Toddler Nursing

Why nurse a toddler?

Nursing my Toddler in Public

Nursing my Toddler in Public

Before having children, you probably never gave much thought to nursing a baby, especially beyond the first year.  Then you had a baby and perhaps your breastfeeding relationship was wonderful from the beginning, or perhaps you overcame many struggles to get where you are.  But now, you and your baby are enjoying the special bond that nursing offers, not just with nutrition but also with mothering.  You aren’t  ready to wean and your baby is still going strong, so now you find yourself contemplating nursing a toddler.

Does breast milk continue to provide health benefits?

While the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months are an established fact, breast milk continues to have a beneficial impact throughout the toddler years.   The World Health Organization recommends all children be breastfed until age two or beyond.  In fact, there are always nutritional benefits to breast milk, no matter how old your child. 

Breast milk is a living substance with unique properties and antibodies that are made specifically for the bacteria and germs your child is fighting every single day.  As your growing baby becomes more mobile she is confronted with an increasing number of germs from other children and the environment.  Your breast milk will create antibodies to help your child fight these invaders.  As long as you are breastfeeding, your milk provides immunities that will keep your toddler from getting sick as often, and not being as sick when a bug hits.  Breast milk offers health benefits that extend throughout a person’s entire life and the longer a woman breastfeeds the more benefits her body receives as well.

Toddler nursing can help with mothering

There are other reasons to continue nursing your toddler besides just health benefits.  You have probably found it to be a gentle and compassionate way of mothering.  When your toddler falls, or another child takes her toy, or she is tired, or you are traveling, or there are extra stimulants and your child just needs to wind down. . . nursing is a wonderful way to help your child relax, get away, and spend quality time with you. 

And it can be a much-needed respite in your day to have an occasional excuse to sit down and relax for a few minutes.  It can allow you, perhaps remind you even, to soak in your growing toddler and enjoy these fleeting moments that go by so quickly in the busyness of taking care of all the day-to-day things that must be done.

What are the negatives?

On the other hand, you may begin to resent how much time it takes, or wish your child would fall asleep more readily on her own.  This is a common concern of mothers, but, despite what the “sleep experts” say, your toddler still needs you (whether she is fed with a bottle or breast).  These years will pass all too quickly and she will no longer want this quality time with you every day.  With the advent of so much technology, many moms find it easier than ever before to multi-task by using their iPhone, iPad, etc. to catch up on emails, news, or just to make lists, going through what needs to be done and prioritizing.  Alternatively, you can make nursing a time when you “turn off the world around” by either reading a book or taking a little nap yourself while breastfeeding.

What about public breastfeeding?

There seems to be a social stigma attached to nursing a toddler.  Many moms who have already weaned their baby, or perhaps didn’t nurse in the first place, cannot understand why you would still nurse your toddler.  It takes grace to respond in some of these situations, and you may want to consider your answer before someone asks why you “haven’t weaned yet.”  Quite simply, it is a personal decision and if both you and your baby are happy with your relationship there really is no need to stop. . . especially due to pressure of others!

To get around this, some mothers decide to only nurse their toddler in the privacy of their home.  Others choose to try to make toddler nursing more visible by purposely, and respectfully, nursing their toddlers when they are out and about as well.  There is no right or wrong.  What is important is that you do what’s best for you and your baby.  If that is nursing in the toddler years, then don’t let others discourage you!

Getting involved with a breastfeeding support group is a great way to meet other like-minded moms who can support and encourage one another in their breastfeeding journeys.

How do I wean a toddler?

When the time does come for weaning, there are several options.  First, you could wait and allow your toddler to self-wean.  This typically occurs between 2 ½ – 7 years of age.  If you would like to wean your child before she self-weans you can do so gradually or abruptly.  Doing so over a period of a few weeks allows your baby to settle in more readily to the transition.  And, since your child is now a toddler you have the added advantage of being able to talk with her and prepare her gradually.  If you must do so abruptly, make sure to take care of yourself so you don’t end up with engorgement, plugged ducts, or mastitis.

Getting Out with Nursing Twins

Having one new baby can be challenging enough to get out and go, but 2 or more can be absolutely overwhelming!  Here are 5 tips to make outings with twins easier.

