Mama, Breastfeeding is not just for babies
Updated: Aug 8
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding to at least two years. So does UNICEF, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and health authorities worldwide. But in Western societies, nursing children into toddlerhood and beyond is often met with disgust, disapproval, or dismissed.
For #WorldBreastfeedingWeek2021, we speak to six mamas who are nursing their toddlers and preschoolers who explain why natural term nursing is important to their families and needs to be normalised.
Delphine I breastfed my first child for 14 months, my second 27 months and I am still breastfeeding my 3-and-a-half year-old. Mostly when she is tired or needs comfort and some cuddling time. This is such a special bond for us that I am in no hurry to wean her and stop.
Whenever she is is ready.
I don’t mind people asking me how old she is and when do I plan to stop.
I truly believe that nursing a toddler helps them to feel loved and secure and to mentally be stronger. It strengthens their immune system and I must say my kids are never sick. Also my doctor told me that breastfeeding for so long dramatically reduces the risks of cancers for me.
So it is a win0win situation and I wish more mothers would feel confident about breastfeeding longer.
I am currently tandem feeding my two girls 3.5 year old Evelyn and Anabella, who is 5 months.
My oldest has always felt breastfeeding is her quiet time, her nurturing time where she relaxes, it's our special mommy and me time.
It has 'cured' her wounds and it has always given her peace before going to sleep.
For some people breastfeeding a 3.5 year old is "too long", but what is really 3.5 years in the life of a person?
Time goes too fast and our kids grow too fast! Hug them tight, kiss them hard and feed them as much as you and your little one want to.
Before I had my son I thought breastfeeding was something very few people had the ability to do.
Mainly because I had only seen people breast a baby a handful of times in my life and I had never seen anyone nurse a toddler.
Breastfeeding is not only nourishment and immunity - it is also definitely one of my most useful tools to calm my son. It helps him sleep and manage his emotions.
Now that I know it is the biological norm to breastfeed beyond the first six months - I cannot think of doing it in any other way.
I nursed my eldest till he self-weaned at 3 years old. I am currently nursing my second child, who is 3 years old, and would gladly nurse her into her primary school years if she so chose.
So much of nursing beyond infancy revolves around knowing that it’s even possible, in my opinion.
It seems bizarre, perhaps even repulsive , to mainstream society, to nurse a 6 year old who can do multiplication and who is tall enough to nurse standing up. I, however, am surrounded by mothers who nursed or have nursed into the primary age years. I’m a novice, nursing a mere 3-year old, compared to them.
Normalisation matters greatly. When we don’t see certain behaviours, we might be fearful or negative about them. The more we see an initially startling behaviour, the more it seems normal, acceptable and perfectly fine. I choose to nurse my children until they decide to stop, for several reasons:
One, I love the closeness and intimacy of holding my not-so-baby baby in my arms for a ritual that has persisted since they exited my life-sustaining body.
Two, I rejoice in my agency to choose when to stop nursing. It is not society, family members, doctors or whoever who will tell me when to stop nursing my child. It is a decision my child and I will make together, safe from the prying eyes and eager opinions of others.
The nutritional and scientific reasons for nursing beyond infancy are documented and available. I don’t particularly nurse for those reasons, as I take it for implicit that nursing is a healthful thing for my child and for me. I nurse my child beyond infancy because I love it, she loves it, and that’s really all the reason I need.
When my daughter was born, she was whipped up to special care as a precaution. While they didn’t expressly tell me I wasn’t allowed up there except to breastfeed, I read the signs and took it to heart. My little one cluster fed for hours every evening, she had oral thrush for months, she had no schedule, cat napped and fed often. I learned how to feed her in the carrier while getting around, it was the only way to meet both our needs. And so our breastfeeding relationship began.
Breastfeeding got me through post natal depression, it got her through teething, waking, fears of the car noises coming from the street. It’s our way to connect when we’re feeling out of sorts, a silent and quiet time together to reflect on life and bring ourselves to homeostasis.
So much of the messaging we receive when we become mothers is based on the idea that we’re not enough and we need so many products to fill the gaps. But we are enough. Very much so. And for me, breastfeeding until my daughter is ready to give it up is my little protest against that messaging and where it comes from. I am enough, she is too, and breastfeeding until she gives it up naturally is absolutely perfect for us.
Parents know their own children best and like every caregiver before me, I learned quickly what calmed my baby, what made him happy, what comforted him and more.
The “fix all” was often nursing.
As Joey grew and learned to walk, then run, then climb trees, he often tripped or fell. He was instantly reassured and calmed by nursing; then he’d get up with a smile and try again. I did more and more research.
I learned breastmilk changes and evolves over time to fit the exact needs of the child. It was perplexing to me that many people – even medical professionals – expected us to stop nursing when he turned one year old. If that first year of motherhood had taught me anything, it was to always trust myself and know my child.