But, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been surprised to feel the occasional urge to be done. It is probably related to the fact that Bee recently traded his three 5-minute feeds for half-hour nursing marathons multiple times a day. Our lives are busier now and since we had already moved past the intense phases of nursing (or so I thought), it is hard now to go back. I’m sure it is just another phase, but it is hard not to get antsy after being stuck on the couch for 20 minutes while Bee tries to watch cartoons and nurse at the same time (I could be making dinner right now!!!), or to feel a bit frustrated when he insists on nursing for a solid 30 minutes at 5 am, instead of nursing for a few minutes and happily letting me tuck him back in his crib (I could be sleeping right now!!!).
- Research has shown that the breast milk of a mom nursing a toddler is not the same as the breast milk of a mom nursing a newborn. The chemistry of breast milk continues to change so that it matches the nutritional needs of older children (toddlers, preschoolers). It provides much of the energy content, fat, protein, and vitamins that toddlers need. (And as an extra tidbit, did you know that the make-up of breast milk for boys differs from breast milk for girls? A-mazing how our bodies work!)
- We all know that breastfeeding lower’s a woman’s risk of many types of cancer, as well as osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Breastfeeding past infancy continues to lower a woman’s risk, at least for breast cancer. (One reason is that breastfeeding suppresses “womanly hormones” that play a role in the development of breast cancer – the longer one breastfeeds, the longer these hormones are kept at low levels.)
- From an anthropological perspective, it appears that our culture’s emphasis on weaning in infancy (or around a year) is based on self-imposed societal norms and not on what is actually a “natural” age of weaning from a biological perspective. (Hence the idea that breastfeeding into toddlerhood is “unnatural” is actually opposite of what science suggests.) Anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler, Ph.D., gives a fascinating overview of her research and concludes that “The minimum predicted age for a natural age of weaning in humans is 2.5 years, with a maximum of 7.0 years.”
- Toddlers nurse differently from infants. They like to “snack;” they like to be able to ask for it (because they can!); they like to display their stellar acrobatic skills while nursing. These things are perfectly normal from a developmental perspective. This post by The Leaky B@@b, besides being absolutely hilarious, really helped me out a few months back when I was struggling with Bee’s sudden desire to nurse every few minutes. (Everything I had learned about breastfeeding was oriented toward nursing a baby – I had no idea how different nursing a toddler is!)
- Children who breastfeed past a year experience a number of benefits. As stated by the American Academy of Family Physicians in their Policy Statement, “Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child.” These benefits include continued immune protection, decreased risk of illness, and even higher IQ scores (compared to kids who wean earlier).