In a super popular post on All Things Mothering, Sarah Clark shares 100 Awesome Things About Breastfeeding You Won't Find in Studies.
It got me thinking. We need a list like this for breastfeeding beyond infancy!
So all you mamas who are breastfeeding in toddlerhood and beyond -- what are the biggest reasons you nurse?
For me it is
1. improved health
2. maintaining a sense of security and closeness
3. respect for my child's needs
Because it is the very best way to nurture a child physically, emotionally, and intellectually. It is a primal attachment that reconnects children with their mothers in a way that disregards the confines of the busy, convoluted, highly-scheduled lives we choose. Because it is a simple, effective, and powerful choice that reminds us of the redundancy of gadgets, props, and toys designed to occupy and stimulate our children, and returns us to a very basic and natural state of peace, harmony, and responsibility.
My old one is 2 years old and my last one 6,5 months.
They are both breastfed.
Why did I not stop with my toddler?
1. soften the birth of the new baby
2. create, keep and strenghten the bond btw the toddler and the baby
3. keep an exclusive time btw mom and toddler
4. let him decide the weaning time
5. respect his needs
My son will be 4 in a couple weeks and he just doesn't want to stop. He's an only child, so I have the ability to allow him to continue because it makes him feel safe and content. We nurse always at home and mostly at bedtime only. I know he's not getting any dietary benefits at this late stage, but its all purely emotional for him and I both. Its a bonding time.
I have started making suggestions that he is getting big enough that they won't work much longer, but I'm not pushing it as I know he will grow out of it soon enough and someday I will look back on it and think how fleeting it all was anyway. I certainly never expected this to go so long! I was just hoping I could do it at least 18-24 months! He is very active and constantly running around, bouncing everywhere and I really do enjoy the quiet time I can just calm him down and talk to him without distractions. I wouldn't trade it for anything! (Even though I'm sure there are plenty of critics - my own mom didn't think I should go past 6 months, but then again she never breastfed any of her own kids!)
1. Ease tantrums
2. Calm hurts
3. Make new places less scary
4. Easy nap, anywhere
5. Easy bed time, especially when they're too old for a nap
6. Connect with growing little ones who are too busy to cuddle any other time
7. An excuse to sit and read a good book
8. Extend a phone call for a few minutes
9. Health benefits for child
10. Health benefits for mom
There are just so many! I'm a mom of boys and the only time they sat still was while nursing. I cherish those times to hold them, touch their faces, admire their long lashes, giggle with them when they make eye contact. Just so special.
We do child-led weaning in our house. My daughter was done between age six and seven. My son is almost seven now and he only nurses at night and not every night, so we are getting there. He still has not lost one tooth yet, though -- I keep expecting him to lose the ability to latch, but not yet. I'm confident it will be soon, though.
Both of my children have serious autoimmune issues. My daughter has a very severe autoimmune disease and was and is intolerant to almost all food. My son was diagnosed as being at risk for PDD-NOS (a type of autism) at 18 months and has a lot of allergies. It was obvious that longterm nursing was in both of their best interests. Breastfeeding has improved their health immeasurably. Many children with my daughter's illness can eat no food and she is doing relatively well and doesn't have to be fed via g-tube. My son is recovering from autism and breastmilk has been a huge part of his recovery. He appears neurotypical to most people and is actually pretty healthy. Breastfeeding was very important to him because his sensory issues were so severe he rejected all solids until past his second birthday.
It has not always been easy but now at the end I can know that I gave it my all.
The reason we've continued is simply that we felt our son wasn't ready to give up nursing yet--he wasn't done with that part of his babyhood. I've seen a host of benefits, both physical and emotional, which continued well beyond the one or even two-year mark. In hindsight (my son is now four and a half, and almost entirely weaned, I confess much later than I had at first thought this would happen), perhaps the best argument I can see for extended nursing (at least for us) was to see how easily and naturally he moved on to other forms of physical and emotional nourishment once he was ready to move on. It has been beautiful to see :-)
I planned on breastfeeding past infancy because of the extended health (immune, nutrition, long-term) benefits. I ended up following through with breastfeeding for none of those reasons and did it because my daughter loved it. It calmed her when she needed it, soothed boo-boos, put her to sleep, and provided us both with amazing bonding time. It was convenient when traveling by air to help her little ears and when there were no snacks available. It was also selfish on my part. I loved breastfeeding and since we only have/want one child, it was an extension of that precious time that I knew I would only get one chance at.
I am one of those that go into parenthood not having any real expectations other than the cuddles of a sweet small human being. And sleepless nights and poopy bottoms.
I just knew that I wanted to breastfeed, give it all I can to make it work. Never thought I'd go past infancy but did, because neither she nor I thought it was time to stop.
