Breastfeeding a walking, talking, and energetic toddler is much different than breastfeeding a newborn baby. Toddlers bring their own set of challenges and it can be a bit of a rollercoaster to adjust to your new breastfeeding relationship with your toddler. I’ve learned a lot through breastfeeding my three children through toddlerhood; some lessons learned easily and some the hard way. Here are 18 pros and cons of extended breastfeeding your toddler.
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- Extended Breastfeeding – The Challenging Stuff
- 1. Breastfeeding your Toddler is an Olympic Sport
- 2. Weaning might get crazy
- 3. It can be exhausting
- 4. Co-sleeping is great until it’s not
- 5. Sleep training is tricky when breastfeeding your toddler
- 6. Did I create a Picky Eater?
- 7. Setting Boundaries can be Tough
- 8. Teething is NO JOKE!
- 9. Your Milk Supply will Ebb and Flow Over the Years
- 10. Distracted Toddlers!
- 11. Oh, the Criticism!
- Extended Breastfeeding – The Wonderful Stuff
- 12. The health benefits are worth it
- 13. Breastfeeding your Toddler can Keep Him Calm
- 14. Strong Bond Between Mother and Baby
- 15. Financial Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding your Toddler
- 16. Health Benefits for Mom!
- 17. Can Aid in Postpartum Weight Loss
- 18. Breastfeeding your Toddler Helps Space Out Pregnancies
- Final Thoughts on Breastfeeding your Toddler
- Resources for Breastfeeding your Toddler
Extended Breastfeeding – The Challenging Stuff
1. Breastfeeding your Toddler is an Olympic Sport
Before I started on my nursing journey with our three littles, I always pictured a precious little serene bundle of joy calmly suckling from a mother’s breast. Both mommy and baby stare into each other’s eyes and create a bond for a lifetime. What I came to realize, rather quickly, is that breastfeeding can be both a beautiful calming moment of bonding and a WWE wrestling event.
My initial thoughts were correct for my newborn. We’d nurse and fall asleep together. It was great! Things definitely take an exciting turn when your little one starts to crawl and walk!
Here are some things to keep in mind:
The first sign of trouble will be the startling pinches as your wonderful baby curiously rips off your nipple to explore the world around them. (More on that curiosity later)
Next will be the cute little smacks, pinches, grabs, and punches, in the face, on the boob and pretty much anywhere your babe can reach. So, watch out!
If your little one is anything like mine, they will discover acrobatics pretty quickly. Once they’ve learned to move about on the ground, they will undoubtedly practice their skills on you while latched on. The twisting, flipping, and kicking will elicit cries of amusement from your new toddler.
Not so much from you!
Likely the last stage will be your cute little toddler walking up to you in public places, pulling down your shirt, and asking for “boobie milk”. While you laugh and ask yourself why you are still nursing you’ll get a quick snuggle while your little baby child nurses standing up in front of you before running off to finish playing with his toys. What a joy!
2. Weaning might get crazy
Weaning has always been the hardest part of nursing for me. My oldest was distraught for two weeks. She was in daycare and she was uncharacteristically angry and frustrated all day. I felt so guilty leaving her there to feel that way, but I was pregnant and my supply had started to dry up.
To wean we tried Band-Aids on my nipples, bribes, and plain ‘old denial; none of which softened the blow.
My second weaned much more quickly and easily because the new baby had arrived and he was ok with the baby taking over. It was still bittersweet for me.
I had no idea how hard it would be to see my baby go from a little infant, who only wanted me, to a toddler who was becoming his own person.
Now, with my youngest, we are showing no signs of stopping. With his willful personality, I’m prepping for a doozy of a weaning experience.
3. It can be exhausting
Extended breastfeeding is a marathon. There have been days when I can’t believe I am still doing this. I love the benefits for my baby, but sometimes, I don’t want a toddler grabbing my shirt. My youngest will fall asleep in Hubby’s arms without protest, but he demands to nurse to sleep if I hold him while he’s tired.
There have been days when I feel like a cow, and wonder if this is what my life has become. All I do is nurse, feed, and change diapers. Sometimes I feel like I’m just a walking milk machine. My husband literally calls me the Milk Woman in the ending credits of our family home videos.
But, when I think of the benefits to my baby, I know it is worth it. I know it won’t last forever, so I press on and enjoy the last few months I have to snuggle with my baby boy.
4. Co-sleeping is great until it’s not
Co-sleeping is a controversial topic. Some follow the advice that it is completely dangerous and should not be tried. Others tout it as the best way to get a good night’s sleep when you’re breastfeeding. I fall in the latter group. I found it the best way for our entire family to get sleep while allowing our babies to nurse throughout the night. It’s so convenient to be able to just roll over and nurse your baby back to sleep. This bed-side bassinet is great for co-sleeping in the early months.
