Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Toddler Nursing

by Malina

Photo taken by my friend Screwed Up Texan
My daughter (pictured above) is eighteen months old this week. She is the quintessential toddler – climbing everything, babbling with a few words we understand thrown in, throwing tantrums when she doesn’t get her way, playing with her brother's toys while ignoring her own, figuring out how to get into supposedly childproof cabinets and more. There is one difference between her and 94% of American toddlers her age - she still nurses 1-2 times a day on average.

The decision not to wean until after she is two is an intentional decision on my part. I nursed my boys until they were ten months old. The decision to wean them was an intentional one though now I wish I had nursed them longer. However, for the person I was then, to even nurse at all was a huge success and I am glad that I did. Since then I have been lucky enough to be around other mothers who have nursed toddlers and have learned much about the advantages and benefits.

Culturally the idea of nursing a toddler is generally taboo. How many of you cringed at the title of the article? I have heard comments such as “Once they can ask for it, it’s weird.” This is a cultural issue. It is a pity too because as far as I can find, there are nothing but benefits to nursing a toddler. I was going to make a pro and con list, but there wasn’t anything to put on the con side!

Benefits of Breastfeeding more than One year:
• Nutritional benefits – "Breast milk continues to provide substantial amounts of key nutrients well beyond the first year of life, especially protein, fat, and most vitamins." (Dewey 2001)
• Less illness and quicker recovery - "Nursing toddlers between the ages of 16 and 30 months have been found to have fewer illnesses and illnesses of shorter duration than their non-nursing peers" (Gulick 1986).
• Ease of keeping hydrated and comforted when sick - "Breastfeeding plays an essential and sometimes underestimated role in the treatment and prevention of childhood illness." (World Health Organization)
• Reduction in allergies
• Increase in IQ
• Better socially adjusted – “ There are statistically significant tendencies for conduct disorder scores to decline with increasing duration of breastfeeding. - (Ferguson et al, 1987)
• More independent because dependency needs met
• Comfort and soothing
• Reduction in cancer risks for mother
• Other health benefits to the mother

For more excellent quotes and information, visit this link or this link. Check out the book Permission to Mother: Going Beyond the Standard-of-Care to Nurture Our Children.

According to Elizabeth N. Baldwin, Esq. in "Extended Breastfeeding and the Law": "Breastfeeding is a warm and loving way to meet the needs of toddlers and young children. It not only perks them up and energizes them; it also soothes the frustrations, bumps and bruises, and daily stresses of early childhood. In addition, nursing past infancy helps little ones make a gradual transition to childhood."

This has been my experience. My daughter does not refuse regular food. She eats with gusto. Nursing gives her comfort in the morning and evening and if she’s having a rough day. I know when she isn’t feeling well because she asks to nurse more often. I don’t have to buy or make pedialyte when she’s sick because I have the perfect liquid supplement for her that gives her immune support as well as nutrition, and it’s always available. My daughter is fairly social now, though she has had the worst stranger anxiety of all my children. I believe that extended breastfeeding has helped her develop this independence.

I am also pregnant. My doctors are aware that I am still nursing and congratulate me on my decision to continue nursing. While nursing can delay the return of your menstrual cycle, once you are not nursing regularly every six hours or less, the cycle is likely to return. You DO NOT have to wean if you want to have another baby close together!

As far as the general reaction that it is weird to give a child something once they can ask for it – stop and think about that for a second. Once your child can throw a large rubber ball to you and starts asking to play catch, would you take away the ball and switch them to baseballs because they’ve started asking to play catch with the rubber ball? It is an absurd comment. I hope this article provides some food for thought. Nursing beyond the first year can be wonderful.

What are your thoughts on toddler nursing? Did this article cause you reconsider any beliefs you had about toddler nursing?

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