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The Delights of Extended Breastfeeding

Most of us know that breast is best for baby, and if it works for you, to breastfeed that baby for at least one year. It doesn’t work for everyone, for a variety of reasons, but when you can manage it, breastfeeding is wonderful.

I have to say, extended breastfeeding in some ways is even more fun. More challenging at times, but so much fun!

Toddlers Can Be Playful Breastfeeders

My 15 month old is an absolute wild child when it comes to breastfeeding. She’s all over the place, standing up, sitting down, getting back into that old cradle hold, trying to flip upside down while still latched. It’s practically a comedy routine some days.

She knows what she wants and when she wants it, and can come up to get it.

Sometimes it’s clearly a game to her. She’s not always serious about getting any actual milk out. It’s the attention and the bond, plus making sure her siblings know that Mommy is hers!

Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding

There is a great list of benefits of extended breastfeeding posted on KellyMom that she appears to keep updated. But here are a few of my favorites:

1. Nursing toddlers benefit nutritionally.

I love seeing this one after being warned by my pediatrician to be sure to start giving whole milk in case I didn’t realize that my daughter was weaning. I think I would notice! The whole lack of nursing thing.

I assume the pediatrician’s point would be that a gradual weaning might not be noticed as quickly as it should be. I think I’m pretty aware, overall, of how much my daughter nurses. Having had two older children self wean, I’m also pretty familiar with the routine.

But nutritionally you just can’t beat breastmilk for babies and toddlers. It’s a significant source of fat and protein, as well as other nutrients that toddlers need.

2. Nursing toddlers are sick less often.

How could any mother not love that? Sick toddlers are a lot of work. Anything that helps them get sick less often has to be a good thing!

3. Nursing a toddler is normal.

Yes, normal! Despite the many who want to know when you’re going to get around to weaning that baby, nursing a toddler is a very normal thing to do.

4. Extended nursing makes for smarter children.

Aw geez, this might be a disadvantage! She’s smart enough already!

Kidding, kidding! Although she is doing things already that her older brother and sister weren’t doing so young.

All the fats in breastmilk, particularly the omega-3, help with brain development, which is vital during the first 2 years.

5. It’s good for the mother’s health.

Extended breatfeeding continues the general benefits to the mother of breastfeeding. Easier weight loss, less chance of osteoporosis, less chance of various cancers, it’s pretty good stuff.

Disadvantages of Extended Breastfeeding

None of the disadvantages of extended breastfeeding really bother me. They are pretty minor to me and how I want to live my life. Nonetheless….

1. Social disapproval.

The longer you breastfeed, the more you’re going to be getting the question of when you’re going to wean. Some people get pretty disgusted by extended breastfeeding, as though it’s any of their business. Some even compare it to child abuse, which says more about their frame of mind than it does about breastfeeding.

The disapproval that some breastfeeding mothers feel in public increases if you breastfeed a toddler in public. More people will feel you shouldn’t be doing that in public. Your toddler may well be making it harder to be “discreet” about the whole matter.

2. Not all pediatricians are aware of the benefits of extended breastfeeding.

Actually, this is a disadvantage to having a pediatrician who is unaware of the benefits, not really a disadvantage to extended breastfeeding. No fault of breastfeeding that not all doctors keep up on current research.

But it can be annoying to hear from your child’s doctor that you’re doing it wrong, or that you don’t need to breastfeed anymore.

3. Weaning may be a challenge.

I’ve never found it to be so, but your mileage may vary. My older two self weaned, so there never was a challenge.

But if the time comes when you do decide to wean your child on your schedule rather than his or hers, there may be more of a battle. Toddlers know what they want and they can try to get it. You may have to be a bit stubborner.

4. Your toddler can delete your blog posts while you’re breastfeeding.

Yes, I’ve been nursing my toddler while typing this up. She swung up when I was a bit more than halfway through, hit a few random keys and poof! My post vanished as my browser window went back a few pages.

Thank you WordPress autosave!

As for Me…

Our current plans include breastfeeding until my daughter self weans or until around age 2, at which point I’ll probably be working on encouraging weaning. If she’s like my older two, she’ll choose self weaning in a few more months, and that’s fine.

I’m not especially looking forward to weaning. My last baby, and I love the closeness. I have days where I’m ready to be done with it all, but more days where breastfeeding is such a treat that I dread when I have to give it up.

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