
- Good for Mom: Extended breastfeeding makes moms healthier! Nursing moms have a lowered risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer
Breastfeeding with another baby on the way
Your milk supply may diminish and the taste of your milk may change, but it is possible to continue nursing while pregnant with your next baby. Many women tandem-feed successfully – that is, breastfeeding a baby and toddler at the same time. As always, it’s important to make sure you’re eating nutritious meals and drinking enough fluids.
A word about weaning
There is no deadline on when to wean. As long as both Mom and tot are happy to continue, there’s no reason to bring your breastfeeding relationship to a close.
Some people think that weaning an older child is more difficult, but this isn’t true, particularly as a child’s willingness (or resistance!) to wean is linked to her developmental readiness. In times of change or stress in the family, weaning can be tricky because of the emotional value of nursing.
Nursing a toddler is so easy and takes so little time, and it’s not abnormal or wrong to continue nursing for a few years. Making peace with this often resolves a toddler’s need to feed frequently. Self-led weaning is truly easiest and ensures less stress all round.