The (secret) benefits of extended breastfeeding

The (secret) benefits of extended breastfeeding 1In the mornings, when the sun begins shooting gentle rays through the cracks in the blinds, my 19-month-old begins to squirm beside me. I look at the clock and the hands tell me it's still a little early yet. So I lay a gentle hand on her back, "Shhh...Mama's got you." Her body curls into mine and she latches on comfortably, relaxing into me.

We wake up at 8:00 on most mornings; 7:30 occasionally. My older daughter was the same at this age. Breastfeeding is my secret sleeping-in tactic.

It's also my favorite defensive and offensive strategy against sickness. Breastmilk is the ultimate medicine for every ailment. I've never once taken my youngest to the doctor for being ill [that milk is magic, I'm telling you].

With my older daughter, I felt a little uncomfortable that she was still nursing after age 1. This time around, I feel confident in our decision. Not in an "I'm-going-to-talk-about-it-a-lot" way. Most people don't even know she's still nursing, actually. It's just a quiet confidence in knowing that this is what is right for our family.

The (secret) benefits of extended breastfeeding 2 The (secret) benefits of extended breastfeeding 3

Did you nurse (or are you currently nursing) beyond age 1? If so, what are the benefits for you and your toddler?

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34 comments on “The (secret) benefits of extended breastfeeding”

  1. My daughter is 14 months and nurses with me in bed in the morning for about an hour and sometimes when she wakes from naps and before bed. We live it and will continue to nurse until she is finished. We do get "looks" and "comments" mostly from family members. If she gets hurt or is teething, she nurses for comfort. If I just want to snuggle her, we nurse. She's never been sick and we have never been apart for more than a couple hours where she was left with her daddy. Extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting works for our family.

  2. I teared up a bit reading son weaned over the past month or so, and I'm finding myself missing those early morning nursing sessions the most! He'd been slowly weaning himself over the past several months, because of my milk changing/decreasing due to this pregnancy, I'm sure, but stopped completely during my hospital stay. He's asked once, a few days after I got back home, and nursed for the briefest of moments before popping off to tell me that "Mama's milk all gone" and asking for some yogurt instead. Occasionally he'll snuggle up close, gently pat my breast, and announce casually that "Mama's nah-nigh is broke." ::sniffle::

    I miss nursing my toddler. I miss having such a fool-proof method of calming him when he's frustrated or wound up, of healing his hurts, of comforting him when he's upset, of settling him down into a more restful state before bed. I miss nursing my baby boy, but I'm so incredibly grateful that we had this for as long as we have, especially considering the breastfeeding obstacles that we had to overcome in the early weeks of his life.

  3. My youngest nursed the longest. It was finally my older children who encouraged me to wean her at 2-1/2. Funny how they have opinions and suddenly it's not just my husband and I making the decisions :) Anyway, I did wean her when I took a trip out of town with my husband. I still kind of miss it and when she cries or she's sleepy but fighting sleep, I get a split second thought of pulling up my shirt, but alas, there is not a drop left. Keep it up as long as you like.

  4. I nursed my 1st until he was 15 months, then he weaned himself...not part of my plans.
    2nd- for 2 years.
    3rd-for 2 years.
    4th- for 2 years, but then I unweaned him when he started getting allergies, asthma, and ear infections non-stop. Soon as I put him back on my milk, they all stopped again. So he nursed until 3.
    5th-around 2 years.
    6th-9 months and she weaned herself, but I don't think I made much milk...seems like it did not come in right this time...possibly from getting a tubal right after she was born.

    I have no regrets. It was a wonderful time of bonding and even my son with autism...I believe it did help some, though he seemed like he did better when he was 3 and I put him on raw goat's milk.

  5. I nursed Levi until he was 2 1/2. It was such a comfort to him, especially when he first started spending the night at his dad's. He would come back so upset, and nursing helped a lot.

  6. Yes I'm still nursing my 2 year old boy. It's great. I don't have to deal with tantrums too much especially for putting him to sleep at night or for a nap. When we're out and I don't have snacks or drinks my breasts are there. I was thinking of weaning a while back a little before he turned 2. He came down with the worst sinus infection ever and wouldn't eat anything for 3 days. I was so scared but I had him on the breast and he survived- no making trips to the ER to get iv fluids for dehydration. You know how cranky those toddlers get when they're sick, they can refuse any kind of food or drink but those few that still breastfeed relish the breast milk...what can I say, it's one of natures wonders. From then on I just keep on doing what I'm doing. Now I put it off until he turns 3 then we'll see.

