It’s A (Booby) Trap!: The Unexpected Benefits of Nursing a Toddler

Is he off the boob yet?
“Noooo, Dad. He’s still nursing.”

This conversation has officially become the norm for my dad and me these days. I love my dad – he’s a wiseass and a teddy bear. While he’s half joking when he asks this question, I know he’s also judging. Actually, he’s more like the American Airlines flight attendant who offered the nursing mom a “blanket to cover up.” My dad’s more concerned with “accidentally” seeing his daughter’s breast than he is with his grandson’s milk preference.

My dad’s jokes aside, nursing a toddler can be a real pain in the tush. Unlike the newborn days, covering up is virtually impossible. I’m not that modest, but every time we’re out with my husband, he too brings the dreadful blanket out and it turns into a National Lampoon’s episode. My husband’s trying to cover me with the blanket up, down and around as he tries to avoid my son’s flailing hands and feet. Finally—snatch! My son grabs the blanket from our grips and tosses it. My husband frantically resorts to using his own body as a shield to cover me. Bham! My son whacks him in the junk and it’s game over. Evren 1. Daddy 0. Mommy’s just sore since Evren’s STILL LATCHED!

Like I said, it’s not easy nursing a toddler. Here’s why:

  1. Incessant whining for milk before I’ve even had breakfast
  2. Random boob grabs and hands in my shirt in public
  3. I’m often greeted with “Miiiilllk” instead of “Mama”
  4. Toddler “snuggling” can be rough with feet in my face, hands in my mouth or nose and constant whacking of my breasts (because he believes this will magically produce more milk)
  5. My breasts are still off limits for my hubby (sorry, TMI!)
Evren 21 months
Still loves mama’s milk.

I never thought I’d be nursing a 21-month-old toddler. In fact, I used to think it was weird to nurse a child who could walk. When I started nursing, I committed to 12 months. Then he started teething and I couldn’t take away the perfect remedy to his pain. Then I blinked and when he turned 16 months we dealt with a few illnesses, so I couldn’t remove his source of hydration. Now he’s approaching two-years-old and I honestly can’t see myself forcefully weaning him.

I’ve read the research linking breastfeeding to higher cognitive developmentimproved immune function and lower risk for diseases like asthma or cancer. I’ve also read the opinions of moms for and against breastfeeding toddlers. Through all this, I’ve learned that there’s more good and virtually no harm in continuing to nurse a two-year-old. So instead I like to focus on the positive benefits of nursing my older child.

Top 5 Reasons Why I’m Happy to Be Nursing My Toddler:

  1. Breastmilk is the perfect rehydration solution – Thanks to nursing, we avoided the hospital two times this winter when Evren went on a food/drink strike during a case of pneumonia and Croup.
  2. His immune system rocksLike the studies show, aside from the sicknesses above and a couple of one-day viruses, he’s been pretty dang healthy.
  3. I’ve got a built-in boo boo healer We typically nurse 1-3x/day, but if I see blood from a fall, mom’s milk can ease those tears.
  4. Our special bond supports his social development – He’s become quite the independent little boy and I like to think our special relationship supports his growth
  5. I actually get snuggle time – Ever try snuggling with a rambunctious 2-year-old boy? Usually doesn’t last more than a minute. Nursing provides at least 10 minutes of snuggle time!

I’m confident that my independent little guy will stop nursing when he’s ready, but until then I’m okay with the questions, the jokes and the blanket wrestling matches. My feathers don’t get ruffled very easily so I can deal with the criticism. American society makes it downright difficult for mothers to continue nursing after returning to work, so breastfeeding after 12 months can be a challenge for most families. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to prolong the typical nursing period, but I also understand that for most mamas this isn’t always the reality. At the end of the day, we do what we can to be the best mommies to our little ones.

Did you nurse your children longer than the proverbial 12 months? Tell us in the comments about your funniest or most stressful moments when nursing an older child.

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