What Are The Benefits Of Nursing A Toddler?
by Monica Beyer
The AAP recommendation
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)'s policy on breastfeedingrecommends "[e]xclusive breastfeeding for approximately the first six months and support for breastfeeding for the first year and beyond as long as mutually desired by mother and child." Even with the AAP's full support on extended breastfeeding (Which is a term that can be used to describe breastfeeding beyond one year of age) it can be somewhat of a challenge to convince friends, family members and complete strangers of the beauty of extended nursing.
Some members of our communities are still not comfortable with breastfeeding infants (much less toddlers and preschoolers) so it can be hard to deal with unwanted comments from those who are not supportive of your decision. You can print out the above recommendation from the AAP to hand to those who give you grief or you can simply ignore them -- you know that what you are doing is best for you and your child. There is no harm in nursing an older child and the continued bonding and trust that you are building with him will benefit you both for years to come.
Check out my mom's boobs!
Of course, there is another thing to think about when you are nursing an older baby or a toddler. Once she gets old enough, she will likely stop nursing peacefully, the images of a sleepy baby relaxed in your cradling arms becoming a thing of the past. This can happen when she starts experimenting with sitting up or standing in the course of her daily activities (in other words, before she even turns one). Such a baby might become a nursing "gymnast" as she tries to sit up, stand up, crawl around or otherwise do anything but lie still, all while keeping your nipple firmly in her mouth. This is completely normal but it can be a task to keep yourself from becoming exposed at grandma's birthday party or the mall.
As your baby grows into a toddler, you can expect even more boob-showing opportunities as she takes less time to nurse and more time to explore. If your toddler is more of a nap- or night-time nurser then generally you have less to worry about in the exposure department, but even a quick nurse at the playground after a tumble might leave the other parents at the park with a little more of a glimpse of your breast if she takes off mid-nurse!
Some babies (my third baby included) like to have fun with mom's shirts, and showing off her goods for all the world to see is par for the course. One of the last times I nursed my daughter in public she helped me flash about a dozen people in Kmart. Thanks for that memory, sweetheart!
Women should not be embarrassed to nurse in public but being in tune with your baby's cues about when he's done should save you from having to show off more than you'd intended. As soon as he starts showing signs of being finished, such as tugging too much in the wrong direction or if you see that his interest has been sparked by something on the other side of the room, pop him off and encourage him to go as you pull your shirt back down.
Any amount of breastfeeding is so beneficial for babies, and if you decide to not wean at a pre-selected age then be reassured that you are supported by other mothers, pediatricians, husbands and babies everywhere.