Breastfeeding a Toddler

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toddler breastfeeding

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends all children are breastfed to two years and beyond. In our culture this is rare, with most children being weaned before the age of one. As a mother, it can be hard to go against the grain, but there are some very good reasons to continue to breastfeed your toddler.

Seven good reasons to breastfeed your toddler

1. Research indicates that breast milk still provides protection for your toddler and helps them fight off sickness. Weaned toddlers have a higher number of illnesses than toddlers who continue to breastfeed.

2. Even taking into account socioeconomic and other influences, cognitive development continues to be enhanced the longer a child is breastfed.

3. Children who are breastfed for one year or more have lower rates of obesity in later life. It is believed this is because children who are breastfed regulate their intake based on hunger and not external forces such as how much they are given. This self-regulation is the key to developing healthy eating habits.

4. In mammals, the natural weaning age is around the time they double in weight. In humans this occurs around the 26-30 month mark. Studies have shown that the average age of children who are left to wean when they are ready correlates to this age.

5. Breast milk continues to provide essential nutrients and fats in your child’s diet. This is a great benefit when your toddler is going through a stage of being a fussy eater and you’re worried they are not getting the nutrients they need.

6. Breastfeeding develops a strong bond between a mother and her child. This is an important part of your child’s emotional development.

7. It will not inhibit your child’s independence or make them clingy. Most breastfed toddlers are just as independent as their weaned playmates. Children become independent when they are emotionally ready and secure in their attachment to their primary caregivers. There is some research to suggest that breastfeeding promotes secure attachment and that many breastfed toddlers are more independent than other children.

The hardest part of breastfeeding a toddler is dealing with the negativity and lack of support for breastfeeding mothers. Our culture does not honor the mother-child bond and is quick to separate them. In more traditional societies, breastfeeding during toddlerhood is commonplace and mothers are supported to do this. If you choose to breastfeed through toddlerhood and beyond there is support available. An increasing number of mothers are rejecting the practice of early weaning and continuing to breastfeed their children to two years and beyond.

For breastfeeding information and support contact your local La Leche League or Breastfeeding Association.

What do you think? Breastfeeding a Toddler

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16 comments

  1. Avatar of rosebud512 rosebud512 says:

    There is a typo in number four — most mammals wean when the offspring has QUADRUPLED or TRIPLED (not doubled) the birth weight. See http://www.llli.org/ba/aug94.html

  2. Avatar of Lizzie Lizzie says:

    Kudos for this article! I am bf my 17 month d and have no intention of stopping until at least 2. So sorry to hear women say they will wean at a year. They really don’t know what they are missing!

  3. Avatar of kellms kellms says:

    I was unsure of when to wean but never really let it worry me. I figured around the 1 year mark we would start weaning… We are now 17 months into it and down to nursing just a couple times a day, and FINALLY sleeping through the night. It is just a wonderful thing for me and baby at the end of our day, right before bed, to nurse and really get some one on one snuggle time…which these days that time is becoming less and less.

    Also to this statement: “Most breastfed toddlers are just as independent as their weaned playmates. Children become independent when they are emotionally ready and secure in their attachment to their primary caregivers. There is some research to suggest that breastfeeding promotes secure attachment and that many breastfed toddlers are more independent than other children.”…I believe it!! because I feel that my little girl is so secure.

    Great article!

  4. Avatar of Theresa Theresa says:

    There is some good info in this article, but I still plan to stop breastfeeding after the one year mark.. which is in about a month and a half. I feel I need more freedom in my life and weaning is best way to go.

  5. Avatar of Benjamin Benjamin says:

    I love it when I find articles like this! I plan to nurse my now, 11 1/2 month old son until he is at the very least 2 years old and probably beyond! I would like to offer encouragement and gratitude to mothers who continue to put their children’s health and comfort before their own convenience and worry about what others opinion’s might be on the matter! Know that what you are doing for your child is the best thing for them and don’t give any thought to the neigh sayers!

  6. Avatar of Marilyn Marilyn says:

    My brother was breast fed until he was 3 LOL

  7. my daughter already doubled her weight but does not show any signs of wanting to wean, she loves it.

  8. Avatar of Aimee Aimee says:

    Still not sure about going past the one year mark.

  9. Avatar of nydia rivera nydia rivera says:

    yeah doesn’t make sense! He doubled his weight at 6 months, so I should have stopped then? He’s 14 months now, going for a year and a half, then going to maybe start weaning..maybe.

  10. Avatar of Lyndsi Greim Lyndsi Greim says:

    You think they mean double in height to start weaning, not double weight? That’s just silly.

  11. Avatar of Danielle Danielle says:

    It doesn’t add up to only nurse a baby until they double in weight…My daughter is about 11 months and doubled her weight a few months ago. We are aiming for the one year mark and so far so good :)

  12. Wow great article, I have a 7 month old and I plan to breastfeed him until he is year old, and my family do not really support me, but now I know the benefits and that it is ok if a even go beyond a year…the best for my child, its time to break the circle
    .

  13. I liked this article. People who don’t breastfeed or do for a short time think that people who are totally for breastfeeding are judging them…the funny thing is that they are actually judging us! They have their opinion on when a mother should stop breastfeeding…when they get teeth, or walk, or eat baby food…I think it’s silly. Every mother has the right to choose how long she wants to breastfeed. I stopped at my daughter’s first birthday because then she went straight to whole milk and loved it. I may have longer if she wasn’t interested in normal milk but she pretty much weaned herself.
    I am actually certified in Health and Nutrition so I know all the wonderful benefits that come with breastfeeding and I know there are even health benefits for staying with it through the toddler stage. All in all…this was a good article :)

  14. Avatar of Ade Lina Ade Lina says:

    Great article!! Support it 100%!!

  15. Avatar of MTJTsmama MTJTsmama says:

    thank you for this article! Its often hard to find support in this culture for something even the WHO recommends. I have nursed three children to age two and hoping to do the same with my current baby!

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