But just lately, I've been feeling like I cannot do this anymore. She's 2y 3 mo. She'll be 2y 6 mo I am sure at least, by the time she's weaned from all feeds but one. She doesn't want to end it though and I am very sad about trying to force her. I think I'll hang onto the morning one and leave that to the last. It makes for a better day for her. She can fall asleep on her own now, but not always, in some weeks, not at all. But it's all a part of growing up. I know that I'll be sad once it's done but we want to plan for #2 and it is said that if one has had an m/c, that is one of the contraindications to nursing through a pregnancy. An m/c can still happen but I will never be able to stop wondering if nursing had anything to do with it if I were still nursing full time. I may keep only the early morning feed because she likes waking up to it. Sort of a greeting.
So why did I continue well into toddler-hood? It just made sense to.
I nursed both my sons until their 3rd birthdays, or as my mother-in-law said, "till their feet drug the ground." They are now 33 and 29 years old, and I can honestly say that long-term nursing is one of the best choices I ever made. It created a strong bond and contributed positively to their emotional development.
Because I'm lazy. Very lazy. Type-A lazy. All I need to do to nurse my DD is hold her. She's 14 months and can whip out my breast with ease and manuever it on her own. She can even find it in the dark if she wants to nurse in the middle of the night (we bed-share). No fuss, no cleaning up, no mixing, no expense.
And, of course, the whole warmth, love, and health thing.
"Can we nurse Mama? I love nursing!!!" That's it... I wanted to extend nursing because of all of the logic-based reasons. But when my 2 1/2yo jumps out of the sandbox, runs into the house, and exclaims that he loves nursing I don't even think about those. He knows what he wants/needs "right now" and I love that I can still give that to him!
I nursed my firstborn, a boy, until he was 16 months old. He lost interest at that point, perhaps because my milk either dried up or didn't taste the same, as I was about five months pregnant with baby #2, a girl.
I introduced solid food to her when she was about eight months old, and she gobbled up anything I gave her. I weaned her a few days before her first birthday, because I wanted to go on a women's retreat and not take her along. I still feel bad about weaning her before she was probably ready. By that point, though, she really was eating as much solid food as most 2- or 3-year olds, so I knew she would get adequate calories without my milk. However, she is the child that I have had the most difficult time understanding and bonding with. I love her dearly, but I just don't always "get" her or know how to get through to her. If I could do things over again, I would have nursed her much longer.
My 3rd child, a girl, turned 2 last month and still very much enjoys nursing. Sometimes I wonder if she's really getting anything out any more, since my breasts don't feel much different after nursing than before, and I don't usually feel the let-down of milk. But when she pulls away, she often has a trickle of white milk running down her cheek, so apparently, she's still getting something. She is a very sweet, compassionate, and thoughtful little girl, and I think that those qualities are at least partially attributable to the nurturing and tender care she receives multiple times a day through nursing. I love how enthusiastic she is about "mama mulk." It's pretty adorable when she hands me the Boppy pillow and says, "Mama mulk, now peeez. Boppy pillow!" How could I resist that? I'm not really in any hurry to wean her, although I do look forward to being able to wear normal clothes and bras again. Also, I'm pretty sure that at least part of the reason I haven't been able to lose the baby weight after being pregnant with her is that she is still nursing frequently, and for whatever reason, my body thinks it needs to hold onto excess pounds to make milk. I love snuggling with her, and breastfeeding is the only time she'll hold still (well, not really hold still, but at least she's pressed up next to me!). Sometimes if I'm nursing her while using my laptop or reading a book, she'll reach up a hand, turn my face toward her, pop off long enough to say "yook!" [look], and resume nursing. So I know it's not just that she likes the taste of milk. She wants connection with me. That's pretty special. That's why I'm still nursing her.
Because she asks!
All those studies on superior IQ, and immune system etc. etc. sound great, but what science proves today will disprove tomorrow!
I take my cues from my toddler to continue nursing.
Married to my wonderful DH 5/2010, Mom to DS1 Kayden 7-14-2011 and DS2 Jakob 8-29-2013
Owned by Friesians and Drum Horses, plus the dogs, cats, rabbits and chickens
I know that I'll be sad once it's done but we want to plan for #2 and it is said that if one has had an m/c, that is one of the contraindications to nursing through a pregnancy. An m/c can still happen but I will never be able to stop wondering if nursing had anything to do with it if I were still nursing full time.
I fully support you weaning if that's what you're feeling like you need to do for all of the other reasons you mentioned. But I just wanted to pass on that I had three certified midwives tell me that nursing isn't contraindicated during pregnancy (and I have had a miscarriage). They said the nursing had nothing to do with the miscarriage, and didn't discourage me from nursing through my next pregnancy after the miscarriage either (which was a successful pregnancy bringing me my second daughter). They said if it is a healthy baby, it will be fine even if you're nursing. Just more food for thought. Ultimately, I guess if you'd never stop wondering if nursing had something to do with it, then maybe weaning is the best option, but for me, I would have been SO sad if I had weaned and then miscarried. It would have been a double loss for me.
