Why I Love Nursing a Toddler and Why I Do NOT Think it is Weird or Gross

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My daughter Emily, 20 months old, still nurses like a champ.

She nurses three or four times each day. Make that five or six times a day if she is sick or really tired.

She gets tremendous comfort and enjoyment out of nursing. To be honest, so do I.

About a month ago, she uttered her first sentence at the breast. After nursing, she unlatched, patted my chest gently and stated, “Baby happy!”

She was grinning from ear to ear. She is still a child of few words, so hearing her string those two lovely words together warmed my heart and made me grin too!

Last week, she finished nursing and declared, “Mommy. Yummy nummy nummy nom nom nom,” while pointing at my boob and wiggling around in a happy, little dance.

Question: How awesome is that?

Answer: Pretty freaking awesome and amazing.

A lot of moms look back on their nursing days with a sense of sweet tenderness. But a lot of moms wean before they get actual feedback from their baby on what nursing is like for them. This is just one of the reasons I love nursing a toddler.

Sometimes people ask me with a raised eyebrow, “You’re still nursing?” Like it is freakish and extreme. This question is usually followed by, “But doesn’t she bite you with all those teeth?” Truthfully, she bit me once or twice in the early days of teething, but since then, no. She has pretty decent nursing manners.

And, yes, I am STILL nursing and will continue to do so until Emily decides she no longer wants or needs it.

If you have read any of my breastfeeding posts, you know that Emily and I were extremely challenged in the early days of our nursing relationship by tongue tie, breast infections, and nipple trauma.

We slogged it out, but those first days were hellish at best. I spent my maternity leave feeling robbed of that “perfect” breastfeeding experience I had envisioned.

I like to think we are making up for it on this end, because we now do have the perfect nursing relationship.

She is peaceful and happy at my breast. Sometimes she hums a little while she nurses.

I love that when she nurses, she is still and snuggly with me, even for only a few moments- a sweet respite during these hectic toddler days.

I love that when I come home from work, she paws a little at my shirt and says, “Maaaaaawwllka!”

I love that by now I have gotten over all the early nursing bumps and bruises and it’s just smooth sailing.

I love that I am a confident and comfortable nursing mom. I can nurse my child without having to worry about those common newborn concerns like how much they are getting, the color of their poop, or cluster feeding.

I love that I can soothe Emily instantly if she is hurt or aggrivated.  Offering a breast is also a really nice way to soothe a fussy, frustrated toddler. It provides comforting sensory input and a chance to “reset”.

Weaning is a personal choice between mother and baby. Some moms nurse for a day, others for six weeks. Most moms seem to try to make it to a year and then wean the baby. I totally understand why some moms just feel ready to have their bodies back to themselves after being an all hours snack bar for a year.

But I do not understand why people feel it is weird or gross to nurse an older baby.

Some moms chose to nurse until baby weans themselves entirely, which might be two or three years. I know one mom who still occasionally nursed her child until the age of four.

There are still plenty of health benefits for the child nursed past infancy. Research shows breast milk of women who nurse past a year still contain ample antibodies, as well as excellent fat and energy content (- Mandel, 2005).  Check out this beautiful article on the La Leche League International’s website about some of the health benefits.

There is also research that shows that longer breast feeding helps to promote cognitive development and higher IQ scores. Kellymom.com has a great page on all of the wonderful research and stats about the nutritional and developmental benefits of breast milk past a year.

The international logo for nursing a toddler. . .

The international logo for nursing a toddler. . .

It doesn’t seem like Emily will wean anytime soon, although there are days when nurses quickly and doesn’t seem much interested in it.  Even if she nurses for another year, I know our nursing days are numbered, because I’ve been through it before.

My son weaned himself at 23 months.  I still remember the morning he unlatched and simply stated, “Nursey all done,” to let me know he had nursed his last.  That was such a bittersweet moment for me.  On one hand I was proud we came that far, and on the other hand, I was really sad that part of our relationship was over.

For many in our Western society23 months is considered “extended” breastfeeding. But in many other parts of the world it is considered totally normal, standard practice to nurse to two years and beyond.

Given all the emotional and health benefits, I do not see “extended” breast feeding as gross, weird, or extreme. I see it as something beautiful, natural, and appropriate.

I see it as a gift.

To be completely honest, I don’t care what anyone thinks about when, where, or for how long I nurse my child.  I care about the little one in my lap who says that nursing makes “baby happy.”

