Today we share a lovely read about one Mum’s journey as an ‘unexpected’ extended breast-feeder. At course at Baby Hints & Tips we believe your baby, your way. A healthy, happy baby and Mum is all that ‘counts’. If you’ve thought about, experienced or are just curious about extended breastfeeding you will enjoy this piece… Welcome Rachel Stewart of Parenting Central.
I didn’t know a lot about breastfeeding before I started my family. I knew I was breastfed, but I’d not really even seen breastfeeding in action. Let alone see someone breastfeeding a toddler. Before my son was born I’d not planned to breastfeed him beyond 6 months, I thought that was going to be long enough for me…. And here I am 6 years later having breastfeed not one, but two, children well into toddlerhood.
I’m not trying to convince anyone to breastfeeding for even one day longer than they feel comfortable, I’m writing this for the people who are curious about why someone might continue to breastfeed a toddler or someone who is continuing to breastfeed and is looking for some validation, or a link to subtly share to their own social media page as a hint to the “well meaning’ friend’s and family who don’t understand why breastfeeding a toddler is absolutely a valid choice (I experienced more than my fair share of negative comments and confusion during my time breastfeeding my toddlers.)
6 Reasons I Chose to Breastfeed My Children Beyond Infancy…
1) It’s normal, natural and healthy.
This is the most boring, but also the main reason that I breastfed my toddlers; because it’s perfectly normal, even if it’s not necessarily common in our culture. The World Health Organisation recommends continued breastfeeding “up to two years of age or beyond.“ So, there’s no reason to stop breastfeeding until myself, or my child, decides it’s time to wean. Also, dairy is often a recommended part of a toddler’s diet (in the form of milk, cheese, yoghurt etc) My toddlers just human breast milk instead.
2) The benefits of breast milk do not expire.
It’s not like breast milk is amazing for babies and then all the nutrients and immunological benefits just cease to exist. Breast milk continues to be a great supplementary source of nutrition for a toddler. It’s also always available and on hand, I can’t forget my breasts at home, so I always have a fresh and healthy snack-and-drink-in-one for my toddler wherever we are.
It’s also reassuring if you’re toddler is a fussy eater (like my first was) knowing that breast milk can provide a toddler with:
- 29% of his daily energy needs
- 43% of protein requirements
- 75% of Vitamin A requirements
- 60% of Vitamin C requirements. (source)
3) Breastfeeding provides pain relief.
Breast milk can have an analgesic effect as well as the act of sucking can be calming for babies and toddlers. This is handy not just for day to day injuries, immunisations or teething pain, but I’ve found breastfeeding helpful for more serious pain, like a broken bone and a couple of hospital visits, without needing (as much) drug based pain relief. It’s also handy if they sick, especially with a sore throat or upset tummy, as breast milk isn’t only going to alleviate their discomfort, but ensure they’re still getting some fluids and nutrients, even if they’re feeling to unwell to eat or drink properly.
4) Breast milk has a sedative effect.
While we’re on the topic of drugs, in addition to containing hormones that have a relaxing, sedative effect on your baby or toddler, such as oxytocin, prolactin and cholecystokinin, breast milk also supplies a type of endocannabinoid… which is pretty much what it sounds like… Breastfeeding is a safe, natural and biologically appropriate, way to help them relax and fall asleep. (source)
5) Health benefits for mothers.
Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of various cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis (source). More recent studies suggest a link between breastfeeding and reducing the risk of alzheimers “Longer breastfeeding history was significantly associated with a lower Alzheimer’s risk” (source) This isn’t a big reason for why I breastfeed my toddlers, but it’s a nice side-effect that the longer I breastfeed my children the greater the potential long-term health benefits are for me.
I’ll admit it – I love breastfeeding my daughter. At the moment we mostly just feed at night for sleep. So, after the day time where she’s my big girl who doesn’t need me quite so intensely anymore I honestly find myself looking forward to climbing into bed with her and feeding her to sleep every night. It’s a beautiful way to reconnect and bond. It won’t be long and she won’t want to sleep curled up into me anymore, but while she does, I’m going to enjoy all these extra snuggles for as long as I can.
About the Author: Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner. She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum. She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.