22 Jul The lesser-known benefits of breastfeeding a toddler
Most people know that breastfeeding is a healthy choice for babies. We also know that extended breastfeeding provides even more health benefits for both mother and child. Beyond the scientific evidence, however, are benefits that no one really talks about in the media – benefits for mom and child in the day-to-day. Here’s why I breastfed all my babies past 18 months, and why I still breastfeed baby #3, who just turned two.
1. Breastfeeding is comforting for my toddler.
When my little girl is upset because she had a fall, or she simply is having a hard time, breastfeeding comforts and soothes her. Breast milk contains calming properties, but the cuddles and extra time spent together help the most. Does this mean you can’t comfort your child if you don’t breastfeed? Of course not. There are many ways to comfort a toddler. However, in my experience, for all three of my children, breastfeeding is what calmed them down the most – and more quickly than anything else.
2. Breastfeeding means I get to sit down and take a break.
Although breastfeeding standing up is possible, I never really mastered the art – neither did I want to. Breastfeeding my little toddler means I get to sit down and take a break from everything for 15 minutes. With three young children under foot, those 15 minutes are really welcome, and I’m still parenting and being involved in my kids’ lives as I’m doing it. I also appreciate the regular breaks I get to take on my own, but those mandatory 15-minute breaks in the middle of the day are really welcome as well.
3. Breastfeeding means my toddler is getting what she needs, even when she refuses to eat what I’ve cooked.
I’m not one to force my kids to eat everything on their plates – I firmly believe that’s why so many of us have a terrible relationship with food as adults. But the concern is there about whether my daughter is getting her nutritional needs met when she doesn’t eat the healthy, balanced meals I choose to make. Whereas she does eat regular meals and snacks, I know that when she chooses not to finish what’s on her plate, she’s still getting plenty of nutrients from breastmilk. This is especially great, since she is sensitive to dairy (it triggers her eczema), and thus I know she’s getting her calcium and fat (among many other nutrients) from me.
4. Breastfeeding makes me feel empowered.
Whether I’m marvelling at my body’s ability to give my little girl everything she needs, or exercising my right to feed my child whenever and wherever she wants, I gain a feeling of empowerment from breastfeeding. It makes me feel like someone who can accomplish anything and who’s doing the best she can for her kids.
Sometimes when she bites me, or I’m just too tired for another nursing session, I consider quitting. After all, it’s been six years of nursing, when you add up all three kids. Sometimes I think it’s time to reclaim my body. But then I remember how much both she and I enjoy the nursing relationship. I remember that she hasn’t shown any signs of being done nursing, and I remember that sharing this time is something that will never happen again once it’s done. And I’m strengthened in my belief that extended breastfeeding is really the right choice for us.
What are some of the benefits you’ve noticed from breastfeeding a toddler?
About the Author
Mariana Abeid-McDougall is a writer, wife, and a mother of three young children. She has 16 years experience working in the fitness industry and loves outdoor activities with her out-of-the-box, adventurous family. Mariana is a contributor to KACHY TV Blog and she’s also active at www.marianamcdougall.com where she helps young families turn dreams into goals, so they can make great memories with their kids. Her Out-of-the-box Families Facebook group, offers inspiration on stepping out of the box and into the life you want to live.