I think it’s safe to say that most mothers at least have the goal to breastfeed their babies from the start. A nationwide survey in 2013 showed that of the infants surveyed 76.5% were breastfed at birth. But the numbers begin to decrease as the babies grow. At 6 months, only 49% were breastfed and 27% at 12 months.
I blogged about my breastfeeding journey, which shows how varied I have been with my breastfeeding experiences. Now that I can look back on it all, I wish I had nursed all 5 of my children beyond 12 months. There seems to be a mindset that once the baby has reached 12 months, it is time to be done. I know I was once in the category of Moms that didn’t nurse beyond 12 months, but now that I have, I want to share with Moms what they are missing out on!
I think for some, breastfeeding really is a chore. It’s hard work, especially for those pumping Moms who have to go back to work. I get it, I really do. So once 12 months rolls around, they are ready to move on. I’m here to say, it gets better after 12 months! That time I spend with my toddler is golden. Here are 5 reasons I love nursing my toddler:
- He’s a mama’s boy just a little bit longer. I’ll tell you, the moment I stop nursing him, guaranteed he will become a daddy’s boy. So I’m just going to hold on to those sweet moments with him a little bit longer, thank you very much.
- He still needs it. I know he still needs it because he asks for it. It calms him and it nourishes him, much more than cow’s milk ever will.
- It keeps both of us healthy. Keeps him healthy and reduces my risk of breast cancer. I’ll take it.
- I have picky eaters. When he is being picky, I know at the very least, he is still getting nutrients when I nurse him.
- It calms him. Nursing isn’t just for nutrition. When he is sad and just needs a little bit of cuddling, nursing him brings instant comfort. No I don’t nurse him every time he cries, but it sure does help out in tough situations.
So why are so many people uncomfortable with the idea of nursing a toddler? Here are 5 myths busted:
- There are no longer nutritional benefits. I had a Pediatrician once tell me that my milk turned to skim milk and is useless once my baby turned 6 months. I’m not sure where he did his research but this is completely false! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that mothers breastfeed for at least one year and until they both feel they are ready to stop. Why would the AAP recommend at least a year if there was no longer a nutritional value to it?
- I should stop nursing once my baby has teeth. I know it’s painful when your baby bites you when you are nursing, but you get through it! They learn not to do that. Some babies are born with teeth or start to get them as early as a month old, so this idea is ridiculous!
- If my baby is old enough to ask for it, it’s time to stop. I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand this kind of thinking. Why should it matter if the child can ask for it? Honestly, it’s kind of nice when my baby asks for it. Remember those early days of nursing when you just couldn’t figure out what they wanted? My son says, “Na na” and I know he’s ready to nurse!
Julia of Inspired by Births says, I always thought I would not want to nurse an older baby. I said things like, “I wouldn’t be comfortable nursing a child who could verbally ask for it.” But I loved nursing him from day 1 and was so happy to continue breastfeeding as long as he wanted. It was a comfort to both of us when he was sick or sad, uncomfortable or overwhelmed. He nursed for 33.5 months and when he was done we were both totally okay with it. I’m so thankful neither of us were pressured to give it up before we were ready!
4.It is just too weird. Why? What is so weird about giving comfort and nutrition to your child? I love those sweet moments with my son. Yes, he’s old enough to communicate and has an almost full set of teeth, but at 21 months he is still my baby. There is no rule of thumb that says how old your baby has to be to be “too old to nurse.” As long as you and your child are still in agreement with it, keep going!
Laura of Once Upon a Birth says, I thought it would be weird to nurse a toddler, who could ask for nursing. Now I feel like it’s the most natural thing in the world for the two of us. I know that he still needs that comfort – for now. He’s slowly decreasing how often he asks to “neese”. I know one day he won’t nurse anymore, so I’m fine nursing until we’re both ready to be done. From another viewpoint, I’m so thankful that I can continue to give him all of my antibodies. I’m exposed to A LOT where I work (the emergency department). I want him to continue to have the immunity that I’ve built up over the last 4 years of working in the medical field.
(Photo credit Carolyn Spranger Photography)
5. If I keep nursing, my child will be too dependent on me. I have five children. My older 4 all nursed. 2 of them beyond a year. They are all quite independent. They are normal, thriving children and don’t need me for everything. They all sleep in their own rooms now. Life does go on.
Here are some other thoughts from Moms who have nursed toddlers:
There is something so intrinsically wonderful that happens when the person you’re nursing can actually tell you, “thank you!” It is my favorite part about nursing a toddler. That, and her being able to tell me what she thinks it tastes like (applesauce).
- Hailie of Country Bumpkin Birth Services
I struggled with nursing my first, but was able to exclusively pump for him until he was 7 months. With my second, my goal was to breastfeed at least that long. The time flew by, and before I knew it, he was over two and our breastfeeding relationship was still going strong. He self weaned around 2.5 after I became pregnant with my third baby.
(Photo credit Arms Like Towers Doula)
- Melissa from Swell Birth
For me, nursing was a battle from day 1. My son didn’t latch for 2 weeks. Our nursing relationship was filled with struggles the entire time but I fought for it because I wanted my son to have the milk that was intended for him. I couldn’t wait to be done at 1 year. Then 1 year came and I could tell he wasn’t ready at all which was honestly really disappointing to me but I didn’t want to force him to wean if he wasn’t ready. Now he is 19 months old, we only nurse once a day but he still needs it. I can tell it’s his calm moment in the midst of a crazy world. So while he is barely getting any milk anymore, he is still getting comfort that he needs and I know that’s important too. I honestly look forward to the day we wean but until then I’ll provide my son that moment of comfort he needs each day.
- Brooke from Know Better Doula Better
Don’t let this time with your toddler slip away with any regrets. Treasure these moments. They won’t last forever.