Breastfeeding a toddler can be a rewarding and beneficial experience for both mother and child. Breast milk is very beneficial for your toddler even at the age of 2 and 3 years old. Although breastfeeding alone doesn’t meet all of your toddler’s nutritional needs, it still contains some of the best nutrients for your little one to thrive. In this article we’ll discuss what it’s like breastfeeding a toddler, address common concerns, and provide some helpful tips and information on how to successfully and comfortably breastfeed your toddler.
Yes, it is normal to breastfeed a toddler. Many mothers around the world continue to breastfeed their toddlers into the age of two or longer, and yes, breastfeeding a toddler is definitely worth it. Not only does it give your child the nutritional benefits of breast milk, but it also provides emotional and psychological comfort for both mother and baby.
If your baby is approaching toddler and you’re wondering should you continue breastfeeding or begin the weaning process, continue reading. We’re going to dive deeper into the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding a toddler, common concerns associated with it, and tips on how to make the experience successful and comfortable.
Should I Breastfeed My Toddler: Is It Worth It?
I breastfed my son on demand for 2 years and trust me, I know that breastfeeding a toddler is a whole new aspect. As our toddlers begin to grow, get taller, heavier, gain new teeth, and become curious with the world around them, breastfeeding can become more difficult and uncomfortable to continue into toddler hood. Not to mention, the adverse, unasked for opinions of those around us who believe babies shouldn’t be breastfed after they begin teething, walking, and talking. It’s a lot to consider and can definitely make us question if breastfeeding a toddler is worth it.
The truth is that, breastfeeding a toddler does offer great benefits for both baby and mother even into toddler hood. Breast milk has amazing benefits for toddlers, providing them with essential nutrients to help their bodies grow stronger. It’s full of healthy fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics. These nutrients help support a toddler’s development and can contribute to boosting their immune system, aiding in brain development, providing energy for growth and play, and even promoting healthy weight gain.
Another great benefit of breastfeeding a toddler, that many people overlook is the emotional support, comfort and stability it provides, while our toddlers are just beginning to realize they’re a separate person full of emotions and feelings of their own. Breastfeeding a toddler can also provide them with the security, comfort and sense of connection that they need to explore the world around them. When toddlers become overstimulated, anxious, and frustrated, their typical response is to cry, shut down, have and meltdown or tantrum.
This is normal and due to the fact that they are just learning how to express and navigate their own emotions. Breastfeeding can act as a calming effect, helping them to relax and self-soothe in these moments of distress, providing that sense of security they need to feel comforted and more in control of their emotions. It’s one thing they know is safe and it will also provide them with the confidence they need in a confusing world, knowing that security isn’t far away.
Is It Normal To Breastfeed A Toddler?
Contrary to what some may think, it is normal and very common to breastfeed a toddler. Many mothers around the world continue to breastfeed their toddlers into the age of two or longer. The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends that mothers continue to breastfeed until their child’s second birthday, and after if desired.
I know a mom that breasted her twin toddlers until the age of 3. I can only imagine some of the challenges, negativity, and adverse reactions, she may have experienced, but even more I can imagine how much more beneficial it was. She still says it was a great decision that made sense for her family. One that she doesn’t regret and would do it all over again.
This mom is truly inspirational to other moms who are considering breastfeeding a toddler, reminding us that it’s ok to go with your gut feeling and trust yourself. Breastfeeding a toddler can be an incredible journey filled with lots of joy and special moments for both baby and mother.
Common Concerns With Breastfeeding A Toddler
Along with the benefits of breastfeeding a toddler, comes a few common concerns. When it comes to breastfeeding a toddler, there are times when it’s not as easy as we may think. There are common challenges that come with breastfeeding a toddler and learning how to navigate those in the best way possible can help make the process run smoother.
