World Breastfeeding Week: Extended breastfeeding
by Teba, Celebrity Baby Blog Reviews Editor
My little girl is officially a toddler now and like all kids her age she loves baby peas, Cheerios, scrambled eggs and watermelon but unlike most toddlers, Catie’s favorite food is her mother’s milk. That’s right — we are still nursing and I have no intention of weaning her anytime soon.
There are many reasons why I continue to nurse Catie and though I am aware that this isn’t something that many people in modern society feel comfortable with, I strongly believe that the benefits of extended nursing outweigh the social stigma. There are the nutritional benefits, of course, but the rewards go way beyond nutrition and they are numerous.
I have heard people claim time and time again that there is no nutritional benefit to breastmilk after six months but plainly speaking, this simply isn’t true. After the sixth month, and even well past the first year, breastmilk still contains the right protein, fat and other important vitamins that a growing child needs. After all, mother’s milk is made specifically for humans so why wouldn’t it be nutritious for them? On days when my little girl wants to eat nothing but Veggie Booty and French fries, I don’t have to worry because I know she is getting all the vitamins she needs from my milk.
Then there is the sick factor. We all know that a baby who was breastfed in the first year of life is less at risk for illness than her formula-fed peers, however, those immunities don’t stop being delivered after the first year. In fact, recent research supports the notion that nursing toddlers are less likely to get sick than non-nursing toddlers regardless of how they were fed in their first year of life. I can tell you first-hand how nice it is not to have to worry when Catie steals her friend Abby’s sippy cup at playgroup or when her friend Felix uses her pacifier as a teether. It’s also great knowing that when my husband and I have a cold, Catie will most likely never get it because she nurses so often.
Nursing also fosters a healthy independence in a child. This sounds counterintuitive and many, many people have insinuated that nursing into toddlerhood will make a child too dependent. However, research shows that the child who weans when she wants to is more independent and also has a higher sense of self-security. By allowing Catie to decide when she is ready to wean, she is meeting an important milestone at her own pace. Nursing for as long as she desires to is as biologically normal as walking and talking is. I would never force her to walk so how could I force her to give up nursing? Furthermore, nursing allows us a bonding time that we normally wouldn’t have these days now that she is so busy discovering new words and trying to figure out what lives under the couch. But before you start to say that I am nursing her purely for my own benefit consider this fact: You can not force a baby to breastfeed. It’s as simple as that.
People are often shocked when they find out that I am still nursing and why wouldn’t they be? We live in a culture where it’s not very normal to see a baby nursing past a few months, if at all, and certainly not into the toddler years. People also seem to have this notion that the breastfed toddler nurses the same way as an infant does but this just isn’t true. Most toddlers have no interest in nursing during the day if they are busy doing other things. In fact, you probably know plenty of people who you would otherwise consider normal who may be nursing their two or three year old down to sleep at night. Ask around and you might be surprised!
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of extended nursing, you can gather some great information here: http://www.kellymom.com/bf/bfextended/index.html
Photos: Teba (author) and Catie, 11 months old; Melissa and Xavier; Nicola and Kellan, 2 1/2 years old; Amanda and Paloma, 13 months old.
Note: All photos are copyright to the owner and subjects. Please do not reproduce these images.
For more photos of mothers nursing their toddlers, click the extended post.
Photos: Tamara nursing her 22 month old; Victoria and william, 33 months; Amanda and Caroline, 14 months old; Amanda and Grace, 13 months old; M. nursing her 1 year old son; Deborah and Aidan, 32 months old; Elizabeth and Evelyn, 15 months old; Heather and Kaila, 12 months old; Laurie and Ryan, 18 months old; Linda and Elijah, 14 months old; Megan and her 1 1/2 year old daughter; Melissa and Meleah, 2 years old; Michelle and Josefin, doing her driveby nursing;Note: All photos are copyright to the owner and subjects. Please do not reproduce these images.