However, there are also times when it’s not so great. If your baby is going through a growth spurt or teething, they may want to nurse all night long. This can leave you feeling exhausted.
And after a while, you may realize that the tiny little baby that once fell right to sleep while nursing has become a kid taking up lots of space and using you as a pacifier.
There are also times when your baby may wake you up by kicking you in the face. (Yes, this really happens!)
If you’re struggling with sleep, don’t be afraid to take a break from co-sleeping. Your baby will still be able to breastfeed, and you’ll both get some much-needed rest.
So, while co-sleeping has its benefits, it’s also important to be prepared for the challenges.
5. Sleep training is tricky when breastfeeding your toddler
If you’re extended breastfeeding, sleep training can be a bit tricky. You may find that your baby only wants to fall asleep at the breast. This can make sleep training difficult, but it’s not impossible.
There are a few things you can do to help make sleep training easier. One is
If or when you decide to sleep train, be patient and consistent. It may take a little longer for extended breastfed babies to learn to sleep through the night, but it can be done.
6. Did I create a Picky Eater?
So I’ve recently come to the realization, that it’s my fault that our youngest is so darned picky. When he doesn’t want to eat what is on his plate, he knows that very soon, he can still be satiated with his beloved boobie milk. And sometimes, he’ll climb up on my lap to nurse as I finally start to eat my food. Or he’ll stare at me and my plate like a little creeper waiting for me to take a breath so he can get into his favorite nursing position.
Our older kiddies were picky, but this little guy takes the cake. Classic youngest child vibes. To help with this, I am continuing to offer the food that we all eat at dinner time. If he abandons his plate, we firmly tell him to sit back down and assure him that he can get milk only if he eats some of his dinner. I’ll let you know if that works out. I’m holding out hope, but I won’t hold my breath!
7. Setting Boundaries can be Tough
This is especially important as your little one becomes an adorable bossy toddler. Once they are able to speak the words, mommy, boobies, or milk, it’s a wrap. They will walk right up to you, grab your shirt, and tell you what they want. While it’s cute for a hot minute, it gets old REALLY fast. So it is important to set boundaries.
I am working on this with my now two-year-old, who has had the privilege to nurse nearly on demand for most of our nursing journey. Now that the tantrums and demands are flowing, I am doing my best to help him to understand the changes in our nursing schedule and provide alternatives, if he just wants a drink or a snack, and lots of cuddles, if he wants to nurse for comfort.
8. Teething is NO JOKE!
Once your little lad or lady is ready for their first tooth, just remember, “This too shall pass!” Teething can be one of the biggest reasons for ending the journey of breastfeeding. This is not without reason. Those first few teeth are a doozy and neither you nor your new little one will be happy about it.
You may notice that she may not want to nurse, at times, because the sucking motion may cause pain. She will almost certainly bite you… at least once. And though the idea of it sounds scary and may send some mamas running for the hills, just remember, your baby will likely not cause any lasting damage to those boobies. But it will hurt.
There are lots of techniques for detaching a biter. My favorite is to sneak a finger into the side of the baby’s mouth and slide the nipple out. Others prefer to hold the baby’s nose until they release. Try a few things and go with what’s most comfortable (and fast) for you!
9. Your Milk Supply will Ebb and Flow Over the Years
The first time that I noticed a change in my supply was during the first growth spurt in the first few weeks. That’s when you resort to more frequent feeds and/or extra pumping sessions. It happens every now and again as your little one grows in leaps and bounds in the first few months.
Once you have that process down to a tee, your baby will start on solids. Yikes! Depending on how easily your little one takes to her first foods, she may begin to nurse less and less. This starts to signify that turning point where you could potentially stop nursing if your baby decides food is where it’s at. OR, if they are like mine, they will become completely inconsistent; preferring milk more one day and yummy food the next.
10. Distracted Toddlers!
We all know how short toddler attention spans can be. They want to be running around, playing with everything and anything they can get their hands on. Breastfeeding your toddler while watching TV, in the room with siblings playing or even cars driving by can cause your little one to roughly unlatch to see what’s going on.
This is totally normal, and extended breastfeeding can actually help with this. Offer your breast as a way to soothe and calm your toddler when they are feeling overwhelmed or frazzled. It can be a great way to provide some quiet
11. Oh, the Criticism!
It seems like extended breastfeeding has become more socially acceptable in recent years. However, you may still get some flak from extended family members or friends who don’t understand why you are still nursing. It can be difficult to explain extended breastfeeding to those who have never done it themselves, but try to remember that you are doing what is best for you and your baby!
