We know the process of weaning — whether led by the child, the mother, a doctor, or society’s expectations — is an emotional, personal, and rather fascinating one.
Let’s continue with a discussion about the benefits, myths, tips, & stories about nursing older infant and toddlers.
Full-term (or natural term) breastfeeding is when a child is allowed and able to wean according to his or her own timeline without influence by the parents or an arbitrary marker (such as a specific age, when s/he can talk, when s/he is going to school, when s/he’s eating solids, etc) or weaning out of necessity (the mother’s absence, a medical problem, etc).
Breastfeeding older children or breastfeeding full-term isn’t for everyone and it’s not ideal for every family. But it is normal, and for many families it’s a pretty sweet deal.
Go ahead, take a moment to get acquainted with the idea of a walkin’, talkin’ kiddo who knows which shoe goes on which foot and hasn’t given up on the boob yet. It looks something like this for a young toddler…
…and like this for Amy Beth Smith and her toddler, Ben. Bet you can’t handle the sweetness!
Sometimes it also looks like this: Maha Al Musa, 51-year-old mother who breastfeeds her five-and-a-half year old daughter, told breastfeeding advocate Paala Secor:
“I am always empowering women to look within…read the book within and not be controlled, shamed by the outside….women giving power away all the time to ‘experts’ and they are the expert if only they could trust their instincts body heart mind [and] spirit…it’s all there in our feminine blue print.”
“We have a story and she falls asleep on my breast… It’s this beautiful, quiet, connected, meditative space where she goes off into dreamland…It’s so lovely to have my milkies right here. They never go missing, they’re always ready, always warm and available and full of nutrients,” Maha told Mother’s Day in 2012.
So, what are the benefits of full-term breastfeeding?
KellyMom has some excellent information to help educate about why full-term breastfeeding matters. From her page:
- Breastfeeding contributes to your child’s NUTRITION
- Breastfeeding contributes to your child’s HEALTH
- Breastfeeding contributes to your child’s INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT
- Breastfeeding contributes to your child’s SOCIAL and MENTAL DEVELOPMENT
- Breastfeeding your child past infancy is NORMAL
- MOTHERS also benefit from breastfeeding for a longer duration
More BENEFITS of breastfeeding toddlers:
- “Breastfeed a Toddler – Why on Earth?” -Jack Newman, MD
- “Breastfeeding Beyond a Year: Exploring Benefits, Cultural Influences, and More” – Jen Davis (great info — check this out first and foremost)
- “Is There Any Value In Breastfeeding Past One Year?” – Debbi Donovan, IBCLC
- VIDEO: “The Joys of Breastfeeding a Toddler” in Media Brew tab
Click here for more weaning resources on my page, including myths, tips, stories, and books.