Yesterday, I was that one weird mom trying to inconspicuously nurse her acrobatic toddler in the corner of the science museum. My toddler was squirmy, fussy, overstimulated, and overtired. Breastfeeding is the only way to help him when he’s in this state – so that’s what I did.
Maybe I wasn’t that “weird mom,” but nursing my little one as he tried to flip and do hand stands and keep myself somewhat covered was not an easy task.
I know I just posted on “Why I breastfeed in public and most people don’t care,” so I shouldn’t care or feel weird, but I also wrote that out during a quiet, sleepy, relaxing nursing session. This nursing session at the science museum was the complete opposite.
But I’m going to be honest, besides the acrobatics, I think I also had feelings of weirdness because he is getting older, walking, sort of talking, and even though I found a quieter, less busy corner of the museum I still felt eyes on me as people walked by. Not necessarily judgmental eyes, but that didn’t matter – in that moment of stress (and trying not act stressed because I knew my toddler would sense my stress and become even more stressed) my paranoid mind was quick to convince me that they were, in fact, judgmental eyes.
Normally, during our calm and relaxed non-acrobatic nursing sessions I would think nothing of people passing by and looking at me. Just like I talked about before, I truly think most people could care less about a mom breastfeeding her baby. So, why in this moment of stress am I suddenly concerned?
Sure, my little one is 14-months-old now, walking and sort of talking, but shouldn’t it still be okay to breastfeed if he’s having a moment, and the sippy cup and a snuggle isn’t cutting it?
Of course, it’s more than okay. My heart fully knows that.
But not only that science knows it’s okay, too. The benefits of breastfeeding don’t end after twelve months. So, in case you’re in this same situation of overthinking your choice to continue breastfeeding your toddler, here is a little science for encouragement.
A Few Cool Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding
Breastmilk is a superfood at any age.
Breastmilk is actually the supreme king of the superfoods (by superfood, I mean those super nutrient-dense health foods – like kale and quinoa). Every single drop is packed with vitamins, minerals, and protein – all of the healthiest, most important nutrients our toddlers need.
It’s also been proven that it’s nutrients change with the age of our baby. This is pretty cool because it means that our bodies know our babies are growing, and adjusts the nutrients in our breastmilk to match our babies’ constantly changing needs.
It still boosts their immune system!
Not only do the nutrients change as our babies grow, but scientists have also found that that as our babies get older our breastmilk has an even higher concentration of immune boosters (read more about this on KellyMom). So, even if we’re only breastfeeding our toddler once a day, it is still beneficial.
Also, studies have found (you can read about them here on KellyMom) that toddlers who are still breastfeeding get sick less often, and for a shorter duration.
It’s still beneficial for mom and baby bonding!
Toddlers are so busy – always moving, running around, and exploring anything and everything. But in those moments that they slow down and come to you to nurse, it’s not always about hunger. Sometimes, all of the learning and exploring gets to be too much, and they just need comfort and to reconnect with mom.
This reconnection is great for us moms, too, because parenting a toddler is tiring, and it gives us a chance to relax for a couple minutes (if there isn’t too much acrobatics going on). And just like breastfeeding an infant, when you breastfeed your toddler the hormone oxytocin is released making you feel even more relaxed, and more connected to your little one. Oxytocin is also known as the “love hormone” because of its link to the mother/ baby bond (here is a little more info on oxytocin from AHA Parenting). Besides all that, who doesn’t love the extra snuggle time?
It’s good for our health, too!
Not only is it good for babies health, but science has also linked extended breastfeeding to lower rates of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Here is an article that goes more in depth about it from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center – it’s actually really interesting.
One more fun fact: Worldwide the average age of weaning would be is estimated to be “somewhere between 2.5 and 7.0 years” (according to Dr. Kathryn Dettwyler).
So, I had to remind myself why I was here in this moment – why I was breastfeeding my precious, wild toddler in the corner of the science museum. I reminded myself that I wanted to be here, I chose to be here.
And I reminded myself that I was proud to be here. Breastfeeding this long is not an easy feat.
Breastfeeding my toddler is okay- more than okay. And it will continue to be more than okay until my little one or myself decides otherwise.
Once I started to relax, my little one did, too. He settled and became still, and when he was finished feeding, we were both more relaxed and able to make it through the rest of our science museum outing uneventfully – minus a small temper tantrum over trying to drink/lick bubbles out of a sensory table ;).