20 responses »

  1. Ah, how I loved nursing my girls! I had intended to nurse until the “normal” one-year, but neither of my girls had the same plan. I can’t remember their ages now, but they both lost interest and willingness at some point – choosing to either bite or latch on but not suck (and then start biting). That was sad both times!

    Good for you for honoring what is right for you and your children!

  2. Beautiful post! i hope i’ll get there too. My daughter is 11 months and still nurses. Those days, with the heat wave we’re back to 10-14 times a day, even if most of the time it is just for a few minutes. It is funny because when we offer her water to keep her hydrated she looks at us with this “WTF face” and points at my boobs! I already feel and see the difference with the newborn and little baby days when she had the “angry turtle” face while looking for my nipple (which often ended up in her ear, forehead or chin) and now. When she is not to tired, she signs for nursing, guides herself the breast to her mouth and makes me wonderful smiles while nursing, she even laughs sometimes. She strokes my face too. I hope it will continue long enough to hear her say actually something. I am away 4 nights every 4 weeks and yet we continue… I hope we’ll all have numerous nursings, quick ones, long ones, all full of love!

    • Oh my goodness! I love your analogy of the “angry turtle” face! That is too cute/funny. I think your breast feeding journey has been amazing!! You have been through so much– thyroid condition, cultural issues, your schedule– and yet you continue. If you would ever like to write a guest post for me about nursing in France and what you have been through, I would love it! Momaste!

      • I’d love to! You’ll have to correct my English though! I’ll be back on the 18th of August. (I am writing on my iPhone and the network is terrible after violent storms) You can email me so we can discuss the specifics.
        Did I mention that I am typing this while breast feeding?;-) it is 10 pm and we are both relaxing before going to bed…
        Lots of love

  3. I had planned on weaning after my son turned one. That was a month and a half ago, and he now tugs on my shirt when he wants milk (usually 2-3 times a day). His interest has not waned, and I’m in no hurry to stop him. I love the smile he has on his face after he’s gotten a little fix- like he’s giddy and content. I’d love to hear him actually express verbally what it’s like for him!

    I’m going away for the weekend next weekend, and am a little anxious about what it’ll be like. Will he still want to nurse when I come back? Will he forget about it? What will happen to my supply? I gave up pumping after his birthday (THANKFULLY!), but may bring it along in case I need it.

    • Hmmm, I haven’t been away from my nursling overnight yet, so I don’t really know. . . I know that by the end of a work day I start to feel full, not engorged or anything, but can tell my boobs have been busy all day, haha! I would think your body will adjust, but I think it is a smart move to bring the pump just in case you get uncomfortable. Good luck! thanks for the comment and for your insight!

  4. Hi there:) thanks for reminding me of how wonderful it is to nurse a toddler. I nursed my son until he turned 2. We were both ready at 2, which is a beautiful thing that it came together like that. Thanks for pointing out the difference in nursing a toddler and newborn. Its so much more relaxing and peaceful in toddlerhood, not worrying about the intake and so on! good for you mommy hero for doing what is best for you and little Em.

      • I know, thats hard to think about, but at the very least, you have had this beautiful nursing relationship so far-Nothing can change that:) xo

  5. I share the same exact sentiment and blogged exactly the same thing I feel about nursing my toddler few months back. Here’s a high five from another breastfeeding mom who believes that breast is best. Well done!

    • Thank you so much! It is always great to hear from another mom doing extended nursing. It is so rewarding IMHO. I will have to mosey over and check out your blog. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      • In fact 10 years ago when I was nursing my first boy the nursing journey just got cut off abruptly when 2 months into my 2nd pregnancy with my daughter, no. 1 just weaned himself off at 22m/o when I finally just started getting the hang of tandem nursing. No. 2 was breastfed until 28 months. It would be really interesting to see if no.3 will just outdo his older siblings. 🙂 Keep it up you! Enjoyed your blog post a lot. I am still learning to blog as English is my 2nd language. Have a good weekend ahead!

      • Your English is beautiful!! Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve never tandem nursed… I didn’t even know that it was “a thing’ until after having my second baby when I joined an online support group and people there talked about it. That is quite a feat, I would imagine, nursing two at once, but it must be really special too. Hope to hear from you again, on our motherhood and nursing journeys. xoxo.

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