Breastfeeding Older Child
In the beginning, breastfeeding was very tough for me. I had a long, coached labor that ended in a c-section. Afterwards, the hospital gave my son formula, without my consent. In addition, they used bottles and a binky causing him to develop nipple confusion. My enthusiastic nurser became reluctant to latch on, fussed at my nipple and I was cracked and sore…I cried for weeks. “One more week, one more week, how long do I have to do this for again??” I thought to myself. Until, I finally reached a local La Leche League meeting and got some help from real educated, breastfeeding Moms.
After I learned about real newborn behavior, not the misinformation peddled by the hospital and our old pediatrician, I felt relieved. Then, I learned to do nighttime feedings co-sleeping in bed which made breastfeeding a breeze. In fact, that first year flew by quickly and I was in disbelief when my son turned one. Where did the year go?
I remember that doctor’s office visit like it was yesterday. My son’s pediatrician looked me in the eye and firmly told me it was time to stop breastfeeding and change him over to cow’s milk. “He’s one year old now.” I did try some cow milk, and he did continue to drink it here and there, but I did not stop breastfeeding. I looked down at this little baby and thought, “Why would I stop breastfeeding him just because of today’s date?” So, I began my journey breastfeeding an older child. I didn’t know where it would lead or when it would stop, but I knew that my baby was not ready to wean.
In fact, I went on to nurse that child until he was 2.5 and later tandem nursed three times (nursing a newborn and toddler). As I write this, I am currently breastfeeding my 4th baby who is 22 months old and going strong. He’s sitting on my lap nursing to sleep as I type. Also, I have a new pediatrician. One who is both knowledgeable and supportive of breastfeeding.
Babies benefit from breast milk far beyond one-year
Why does the USA believe in this 1-year limit on breastfeeding? The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least the age of two (1) and people from the beginning of existence have been nourished by breast milk through childhood. In fact, the average age of weaning worldwide is four and 1/2! Not one, 4.5. (2)
While I don’t have any evidence, I suspect this 1-year switch to milk may have to do with dairy lobbyists. Because, why else? Breastfeeding is far more normal than extracting milk from a giant animal producing milk for her own non-human calf.
Benefits of breastfeeding an older child.
The benefits to an older breastfed child are much like the benefits to a younger baby. They get nutrients, antibodies and it helps with brain development and growth. There are emotional benefits and the nutrition is tailored to each child. I could write a novel on the benefits, but that’s a whole separate piece.
Personally, breastfeeding an older child has been a God-sent when my kids have been ill. I even had one child go through surgery at the age of two and breast milk was the only thing he ate after the surgery. It has been amazing through stomach bugs, colds and in warding off other illnesses I am already producing antibodies for.
Breastfeeding is not just about nutrition
Bresatfeeding an older child is not just about nutrition. Yes, the get nutritional benefits and Moms have even been shown to product toddler-milk and milk is a living substance!
Breast milk changes and adapts to each baby’s and child’s needs. However, breastfeeding is not just about nutrition. It’s an emotional bond, a fast way to heal boo boos, bumps, scrapes and helps a child calm down when life has become overwhelming.
Dealing with the critics
Breastfeeding critics can be harsh. In fact, it is suspected that the formula industry is responsible for inciting arguments between Moms known as the “Mommy Wars” and fueling the Fed is Best organization. If breastfeeding itslef doesn’t present with challenges, the people around you will.
While I dream that somewhere, out there is a family and society totally normalized to breastfeeding, supportive and accepting, my experience has not reflected this. I’m sad to say that I know many Moms who have experienced disapproval in their own families and an outpouring online. Just ask on Facebook what others think about breastfeeding a toddler. You may hear insanity incuding everything from ideas sexualizing nursing to abuse. How is one to deal? Surround yourself with supportive people, even if it’s just the family cat, discover your local La Leche League and block haters.
How far do I breastfeed beyond one-year?
That’s up to you and your baby. Eventually, my sons naturally weaned. They started nursing less, and I personally started to feel like it was time. There were no tears, the process was gentle and I hope that as they become adults they have benefited from the closeness, nutrition and comfort that has been our breastfeeding journey.