Even strangers may have something to say about extended breastfeeding. Ignore the haters and do what is right for you and your little one!
Extended Breastfeeding – The Wonderful Stuff
12. The health benefits are worth it
There are so many health benefits to extended breastfeeding. It’s worth it to me to continue doing it, even though it’s not always easy. Some of the benefits include:
– Lower risk of childhood obesity
– Lower risk of ear infections
– Lower risk of respiratory infections
– Lower risk of eczema
– Higher IQ scores
– Better social skills
– A stronger bond between mother and child
Extended breastfeeding can also help to prevent or reduce the severity of illnesses. Studies have shown that breastfed children tend to get sick less often, and when they do fall ill, their symptoms are usually not as severe. This is likely because breastmilk contains antibodies that help to boost your child’s immune system.
13. Breastfeeding your Toddler can Keep Him Calm
When my toddler is having a rough day, breastfeeding can be a great way to help him calm down and feel better. It can be a “quick fix” for fussy moments, and it helps him to feel more relaxed and content. This can be a lifesaver on days when everything seems to be going wrong!
Comfort or Non-nutritive nursing can be beneficial for your child’s sense of security during their toddler years. You’ll notice that your toddler will snuggle up to breastfeed in many situations; like when he’s hurt, tired, angry, bored, etc. Most of the time these nursing sessions barely last a minute, but they give your little one a moment to relax and feel better.
If you’re thinking about extended breastfeeding, here are a few things to keep
14. Strong Bond Between Mother and Baby
The extended breastfeeding relationship is not just about the milk. It is also a very special bond between mother and child. This bond is beneficial for both the mother and the child, providing a sense of security and comfort. The physical contact and skin-to-skin contact that occurs during nursing also help to promote bonding.
It can be easier for some mothers to wean their babies if they have a strong bond with them, as they know that their child will be okay without breast milk. On the other hand, extended breastfeeding can also help to strengthen the bond between mother and child.
In addition to the physical benefits, extended breastfeeding also provides psychological benefits for both the mother and the child. For the mother, extended breastfeeding can help to improve her mood and reduce stress levels. It can also help to promote bonding between the mother and child. For the child, extended breastfeeding can help to improve their cognitive development and emotional well-being.
15. Financial Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding your Toddler
Extended breastfeeding can also have financial benefits for the family. The longer a mother breastfeeds, the less money the family will have to spend on formula and other baby food. extended breastfeeding can also help to save money on childcare costs, as the mother will be able to stay home with the child for longer periods of time.
Extended breastfeeding is not right for every family, but it is definitely worth considering for those who are looking for a way to save money and provide their child with the best possible nutrition. extended breastfeeding can be a great experience for both the mother and child, and it is worth considering if you are thinking about starting a family.
16. Health Benefits for Mom!
Extended breastfeeding can also have benefits for Moms, such as reducing the risk of certain cancers, osteoporosis, and type 2 diabetes. This is because extended breastfeeding helps to reduce the amount of estrogen in the body, which can help to decrease the risk of breast cancer. Additionally, extended breastfeeding can help to delay the onset of menopause.
17. Can Aid in Postpartum Weight Loss
Many extended breastfeeding mothers also report that it helped them to lose weight post-pregnancy. This is likely due to the fact that breastfeeding requires extra calories, which can help to boost metabolism and shed unwanted pounds.
Now, I have to be COMPLETELY honest. This did not work for me. I actually gained weight while nursing. It wasn’t a lot, maybe 5-10 pounds, but it was enough to frustrate me. I’m sure it would have come off eventually had I been SUPER patient, but extended breastfeeding was not the weight loss miracle that some people make it out to be.
Not at least, for me. I was able to have much more success with postpartum weight loss when I started to wean.
This is why I say it “can”. I have heard many moms say they were able to lose or maintain their weight while breastfeeding.
18. Breastfeeding your Toddler Helps Space Out Pregnancies
Another great extended breastfeeding benefit is that it can help to space out pregnancies. This is because extended breastfeeding can suppress ovulation, which means that Moms who breastfeed for longer periods of time are less likely to become pregnant again quickly.
Final Thoughts on Breastfeeding your Toddler
Despite the challenges, I wouldn’t trade extended breastfeeding for anything. It has been an amazing bonding experience for me and my children.
I hope this article provides some insight and encouragement to other mamas out there who are on the fence about extended breastfeeding or are currently in the trenches!
Did you extended breastfeed? What were some things you wish you had known? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Resources for Breastfeeding your Toddler
Here are some resources for mamas looking for more information: