• Why Not Breastfeed Your Toddler?

    Six reasons why you should consider continuing your breastfeeding relationship.

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    Everyone was so supportive when you decided to breastfeed your baby. However, now that he’s two, some people look uncomfortable when you say that you’re still breastfeeding. Isn’t he too old? Aren’t you making him too dependent on you? Shouldn’t you consider weaning him already?

     

    Who Says Breastfeeding Has to Stop?
    Usually, the cultural context dictates our breastfeeding behavior. In the Philippines, with only 38% of mothers exclusively breastfeeding their babies up to six months (based on a recent government survey), it’s no wonder that breastfeeding moms, particularly those who are breastfeeding toddlers, are still in need of a support system. It’s good to keep in mind, though, that weaning is a process that involves two people: you and your child. Take your feelings about breastfeeding and your child’s behavior into consideration when you think of weaning.

     

    The Benefits of Breastfeeding Your Toddler

    1. It’s the best way to comfort your toddler when he gets a “booboo” or is upset. A toddler in his terrible twos stage can be very demanding and will be prone to upsets and tantrums. Breastfeeding is your special “peace zone” when all else fails.
    2. A toddler will agree to go to sleep at bedtime when you offer him your breast. Breastfeeding is relaxing for both you and your toddler and you’ll both be nodding off before you know it.
    3. Protection from breast cancer. According to The Breastfeeding Book by Martha and William Sears, “the degree to which breastfeeding protects a woman against breast cancer depends on how long she nurses.” Breastfeeding benefits are cumulative, meaning for some benefits, the longer you nurse, the more benefits you get (i.e. bonding, immunity, etc.) and another implication is there are certain benefits that you only get if you nurse for an extended period, which includes protection from breast cancer.
    4. Special one-on-one time with your toddler. Time flies very quickly, especially when you have a growing child. Your extended breastfeeding will assure your child that he is special to you, even when another sibling comes into the picture.
    5. A more immunologically protected child. According to Martha and William Sears, “Levels of immunities in a mother’s milk actually increase during the second year of breastfeeding.”
    6. A more independent toddler. According to Kate Mortenson, in her article Sustained Breastfeeding, “Ainsworth’s research (in the book Review of Child Development Research) showed that a secure attachment to the mother through breastfeeding enabled children to form attachments to others and to become more independent than a comparable group of bottle-fed infants.”

     

    A breastfeeding relationship doesn’t have to end at 12 months. If you and your child are still happily breastfeeding after more than one year, there’s no need to be alarmed. You’re not alone. In fact, there are many benefits to breastfeeding a toddler including “a more independent child,” the exact opposite of what many parents fear.

     

    Resources:

    • Interview with LATCH (Lactation, Attachment, Counseling, Help) certified counselor, Buding Aquino-Dee.
    • Ainsworth MA 1973, The development of infant-mother attachment. In Caldwell BM, Ricciuti HN (eds): Review of Child Development Research, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

     

    Photography by Jun Pinzon

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