  7. YES I'm still nursing an almost 3 year old and it's amazing. She's never been sick or had even a cold or earache and she's an incredible eater!!! The bond that we have created through breastfeeding is just so very special and strong. Now, breastfeeding a toddler definitely has its challenges, as does breastfeeding at all ages, but it's so incredibly worth it. OH and yes on those very rare mornings that I sleep in with her, she definitely will sleep in longer than she would if I wasn't in bed. And as far as people knowing, most of our family and close friends know (and are supportive) but other than that not too many people...I certainly wouldn't mind talking about it with others if it ever came up, but it doesn't so I don't just say it.

    As far as weaning, we're going to self-wean...I think it's really important for them to wean when they're ready....and truly we've made sure to do everything possible to let that happen (no scheduled nursing, no eating or drinking right before nursing (early on), waited to introduce food until around 9 months, baby-led eating, etc. etc.).

    Breastfeeding is such a beautiful amazing thing that God created!

  8. Nursing can solve so many issues so easily :) I love it and will continue to nurse my one-in-2-weeks little guy, hopefully for another year or so - whenever he's done. In other countries around the world that I've lived in, the nursing thing is such a non-issue. Women just feed their babies, calm them when they are fussy, ease their need to suck and sleep - they just do what comes absolutely natural to both mom and baby. There isn't any "will this create bad habits" or "is she independent enough", it just IS what they do. Good for you, Stephanie!

  9. Roo nursed just past her second birthday and Jasper weaned around 16 months. Both of them have been very healthy and Roo, especially, seems impervious to colds. That being said, I definitely think every child is different and mothers need to do whatever works for them. I think breastfeeding offers many advantages but I would never look down on someone who used formula.

  10. Lady will be 1 next week, and she's VERY enthusiastic about nursing. I have no intention to wean her any time soon! She's just so happy when she nurses. I'm her comfort object.... I really don't want to take that away from her.

    Oh, who am I kidding, she's MY comfort object! LOL!

  11. I nursed my oldest until he was 2 and loved every minute of it! I got a lot of "he's STILL nursing" or "if he can ask for it, he's too old." I loved the bond that it created between the two of us, I loved the mommy & son time, I loved the health benefits. He has only had to go to the doctor a handful of times and I credit it to that. Also, he's not a picky eater, which perhaps came from all the hints of different foods he tasted through my milk?

  12. I nursed for right over 1 year and I take full credit that my daughter, who will be 4 in December, has NEVER been sick at all! I think every child is different- and some may breastfeed longer or shorter, but I am thankful that I was able to breastfeed for as long as I did!

  13. No, only because I had Thrush that never cleared up and the pain was more than I could handle. Had I been able to, I would have. I still mourn that loss.


  14. Both of my kids weaned themselves, when they were ready. Lilly was at about 10 mo and Zac was earlier... I was a little sad both times, and tried to "push" them a bit, but they were ready. I always think it's best to listen to the cues our children our giving us, as much as possible. Good for you!

  15. What a sweet illustration!! I was only able to nurse my first for 3 months, but I pumped exclusively for another 7, so she was able to have breastmilk for 10 months. I had no plans to stop- health issues made hear wean early, then I got pregnant and my milk dried up. I'm still sad that I wasn't able to nurse her longer. I'm now nursing my son, and have been for the past 5 months- we have no plans to stop anytime soon. I totally agree with you about it being "magic", and if I'm able, I very well may pump milk for him long after he weans. Thanks for this post. :)

  16. I'm still nursing at 14 months...she doesn't want cow's milk and I see no reason to force her. She doesn't nurse first thing in the morning, but she does at nap time and bedtime. Sometimes more, sometimes less...I've let her control when and how much she wanted to nurse and she's weaned herself to this I'll just let her continue on. It's been a blessing this week when I had to work half days...I get home and I'm tired and she just wants Mommy we just sit and snuggle and nurse for 15-20 minutes and she's off to be her busy toddler self again! So awesome!

  17. My middle DD self weaned at 23 months (I was unbeknownst to me pregnant) Calleigh is almost 14 months old and still nursing.

    For me, I love that breastmilk is higher in calories than other milks I could give her at this age, that is important to me since I have kiddos that almost classify as FTT.

  18. Oh how i wish breastfeeding in bed led to sleeping in. I guess for my older daughter it did for a while, if by sleeping in you count 6 am instead of getting out of bed at 5 am. My older daughter still nurses at bedtime and often times one other time during the day. If it was up to her she would probably be nursing a zillion times a day (or everytime I nurse her 7 month old sister). I tend not to talk about it either since most everyone is against it. I secretly hoped my older daughter would wean while I was pregnant, but that didn't happen. Now she is almost 2.5 and still going strong. She has skipped a day here and there if we get home late and she falls asleep in the car, but if we are home, she asks. Neither of my girls has been sick very often (the baby has never been sick), and even when my older daughter has been sick it has been short lived thank goodness! Nursing my toddler definitely saved us on the plane when we were moving cross country. Our plane was very, very delayed and we were stuck on the actual plane. My daughter had a fever (thank goodness, since that meant she sat still all day) and wanted to nurse the whole day. Tiring yes, but it kept her quiet and sleeping most of the time.

