In honor of National Breastfeeding Awareness month I figured I’d come clean and admit that yes, I still breastfeed my toddler.
It wasn’t a secret, but when I casually mention me nursing Samuel I get crazy looks. After all, Samuel is 18 months old I should be weaning him by now, right? Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it.
Here in America, the average age to wean is somewhere between 3-6 months. There are many moms that will go a little further and go all the way to 1 year like the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. Then there are the “crazy” moms that breastfeed past the magical age of 1. I mean seriously, there’s no benefits at all to breastfeeding after a year. Wrong.
There is some disagreement online about when the official average age to wean is around the world. From what I can gather, the average duration of breastfeeding everywhere else in the world except here and China is between 2-4 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women breastfeed until the child is at least 2 years old because of the physical and emotional benefits. They recommend this because 2 years old is the average age for the immune system to mature.
WHO’s website states that studies have shown that babies who nurse past one year have more energy than a non-nurser. Breastmilk can provide 1/3 of the calorie and protein needs of a toddler and many of the vitamins they need. The website also states that the benefits to the immune system do not decrease over time. Extended nursing also continues to decrease the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.
Samuel started to slowly back off of nursing around 12-13 months old and I thought he was going to follow in Josiah’s footsteps and wean himself early. Josiah weaned himself at around 15 months despite my desire to keep nursing. Just when I thought that Samuel was about to self-wean he bounced back and started nursing more frequently. By around 15 months Samuel was back to nursing first thing in the morning and several times a day.
I’ve discovered that nursing at toddler is much different that nursing a cuddly, immobile baby. When they’re less mobile, baby will snuggle against you and nurse for 10-30 minutes at a time and they might even let you nurse discreetly if you’re in the company of others. Nursing an 18-month-old, at least mine, has proved to be much different.
I’ve given up on trying to nurse him in public. I’ve never been able to cover him with a blanket, but at this point even trying to nurse discreetly using my shirt is impossible. He doesn’t want anything in front of his face and he fights me if I try and cover him. Typically when Samuel nurses he will nurse anywhere from 1 minute to 30 minutes. The longer nursing sessions are only in the morning. Once he’s wide awake he’s much too busy to nurse for more than a few minutes at a time. I’ve said before I feel more like a drive-through window sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I love still being able to nurse, but there’s just no way I can do it out and about. That’s why most people don’t I’m still nursing.
Since we’re talking about it, I’ll answer a few questions that most people tend to have about extended breastfeeding:
- Yes, Samuel has teeth and no they’re not a big deal. He’s tried to bite me a few times, but that was quickly corrected.
- No it is not weird having a toddler that is still nursing — I honestly don’t even think about it.
- I have no clue how much longer I’m going to breastfeed, that all depends on Samuel. I’m not going to force the issue. There’s really no reason to. He will wean when he is ready. We homeschool so there’s no risk of having a nursing Kindergartner leaving for school (lol).
- Yes, Samuel tells me when he wants to nurse and no it’s not a big deal. We expect him to tell us when he wants something so why wouldn’t he tell me he wants to nurse? Yes, it’s a little inconvenient sometimes having Samuel tug on my shirt in public, but it doesn’t make me want to stop. I have no problem normally telling him to wait until we get home.
- No Samuel is no more attached (no pun intended) to me than he would be if I weren’t still breastfeeding him. We do have a special bond because of the breastfeeding, but he has always been a little bit of a momma’s boy. He has no problem being around other people or being left in the church nursery or at a grandparent’s house. If I’m around he wants me, but what toddler doesn’t want mommy if she’s around?
If you have any other questions that I didn’t answer, feel free to ask. What has been your experience with breastfeeding? When did you stop and why? It’s National Breastfeeding Awareness month so let’s make others aware!