Mama to Nell (11/15/06) and Maggie (10/9/10) . AFTER 2.5 YEARS, I AM AN AUNTIE!!! HOORAY TEAR78 and welcome Anika and Brand New Baby Boy!!!! Circumcision: the more you know, the worse it is; please leave the decision up to your son!
Because boobies fix EVERYTHING. Why give up such a fantastic, reliable parenting tool?
My daughter self-weaned just before the age of 3, because I had started to misuse that awesome parenting tool to get her to nap in the afternoons ;) She's a bright little thing and caught on to the fact that when it was about 2 pm and I said "Let's go have cuddles and boobies in the bedroom" it meant that she would inevitably fall asleep. Because I was going through a clueless phase I didn't get that the fact she was awake until 11 pm meant that she was totally ready to give up her afternoon nap - but she knew, and she started saying "no" to the nursing offer. That was her last regular nursing session - bedtime was cuddle-time with Daddy - so when she stopped the naps, she stopped nursing. A few weeks later she wanted to nurse again and she tried but there was no milk. I told her she could probably get it back if she was willing to nurse every two hours for a few days. She thought about it for about 2 seconds and said "No thanks" and that was that.
But prior to that, nursing got us through her bangs and bonks from walking at 10 months, her pre-verbal frustrations, travel, owies, sadness, boredom - everything. She's six now and sometimes I still miss it!
Postpartum doula & certified breastfeeding educator, mama to an amazing girl (11/05) and a wee little boy (3/13).
Path of least resistance and most benefits, general ignorance on how to treat stomach bugs, colds and earinfections, and sleepiness other than through breastfeeding. Desire to follow my childs cues. Laziness. Actually, none of my kids ever had an ear infection.
I continue to EBF because I know deep down that my son, now 3, wants it. Also, for my emotional state after he was born too. I am an assault survivor and can easily push away. This has changed that for me. I can attest that EBF is the best thing I have ever done. It slows him down as well as myself. I do not see an end in sight and that is just fine. When pregnant, I only committed to 6 months. I remember sitting in LLL meetings before he was born and seeing a woman (now friend) nursing her 2 year old and thinking OMG. Now I am that gal. Love it.
I also get family members telling me "When are you going to stop" or "Is he still nursing?" and that is from my mother whom didn't nurse me at all (actually took the pill to dry up) and my husband's mother that nursed both her boys to 1 years old. It sucks. I really dislike defending my choices, or my son's needs. The latest criticism I received I was told "It is your needs not his anymore." Really? It is both our needs at this age for him.
I am still breastfeeding my 23MO and refuse to stop intill he says no! It's his choice that I happily comply!
The reason why is because I refuse to believe that at the magical number of 12MO my glands dry out and my
DS stops wanting/needingi it. A cow is not a replacement for MY milk which is gold to him.
I didn't really have any plans re nursing past a year, but my daughter is still totally into nursing and I enjoy it too, so I don't see any reason to cut her off. I don't have any particular goal now, we'll just see what happens. She is 13 months old now. Technically she's a toddler, but she still seems like a baby in a lot of ways, and the line between 11 months and 12 months is kind of thin and a sort of arbitrary place to draw a line imo. Plus as long as she is nursing, I don't have to worry about her nutrition.
My DD is only 11 months old, but I intend to breastfeed her until she's ready to stop. I think for me it's mainly a matter of showing her that I will meet her needs, because she's pretty obviously emotionally invested in nursing and in the connection that it implies. (She's refused to bottle-feed since she was a few months old, though she clearly knows what a bottle is for and how to get milk out. And she eats plenty of solid food now and loves it, but clearly wants milk instead of solids sometimes.) She likes to cuddle and nursing is a comfort to her, and always has been.
We want more kids, but we're content to wait while I breastfeed DD, even if it takes a long time. I want her to know that she's loved and cherished and that Mommy will take care of her, and right now breastfeeding seems like one of the best ways to accomplish that.
Mom to the wacky and wonderful Kalyani (August 2011)
The short answer is because once DD got to be about a year, it was easier to just keep going and there was no compelling reason to stop. Not only did nursing provide comfort and security for her, I really appericated the immunity benefits. DD has never had an ear infection or been on antibiotics for any reason. She's also never had a stomach bug for longer than 48 hours. DD weaned just after her 4th borthday when pregnancy dried up my milk (I actually really encouraged it because dry nursing HURT) I really dread the first post nursing illness.
On a side note, when people say "it's more for the mom than the child" it really makes me feel a little stabby. Not only is it obvious that the person has no idea what they're talking about, it's so dismissive and demeaning of the mom and her mothering.
Please forgive my misspellings and typos. I can't get spell check to work with my tablet.
Kristy, wife to Josh proud mama to Katie: since 3/08 and Emma since 8/12.