Although I’ve been breastfeeding my son for over a year now, I truly believe that breastfeeding a toddler is a whole new aspect. Just when I was starting to feel like a pro, my baby turned one and then came toddler-hood.
Breast milk is still very beneficial for your toddler. Although breastfeeding alone doesn’t meet all of your toddler’s nutritional needs, it still contains some of the best nutrients for your little one to thrive.
Knowing this, I decided to continue offering my toddler breast milk for as long as possible. My original goal, was to gradually wean my baby after his first birthday and exclusively pump going forward. This would allow me to offer my toddler breast milk in a cup, without him needing to depend on me, alone for nursing sessions.
We were off to a great start. After about 3-4 weeks of cutting out one nursing session, every few days, we were finally at a comfortable point. He only needed to latch at night. This went on for about 2 weeks before he did a complete 360.
One morning we woke up and my toddler would not take his cup, he barely wanted solids, he only wanted to be nursed. I felt a bit defeated at first, but I KNEW he wasn’t just acting out and breastfeeding was a need for him at the moment. I just wasn’t sure why…
Knowing the right time
Two days later, I noticed 2 new teeth erupting and immediately understood why my toddler had a sudden relapse in weaning and temporarily lost interest in most of his solids. So, of course, I felt it necessary to provide the comfort and relief he needed.
Fast forward, 1 month later and we’re still breastfeeding, except I no longer feel compelled to wean at this time and am not sure at what point I will be.
Breastfeeding is a 2-way street
For breastfeeding to be successful, both mom and baby have to feel comfortable and capable. This is very important, because breastfeeding is more than just a food option. It’s a bond between a mother and her child. For the baby, it is the safest and most comforting place to be. Therefore, if either participant start to feel uneasy, it’ll negatively affect the experience as a whole.
How to recognize you’re breastfeeding a toddler
Around 10 months, I started to realize I was breastfeeding a toddler, opposed to my former newborn/infant nursing days. My baby no longer wanted to be cradled when nursing, he preferred many different (wild) positions. He also started to become very distracted during our nursing sessions.
Sometimes, he would even run back and forth from his toys and the breasts. This, along with the constant tugging at my shirt, tantrums if they’re (my breast) unavailable, accidental biting, pinching, and playing during our sessions, became tiring on my end. This is when I knew I was no longer nursing an infant, but instead was breastfeeding a toddler.
Things don’t always go as planned
I always planned to wean at 1 year of age, but this is part of the reasons I felt sure that I was ready to wean…Or at least “thought” I was ready. Unfortunately, my son was not. So I decided to put a pause on weaning and I am officially still breastfeeding a toddler, indefinitely and unexpectedly.
How is breastfeeding a toddler different from the first year?
Aside from the differences listed previously, breastfeeding a toddler differs from the earlier months, in many ways. It is still a beautiful, heartfelt journey, completely normal, widely beneficial, due to the long list of nutritional needs being met and ensures a long-lasting, secure bond.
Breastfeeding in addition to solids
After your baby turns one year of age, you’ll want to offer your toddler more solids, along with milk. Whether your toddler drinks whole milk, breast milk, fortified, soy, goat or almond milk. This , alone, isn’t going to provide your little one with ALL of their nutritional needs.
Although, it will take your little one months to become interested in more and more solids. Therefore, don’t feel pressured if your toddler still prefers milk over anything else. Just continue offering (not forcing) solids a few times daily.
It can be difficult and even a little stressful to encourage your toddler to choose solids over breast milk, but it is necessary. You may notice your toddler will throw a tantrum, turn away from solids and sometimes, completely rebel against anything BUT breastfeeding. Which, can be discouraging.
With time, patience and strategy, you and your toddler will find a consistent and comfortable eating schedule that includes; solids along with breast milk.
Adverse opinions from others
Another thing to look forward to when choosing to continue breastfeed into toddler hood, is the negative and opinionated comments from others. Unfortunately there are still too many people who don’t agree with breastfeeding a toddler.
I began to receive comments from many, once my son passed 6 months. So, you can bet breastfeeding a toddler will cause even more reactions.
At times I wanted to just stay home, never breaatfeed my son around others and it even played a part in me deciding to wean at a year. It took social distancing during the 2020 pandemic, for me to realize just how much of an influence other people’s opinions haf had on my breastfeeding experience.
Try not allow anyone discourage you from a rewarding breastfeeding journey with your child. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family, if possible and remember that you’re doing the BEST thing for YOUR baby/toddler.
Now that your little one weighs more and is more active, breastfeeding will pose a few physical challenges. At one point, your baby could lay across your chest to nurse, by now they may be sitting on your lap. Most toddlers will even try to stand, bounce, twist, turn and and play while nursing.
This could become uncomfortable for mom, especially in the beginning. It’s important that we let our toddler know if and when breastfeeding becomes uncomfortable. Do so, by calmly, but firmly telling them what makes you uncomfortable. Then remove your toddler from the breast for a short period, before trying again.
Is it worth it?
Choosing to continue breastfeeding past infancy is definitely worth it. If you take the cons and weigh them against the pros of breastfeeding a toddler, you’ll immediately realize that there are far more benefits to extended breastfeeding. Stronger immunity, healthier mom and baby, long-lasting bond, better mood, brain development, nutritional value…these are just some of the great reasons why continuing to breastfeed your toddler is worth it.
Though, the decision is completely yours and your toddler’s. You’re aware of your capabilities and know what you’re comfortable with. Any amount of time, whether 6 months, 1 year, 2 or more is beneficial. As long as you and your baby is healthy, that’s what matters most.
With time speeding by and my little one growing more and more each day, breastfeeding is a way for me to slow down and cherish our sweet, precious moments. If I had to sum up what it’s like breastfeeding a toddler, I’d say, although it can be challenging and sometimes tiring, it is the right choice (for us), truly beneficial and absolutely worth it.