What does breastfeeding a toddler look like?
It looks like this:
- Wake up in the morning to snuggles and milk.
- Sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to milk. (Which then usually turns into an all nighter of waking up periodically just enough to notice the contortion of your body squished onto your husbands while the toddler takes up 3/4 of the bed. This is not an exaggeration. Then, you wake up in the morning to snuggles and milk...so...it isn't so bad.)
- Milk during afternoon downtime.
- Sometimes mid-morning milk snack.
- Snuggles and milk before bed.
- Definitely milk after getting hurt.
- You find they are milk contortionists.
- Sometimes it's frustrating.
- Mostly it is lovely.
- It is snuggly.
- It is comforting to the child.
- It is easy.
- It is nutritious.
- Immune factors in breastmilk seem to increase the longer a woman lactates.
"Human milk in the second year postpartum contained significantly higher concentrations of total protein, lactoferrin, lysozyme and Immunoglobulin A, than milk bank samples, and significantly lower concentrations of zinc, calcium, iron and oligosaccharides.”
— Perrin 2016*
And then this one:
In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:
- 29% of energy requirements
- 43% of protein requirements
- 36% of calcium requirements
- 75% of vitamin A requirements
- 76% of folate requirements
- 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
- 60% of vitamin C requirements
-Dewey 2001 **
These are especially comforting for a mother especially on the days filled with chips and popsicles. Not only is the toddler still getting comfort, they are also still receiving vital nutrients and immune boosting power!
Keep in mind, the thought of breastfeeding a three year old may sound weird, especially if you haven't had your baby yet. But, you do not start out breastfeeding a toddler. You start by feeding newborn, and it slowly, very slowly, evolves into breastfeeding a one year old, then a two year old and possibly beyond. If the mother is content to allow the baby or toddler to wean themselves then breastfeeding should continue. If you have a hard time feeling content with breastfeeding I recommend talking to experienced pro-breastfeeding moms who understand and can support whatever decision you make.
This wonderful, nurturing practice is vital to baby's health and wellbeing. If for some reason you cannot breastfeed (which accounts for only 2% of the world's population), allowing a baby to still suck on you instead of a pacifier will continue (or develop) the infant bond and can increase your bond in really special ways.
I have breastfed all four of my kids past age one. Rico breastfed until he was 34 months old. Fredhead was 18 months when he weaned. Wheezer weaned at just over 15 months and Mimi is going strong at over 37 months now. Each child is different. Each breastfeeding relationship is different. Allow it to unfold as it will and if you can, try to make peaceful decisions about ending your breastfeeding relationship with the child at whatever point in the journey you are.
Have you breastfed a toddler? Have you tandem nursed? Were you supported on your breastfeeding journey? What would have been helpful for you to know or understand?
*Perrin MT, Fogleman AD, Newburg DS, Allen JC. A longitudinal study of human milk composition in the second year postpartum: implications for human milk banking. Matern Child Nutr. 2016 Jan 18. doi: 10.1111/mcn.12239.
**Dewey KG. Nutrition, Growth, and Complementary Feeding of the Breastfed Infant. Pediatric Clinics of North American. February 2001;48(1).
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