Our society seems to have this view that breastfeeding beyond 6 months is not necessary. That there’s something slightly wrong with you if you’re still going at one year, despite the World Health Organisation recommending breastfeeding until 2 or beyond.
For me and many others, breastfeeding past infancy is totally normal and expected. Yet, there is still this pressure to stop breastfeeding once they become a walking talking toddler! I’ve had comments in the past about needing to get my little girl (known as ‘Babybel’) off the boob and onto a bottle. At the time, she was 19 months old and wouldn’t take a bottle so that definitely wasn’t happening.
I’ve also had people tell me she needs to move on to cows milk now as breast milk is not enough. You mean to tell me milk that’s made for a baby cow is better for her than milk that is actually tailor made for her? Even the Health Visitor at her one year check up was surprised that we were still boobing and said it wouldn’t be long until I could move her on to cows milk. She’s 35 months now and still has absolutely no interest in drinking cows milk.
Breastfeeding a toddler has so many benefits
I’m not going to go hugely into the benefits of ‘extended breastfeeding’, a term which actually annoys me. It seems to imply that breastfeeding is only normal until one, then anything else is additional. But I’m just going to leave that there as I could go on about that for ages. I know breastfeeding continues to provide vitamins, nutrients, antibodies, comfort, and connection. If they have an upset stomach, human milk is sometimes one of the only things they can tolerate.
This was true recently when Babybel had a tummy bug at 14 months old. She ate no solid food at all over that Christmas and New Year, and solely survived on breastmilk for about 5 days.
I know breastfeeding continues to provide vitamins, nutrients, antibodies, comfort, and connection.
So is breastfeeding a toddler different to feeding a baby? Yes it is completely different. But it’s not a sudden change, it’s gradual. They start looking about more, getting distracted, pulling off the boob, moving around, and then suddenly, they’re performing gymnastic moves and seeing how far your nipple will stretch. Spoiler alert – it’s quite far! They can also ask for a feed more directly. Babybel learned ages ago that trying to pull my top up signalled to me that she needed a snack and for a while, she was happy to do that anywhere! Now she has a good grasp of the English language and will quite happily, and loudly, ask for a boobie.
There’s also the twiddling to take into account. Some babies start this quite early but Babybel didn’t start doing this until around 14 months old. If you’re not sure what I mean, it’s when they play with the opposite nipple to the one they’re feeding on. It can really make me cringe and sometimes I have to stop her from doing it. It’s some sort of weird comfort for her as she’s does it when she’s going to sleep.
I could do without the twiddling but if it means she goes to sleep in 5 minutes, I can just about put up with it!
Teeth and biting
There’s also teeth to consider. Babybel has only bitten me on a couple of occasions. It’s happened as she’s become startled whilst she’s nursed to sleep. And I won’t lie, it hurts. It is like a real burning pain but thankfully it’s only happened a few times throughout our entire journey. However, after that first bite I did live in fear of an amputation!
It can still feel like feeding a newborn!
Babybel still feeds a lot. When she’s ill, when she’s got teeth coming through, when she’s tired. There have been times when it’s a like having a newborn again recently. I honestly thought that she’d be boobing a lot less by now but she still fed to sleep for the majority of naps until she dropped these, and through the night until we night weaned 2 months ago.
She also still feeds to sleep on the nights that I do bedtime, and often asks for random boobie snacks during the day. It is a huge source of comfort for her and it forces me to slow down and chill out when she feeds to sleep.
She also still feeds to sleep on the nights that I do bedtime, and often asks for random boobie snacks during the day.
Breastfeeding is an all-round great parenting tool
You hear a lot about how women are only doing it for themselves at this stage but that is utter crap. Although I enjoy the snuggles, I would very much like to get a whole nights sleep or not worry that my nipple is going to get chomped off as they attempt a headstand during a feed. It does still solve everything though. Just like when they’re babies, boob helps them sleep, and eases pain. It also helps stop a tantrum – so maybe a little bit is for me as it is the easiest way to solve most problems.
I do feed in public and I’ll continue to do that until it’s no longer necessary. I’ve never had any comments from any strangers but I’ve got plenty of comebacks ready if anyone does feel they need to share their opinions with me!