I never thought I would still be breastfeeding my almost three-year-old. I started off with the intention of breastfeeding for a year or so, but here I am, nearly three years later. I was hoping that my son would just stop on his own accord. Based on what other moms told me, it would happen kind of abruptly, and I would probably experience a little sadness—just the thought of this does make me a little sad.
Even though our breastfeeding sessions sometimes get in the way of me making his lunch for preschool, getting dinner on the table, or doing some dishes, deep down inside, I love that we are able to cuddle. It’s this time that I can kiss him on the head and cheek and squeeze him as tight as I can. It reminds me to slow down and take him in because I know that this day will pass and eventually he won’t want to sit with me.
Breastfeeding a toddler is not always easy, though. They are like little gymnasts at the breast. They often won’t settle down unless they are tired. And then there are the looks and comments I get from other people while I’m nursing that makes it even harder to defend my sacred time with my son—this time neither one of us will get back.
Comments like, “There is no nutrition in your breastmilk.” “He is too old.” “Why don’t you cut him off?” “He is just comfort feeding.” I often wonder how people came to these conclusions. I mean, the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend that babies be breastfed for at least two years and continue for as long as both mother and child want.
And although there are not a lot of studies on breastfeeding for toddlers, the research that has been done says that toddlers still receive benefits from breastmilk. For instance, it provides immunities, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that help aid digestion and can protect toddlers from allergies and illnesses. It can also be used to help comfort a toddler, bring security, or help them calm down and gain reassurance. So, based on the “little research” that has been done, it seems like extended breastfeeding is both beneficial for the physical and mental wellness of the child, not to mention the continued bonding it provides between child and mother.
I didn’t think I would still be breastfeeding my almost three-year-old, but he hasn’t indicated that he wants to stop, and I see no risk in us continuing, which means that all the negative eyes that peer at us when I breastfeed my son and all those comments from strangers, family, and friends alike are all made out of their own preconceived notions. The research has been done, and there are health benefits besides comfort feeding.
So to all those mamas out there who are still breastfeeding their toddlers, I understand the struggles you face, and I understand the cherished moments you have. Keep on keeping on, and don’t mind all those ill-informed eyes and comments.