  19. Your mornings sound like mine, and I love it. :-) My little boy still nurses and he will be three in January. I absolutely know it is the right thing for him and have every confidence he will wean when the time is right, and not a moment too soon. He is a loving and snuggly (although extremely active) little boy. I attribute some of his "snuggliness" to nursing, babywearing, cosleeping, etc., and some of it to his personality. He is healthy and strong and has never been to the doctor for an illness either, only for two injuries :-( When he was hospitalized for an injury at 22 months, his hospital roommate's mother was so encouraged to see me nursing him regularly. She too had nursed her child well into toddlerhood and hadn't met other likeminded moms. The hospital staff was also very supportive and gave me free meal vouchers the whole stay since I was a nursing mom.
    Anyway, like you I don't openly share that my son nurses, but I also don't hide it if it comes up in conversation. Since he is only really nursing before and after sleeping for the most part, it's not really something that's visible to others.

    1. I am happy to hear that the hospital you stayed at was so breastfeeding-friendly. I wish the same could be said for all hospitals in our country, don't you?

  20. My son nursed until he was almost 16 months and then just wasn't interested anymore. We were down to just the morning nursing and he was way more interested in everything around him than nursing. He would sit on our bed and sign for a banana though, every single morning! So cute!
    My little guy is now 6 1/2 months and refusing to eat any solid food so nursing is it. I'll go at least a year and then whenever it feels right we'll be done. I'm a little squeamish about kids who are old enough to verbally ask to nurse as I once watched a friend's 2 1/2 year old basically demand to nurse in the middle of a visit. It was just a bit weird for me!
    Although for the poster above me... in considering adoption how cool would it be to be able to nurse an adopted baby and give them that nutrition as well as bonding! Something to think about...

  21. I'm still nursing my 19-month-old. The only real resistance I've noticed with it is with my extended family -- grandparents and aunts seem to find it particularly strange that he's still nursing. I even had an aunt tell him, "You gotta stop that, you're too big!" And even for resistance, that's the most of it right there.

    He's slowly cutting his nursing times back to mornings and after naps -- and at 4AM, randomly -- so I don't know how much longer he'll be interested, but it's up to him when to stop; I'm just following along. :D

  22. I do the same thing in the morning with my 16 month old. I also did the same thing with her big sister. May I also state that an added benefit to extended breastfeeding is being able to tandem nurse. I've tandem nursed twice now (as my oldest nursed until she was 2 years 8 months old) and am now nursing two again. For me, it has been really special this time as I am nursing our adopted babe which is an incredible way to bond. Had I not been still nursing my middle daughter, I would not have been able to have this time with the babe! :) I love it!

    1. I agree with Katelyn! It is wonderful that you are able to nurse your adopted baby. What a gift to her! Forgive my ignorance: did your body just "know" to begin producing more milk when Xiomara started nursing?

      1. At first, I did not have enough milk to exclusively feed both her and Meridian. It took about a month and I think we both learned together and then I was able to quit supplementing and start exclusively nursing. I am SO thankful I was still nuring Meridian so that way I could nurse Xiomara. It has helped us bond, been easier, better for her, and it's much cheaper! :)

  23. I'm still nursing my 17.5 month son. Most people in my life know because he still nurses often.

    I love the interaction with him! Sometimes he gets excited and too acrobatic and I've started having to remind him to be gentle -- and he gets it! He says 'awwwwww' and lays his cheek on my breast (his version of a hug). One day last week I picked him up after a fall to offer comfort food and, in the midst of his own meltdown, he paused to be gentle before latching. awwwwwwwwww, my heart melted for the millionth time!

  24. For me, extended nursing was a great way to have a moment of calm and quiet with a busy toddler. It also helped us to save money, as breastfeeding continued to be a big part of my kids nutrition throughout the second year of their life.

  25. Ahhh, yes! I love it. You are right on. There is a single bed in my baby's (15-month-old) room where I nurse him in the mornings when he wakes up. It's a nice way to slowly start the day. I nursed my older child until he was two and a half.

  26. My 3yo still nurses VERY occasionally after a long break, an unweaning, and settling back in to a new house, and my almost 14mo is still seriously devoted to nursies. I was asked about it a number of times while visiting family this summer, but I can't imagine trying to manage both of their needs for comfort without nursing. In fact, I couldn't, which is why we unweaned while moving. It was hard to "go back" but one of the best decisions we ever made.

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