Breastfeed a Toddler -- Why?

by Carrie Lauth

Is your baby approaching his or her first birthday and you're considering weaning?

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that "breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired." If you and your baby are still enjoying the nursing experience, why not take a look at some of the advantages of nursing beyond that first year?

Immunological Benefits

Contrary to popular belief, mother's milk does not have an expiration date! Your baby continues to receive all the benefits of human milk for as long as he is nursing. In fact, your milk changes to meet your baby's changing needs. For instance, did you know that the milk of a Mom whose baby delivers prematurely is different from that of one whose baby is full term? The milk of a Mom whose baby is older has more protein, fat and more lysozyme (which destroys E. coli and salmonella bacteria) than it did when her baby was younger.

Now that your toddler is, well...toddling about, he's exposing himself to more germs. He's mouthing everything in sight and it's getting harder to keep his toys clean. And what about those bits of carpet fluff and who-knows-what he always seems to find and quickly consume?

The immunological benefits of breastmilk may be even more important now. When your toddler does get sick and refuses food, he may even revert to almost totally nursing again. If this happens temporarily, you can rest assured that he's getting his nutritional needs met. If he's vomiting or has diarrhea, breastmilk is far superior to keep him hydrated than the popular rehydration drinks.

In addition, breastfed children tolerate vaccination better and are less likely to have adverse reactions.

In the Journal of Human Lactation, September 1995, several studies are cited which show that exclusive breastfeeding may continue well into the second half of the first year with no detrimental effects, and many positive effects. If you have a picky toddler or one with food allergies, your breastmilk serves as "nutritional insurance" for him and peace of mind for you!

Nursing makes discipline easier

A toddler's life is full of frustrations. Having to hear the word "No", wanting to do things that your uncoordinated body can't do, learning to communicate with Mom and Dad and learning to accept limits is hard on a little person!

Nursing is a way of quickly calming a toddler, and it makes every boo-boo better. At our house we refer to nursing as "Baby Prozac". It's also a way to ease the suffering of a child cutting molars.

Nursing is an effortless way to calm a toddler to sleep, making naptime and bedtime easier for everyone.

Extended nursing and Mom's health

Breastfeeding helps lower Mom's risk of certain cancers for several reasons. Firstly, the fewer times in a woman's life she ovulates, the less her risk. For some women, their fertility doesn't return until the end of breastfeeding. I've known Moms who went 2 years without a period because their tot was still nursing.

Secondly, breastfeeding lowers a woman's risk of getting breast cancer, and the longer she nurses, the higher the benefit.

Breastfeeding showers a woman's body with hormones that help make her a calmer, less stressed out, and more relaxed Mommy. I've talked with women who had to wean suddenly and they report that they were shocked at the change in their attitudes compared to when they were nursing!

Carrie Lauth has a lot more to say about new babies at Natural Moms Talk Radio, a free Internet talk radio show and podcast for the natural mom, available on demand, 24/7.

Copyright © Carrie Lauth. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.