One of the biggest concerns mothers have about breastfeeding is whether or not their child is getting enough nutrition. Since breast milk does not provide all of the essential nutrients that a toddler needs, you may feel like you need to supplement their diet with other sources. Once your baby turns 6 months old, you should begin slowly introducing solids, one at a time. Then, after the age of one increase the amount of solids they are eating, making sure they’re getting a variety of foods.
It’s important to note that you should never pressure them to eat or force it, but rather offer small amounts of food throughout the day that will provide them with essential nutrients. Breastfeeding can be a great source of comfort and nutrition for your toddler, but should not replace their meals and snacks. Be sure to ask your pediatrician about the appropriate amount of dietary intake for your toddler.
Another common concern is with growth. Even though toddlers may not be growing as quickly as they did as babies, it’s important to remember that their growth pattern will differ from an infant’s. As they get older, their weight gain may slow down a bit, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not getting enough nutrition. As long as their growth is monitored and you make sure your toddler is eating a healthy balanced diet of solids and drinking plenty of fluids, there’s no need to worry. The important thing is to make sure they are meeting developmental milestones and feel healthy overall.
Tooth decay, is a dental concern common with breastfeeding toddlers after teeth come in. Especially when it comes to night time feedings. Tooth decay can be caused by bacteria and sugar that sit on the teeth and gums, which can contribute to cavities. When breastfeeding after teeth have grown in, it is important that you clean your baby’s teeth and gums twice daily, including before bed. This will help reduce the risk of tooth decay and promote healthy oral hygiene for your little one.
Many moms also wonder if breastfeeding a toddler will negatively impact their child’s independence. As your child gets older, they may want to assert their independence more and explore the world around them. But it’s important remember that this is a normal part of development and should be encouraged, whether you’re breastfeeding or not. It’s ok for your toddler to take breaks from breastfeeding and explore their newfound independence. Allowing them to explore will make the weaning process easier down the line.
Physical Challenges of Breastfeeding A Toddler
Now that your little one weighs more and is more active, breastfeeding will pose a few physical challenges. At one point, your baby could lay across your chest to nurse, by now they may be sitting on your lap. Most toddlers will even try to stand, bounce, twist, turn and and play while nursing.
This could become uncomfortable for mom, especially in the beginning. It\’s important that we let our toddler know if and when breastfeeding becomes uncomfortable. Do so, by calmly, but firmly telling them what makes you uncomfortable. Then remove your toddler from the breast for a short period, before trying again.
You can also try breastfeeding in a comfortable position, like laying down with your little one on their side. This allows for physical nourishment and bonding at the same time. You will find that as you adjust your nursing positions to fit you both, it will become easier and more enjoyable over time.
The beauty of breastfeeding a toddler, is that there are so many options to make it comfortable and enjoyable. Just try different positions until you both find one that works best for each of you. Take the time to listen to your toddler’s cues and adjust accordingly. And most importantly, enjoy this special moment with your little one! There’s nothing quite like it.
How To Be Successful At Breastfeeding A Toddler
For breastfeeding to be successful, both mom and baby have to feel comfortable and capable. This is very important, because breastfeeding is more than just a food option. It’s a bond between a mother and her child. For the baby, it is the safest and most comforting place to be. Therefore, if either participant start to feel uneasy, it’ll negatively affect the experience as a whole.
Successful breastfeeding of a toddler also requires patience and consistency. Here are 15 tips to help make the process easier:
1. Find a comfortable position
2. Encourage your toddler to latch correctly
3. Take regular breaks in between feedings
4. Create a distraction-free environment for nursing sessions
5. Set nursing expectations, such as times of day, session length and disallowance of biting
6. Listen to your toddler’s cues and needs
7. Offer rewards or incentives for breastfeeding
8. Be patient, flexible, and cherish the moments
9. REST, stay hydrated, and eat a proper diet
10. Communicate your needs and choices with your spouse or partner
11. Introduce a cup and other sources of nutrition through solids
12. Be understanding if your toddler goes through stages of weaning
13. Talk to you and your baby’s doctor, pediatrician, and dentist about your choice to continue breastfeeding
14. Clean your toddlers teeth and gums regularly
15. Encourage exploration and independence outside of nursing
By following these tips, you can have a successful breastfeeding experience with your toddler and continue to provide them with the nourishment they need for optimal health and development. Breastfeeding a toddler isn’t easy but it is certainly beneficial and rewarding in so many ways.
