5 Reasons Why I Love Breastfeeding a Toddler
This time last year, Little Miss was still a helpless, dependent, exclusively-breastfed little squish. The stress surrounding her birth weight and weight gain were a much more recent memory, and I was just starting to get confident enough in my ninja nursing skills to nurse uncovered in public without worrying about flashing the whole world.
How things change in a year!
Today, Little Miss is a vivacious, independent, determined little toddler who knows what she wants and can usually figure out a way to get it. She will conquer the world (as long as Mummy is within arm’s reach), sleep is a dirty word, and (some days) she will eat as much food as I, in addition to nursing. A year and a half and still going strong in that department!
Back around the 10-12 month window, I really didn’t know if we would make it. She was nursing like a newborn, or possibly even more, around.the.clock. I was more sleep deprived than I had been at any point since she was born and my mental and physical health was suffering for it. Not to mention how touched out and drained I was from feeling like a human fountain drink dispenser. But I had committed to a year, so a year I would do. Anything beyond that would be a discussion, and it wasn’t looking good. I clearly remember telling Little Miss at some point after her first birthday, “Every month you get from here on out is a gift” as she stared up at me from my lap, nursing away.
In all honesty, though, trying to wean her at that point would have been extremely traumatic for both of us, and we both knew they were empty threats. But as we pushed through that tough phase and approached 13 months, things changed. For the better!
I’d heard people say before that nursing a toddler was nothing like nursing an infant. I never really paid it much mind, but they were so right! As Little Miss embarked on toddlerhood, our nursing relationship became much more of a mutual partnership. I can honestly say, I enjoy nursing her now soooooo much more than I ever did as an infant. Not that I didn’t enjoy and appreciate our nursing relationship before, but I enjoy it much more now!
And here are 5 reasons why!
- Nursing sessions are shorter! As babies get older, they become much more accomplished and efficient at draining the breast. Gone are the days of marathon 40-minute nursing sessions. Now Little Miss can get her fill in five minutes or less. Sometimes they come at inopportune times, but knowing it’s a five-minute commitment vs a 40-minute one makes it a lot more pleasant. Plus she is old enough to understand when I have to tell her “not right now”.
- I don’t have to worry about her nutrition on those days she doesn’t eat. Toddlers can be picky eaters. It’s one of the few things they can control in their lives and they are just starting to explore this new world of boundaries. That, and there are just so many things to see and do out there, who has time to eat? I can rest assured that even on days that Little Miss isn’t eating as much as I would like, I know she’s still getting high quality, easily digested nutrition on tap.
- I have a built-in comfort mechanism. This is true of nursing an infant as well, but toddlers experience big feelings that they aren’t necessarily equipped to deal with yet, plus being told “no” can be emotionally trying. A quick nurse is often enough to calm those stormy waters and restore peace to the galaxy.
- Little Miss is receiving vital immune support, which means fewer illnesses. In Canada, most of us are lucky to be guaranteed a year of maternity leave for those who wish to take it. For many breastfed children of mothers returning to the work force, that means baby will be exposed to a lot more bacteria and viruses around his birthday and beyond, due to new child care arrangements. As important as those milky maternal antibodies are when babe is still a little squish, they are also important, and more plentiful, when babe reaches toddlerhood to help protect against the myriad of germs gleefully shared between little people. This means less illness for your toddler and less sick days off from work for you!
- We get some dedicated Mummy and Little Miss time. Life is busy, and it’s easy to let it get in the way. But those times when Little Miss comes looking for some milk, it’s a wonderful hang-out time for the both of us. She crawls in my lap and we get to snuggle and giggle and “talk” to each other, one on one, and those are moments I do now and will always treasure. And the times she interrupts herself to give me a soft little baby kiss…my heart absolutely melts. It’s worth every disrupted night right there!
Photo courtesy of A Geeky Ginger.
It’s not without it’s challenges with the nursing acrobatics and distraction interruptions (what parenting ventures is?), but it has been a wonderful and amazing journey for us, and I’m glad we get to celebrate it this World Breastfeeding Week!
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