There's a lot of good reasons to continue breastfeeding past the "normal" 4 months, 6 months, a year that are more typical in our society. For example, did you know that 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.
(Source: kellymom.com Extended Breastfeeding Fact Sheet.)
There have been studies done that suggest the longer a mom breastfeeds, the more she reduces risk of getting cancers herself. And of course, we're all familiar with the stats that say breastfed babies get sick less often (someone forgot to give that memo to Max...) have less allergies, etc.
That's all fine and good. But all the boring statistics don't give the real picture. So, in an effort to normalize toddler nursing, (hey, a girl can dream, can't she?) here's a look at what it's really like to breastfeed a toddler.
Nursing a toddler means learning about all kinds of different nursing positions. Toddlers are resistant to the nice neat cradle hold of their infancy and are instead more determined to see if they can, in fact, nurse upside down. (Just for the record, my daughter could.) Other favorites include nursing while standing up, sitting up so they can watch tv and nurse at the same time, and laying flat while trying to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the nipple as far as it will possibly go.
Nursing a toddler means laughs. Laughs as they learn to blow raspberries while nursing and spray milk everywhere. Laughs as you tickle them while nursing and they try desperately to laugh and stay latched at the same time. Laughs as they finish nursing, pop off, announce "all done!" to anyone within hearing distance and then say "bye," pat your breast, and wave to you as they toddle off to their next adventure. Laughs as they pop off just as your milk lets down, and they feel the milk spraying all over them. And lots and lots of laughs when he presses on your breast to make the milk spray again and again.
Nursing a toddler means that you can fix almost anything. Tantrums, overtiredness, overstimulation, bonks on the head can all be healed miraculously with a little bit of cuddle up with mommy time. I've even been know to cure a case of pink-eye or two with breastmilk. Don't tell my daughters, they would think it was really gross. But hey- it's cheaper and better for them than a round of anti-biotics!
Nursing a toddler means that there are some busy days where your toddler won't nurse at all because there's too much going on, and you go to bed wondering if he's started to wean himself.
And Nursing a toddler means that the next day, you'll probably nurse 57 times, and wonder if he'll ever wean.
Nursing a toddler means nursing in some pretty crazy places. When my daughter was two, she was going through some pretty crazy separation anxiety and refused to go to nursery. Well, I was playing the piano in primary, and her dad was working on Sundays, so she used to come sit on my lap while I was playing the piano. Of course, sitting on my lap wasn't anywhere near good enough, so I was forced to quickly become an expert at nursing and playing the piano at the same time. The best part? No one ever knew that's what we were doing. We've nursed on airplanes, in sacrament meeting, at the Conference Center, in the grocery store, etc. If we've been there, chances are, we've nursed there.
Nursing a toddler means that you may never get the shower to yourself again. I had a little visitor pull back my shower curtain yesterday morning. His face lit up and he immediately started signing "milk" over and over again.
Nursing a toddler often means (at least in my life) nursing frequently at night too. I think it's just as important that these busy little people get their needs met at night just as they do during the day. Sure, I miss out on some sleep, but I do get the pleasure of seeing him stir and sign "milk" in his sleep as he's rolling over. It's so stinkin' cute!
Nursing a toddler means built-in breaks in my day. Max always
Breastfeeding a toddler means very little worry about dehydration and less worry about adequate nutrition. When Max had a stomach bug a few weeks ago, I was terrified of dehydration, until I read that breastmilk starts to be absorbed in the intestines in as little as five minutes, which means even if he did keep throwing up, at least he was getting something good. Plus, I know that even if his diet in a day consists solely of club crackers and mac&cheese that the milk I'm giving him will make up the difference.
And breastfeeding my toddler means having a way to comfort and nourish him after another lengthy and painful surgery, and that knowledge and ability is worth any amount of lost sleep.
What are your thoughts and experiences with toddlers and breastfeeding?