Breastfeeding In Addition to Solids
After your baby turns one year of age, you’ll want to offer your toddler more solids, along with milk. Whether your toddler drinks whole milk, breast milk, fortified, soy, goat or almond milk. This alone isn’t going to provide your little one with all of their nutritional needs. Although, it will take your little one months to become interested in more and more solids.
Therefore, don’t feel pressured if your toddler still prefers milk over anything else. Just continue offering (not forcing) solids a few times daily. It can be difficult and even a little stressful to encourage your toddler to choose solids over breast milk, but it is necessary. You may notice your toddler will throw a tantrum, turn away from solids and sometimes, completely rebel against anything BUT breastfeeding. Which, can be discouraging. Know that this is normal and is your toddler’s way of trying to get the nutrition they need.
15 Toddler Friendly Foods to Introduce
When introducing your toddler to new foods, start with something simple like soft fruits or cooked vegetables. As well as foods that are easy on their tiny tummies. There are plenty of healthy, delicious and nutritious food options for your little one! Here is a list of 10 toddler-friendly meals:
1. Soft boiled eggs
2. Greek yogurt with fruit
3. Soft cooked fish
4. Overnight oats
5. Roasted vegetables (e.g sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli)
6. Macaroni and cheese with vegetable puree
7. Chicken Soup
8. Fruit smoothies
9. Avocado toast
11. Apple sauce
12. Soft cheese
15.Cream of Wheat or Malt-o-Meal
These are just some ideas to get you started! And remember, don’t feel discouraged if your toddler doesn’t take to every food offered.
As your toddler continues to explore and experiment with different flavors, textures and food combinations they will eventually be eating more than just breast milk! Of course, your little one won’t love every item on the menu. It may take time, but eventually you and your toddler will find the balance between breast milk and solids that works best for your family. With time, patience and strategy, you and your toddler will find a consistent and comfortable eating schedule that includes; solids along with breast milk.
Dealing With Adverse Opinions From Others
It can be difficult to have others question your parenting decisions about breastfeeding your toddler. Unfortunately there are still too many people who don’t agree with breastfeeding a toddler. I began to receive comments from many, once my son passed 6 months. So, you can bet breastfeeding a toddler will cause even more reactions. At times I wanted to just stay home and never breastfeed my son around others.
Eventually, I learned to ignore the comments and opinions of others. I would simply focus on my son and me, and what worked best for us.
You should not be ashamed or embarrassed by your choice to breastfeed your toddler. This is a personal decision between you and your baby and a great one that should not be questioned or judged.
Try not allow anyone discourage you from a rewarding breastfeeding journey with your child. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family, if possible and remember that you’re doing the BEST thing for YOUR baby or toddler.
Choosing to continue breastfeeding past infancy is definitely worth it. If you take the cons and weigh them against the pros of breastfeeding a toddler, you’ll immediately realize that there are far more benefits to extended breastfeeding. Stronger immunity, healthier mom and baby, long-lasting bond, better mood, brain development, nutritional value…these are just some of the great reasons why continuing to breastfeed your toddler is worth it.
The decision is completely yours and your toddler’s. You’re aware of your capabilities and know what you’re comfortable with. Any amount of time, whether 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, or more is beneficial. As long as you and your baby are healthy, that’s what matters most.
In conclusion, breastfeeding a toddler is a big decision to make. But, it can be so rewarding. Breast milk still provides important nutrients for your little one and helps them develop their immune system. Plus, the bond between you and your baby will continue to grow! Don’t let anyone else’s opinions affect your decision to breastfeed. Do what works best for you and your baby and enjoy every moment of it.
Wishing you all the best in your breastfeeding journey!