  1.  Downsize your diaper bag. 
    You already have 2 (or more) babies to hold so carrying a large diaper bag is not feasible.  If you are breastfeeding, you won’t need to pack bottles, formula, etc.  Use the space to pack a change of clothes (since they are the same size you can just pack one for emergencies), a couple diapers and wipes (quantity depends on length of outing), perhaps a burp cloth or light blanket (that can also double for a nursing cover), and a bottle of water for you.  Instead of packing a separate purse for you, slip your wallet, lipstick, etc. in the diaper bag so you only have one bag to keep up with.
  2. Get a sling. . . or two. 
    Slinging at least one of your babies will keep you from having to lug around a large, bulky double stroller.  It allows you to hold a fussy baby close or nurse discreetly.  If your babies are small you could sling them together in one sling.  As they grow, you can hold them each in a sling.  Once they are too big to hold at the same time, alternate which baby you sling.
  3. Have extra supplies in your car. 
    Keep extra diapers, wipes, and change of clothes in your car.  That way, if you forgot to put extra items in your diaper bag you have another stash to pull from.
  4. Nurse babies before leaving. 
    Nursing twins gracefully in public is definitely more challenging than a singleton.  By nursing them right before leaving, you will (hopefully) be able to have a happier baby while you are out and more time to nurse one and then the other so that if you aren’t comfortable nursing both at the same time they are not crying while they wait.
  5. Watch for early feeding cues and plan places to nurse. 
    Waiting until your babies are hungry and fussing will make nursing them in public much more challenging.  Make sure to think through your outing beforehand and tentatively plan when and where you will be able to nurse your babies.  Watching for your baby’s early feeding cues is important!

Breastfeeding in Public

iStock_000020593454XSmallBreastfeeding in public can be totally daunting for a new mother.  So intimidating is public breastfeeding that this is a reason given by new moms for either not breastfeeding or not exclusively breastfeeding their baby.  The media reports of incidences where mothers are asked to leave public places for nursing their babies.  And then there’s the issue about how to nurse modestly.  With so much to consider, it’s no wonder so many moms choose to purchase a breast pump and give their milk in bottles while out in public.

Below are 7 tips to help make nursing in public a piece of cake:

  1.  Plan to spend some time learning how to breastfeed in privacy.
    The first few days after having your first child are not the time to plan to shop around town and visit everyone in your community.  You are recovering from childbirth (no matter how wonderful your experience) and falling in love with a new life.  Enjoy this time, enjoy being able to relax at home, and let others serve you.  Don’t plan major outings for a little while and instead concentrate on getting breastfeeding off to a solid start.  What seems so strange and challenging in the beginning will get easier every single day.  Perhaps you can’t imagine ever leaving your house again?  Don’t worry!  A few days later you will probably feel different and have much greater confidence breastfeeding.  Practice makes perfect…and you will begin to feel comfortable and confident quicker than you might think.
  2. Wear the right attire.
    Make sure to have a tank (vest) top under your shirt so your stomach is not exposed. When it comes to nursing in public, it is usually very easy to modestly latch a baby on your breast and nurse as far as not exposing your nipple. . . the problem comes in revealing your entire stomach or backside due to having to pull up your shirt.  If you wear a tank top underneath then your midriff is covered and you won’t be exposed.  It’s much easier to relax and enjoy breastfeeding in public when you have the right clothes on!
  3. Have a nursing cover, burp cloth, or baby blanket in diaper bag at all times.
    If you are concerned about exposing your chest, especially as you latch on your baby, you can easily whip a cloth out of your diaper bag, drape it over you and baby, and focus on attaching him to the breast.  Once he is latched on, you may be able to remove the cloth (or, once your baby is a few months old he may squirm and remove it for you J).  But, having something with you will give you confidence if you find yourself in a place where your baby is hungry and you want to cover a little more while breastfeeding.
  4. Get a sling.
    Many slings allow you to nurse your baby while they are in them.  This makes breastfeeding easier in public because you can nurse while walking around or on the go.  It won’t matter if you have a place to sit and relax.  Or, your sling can double as a nursing cover in a pinch.
  5. Plan ahead.
    Though you never for sure when your baby will want to eat, you can be wise in thinking through your outing.  If you have four stops to make and two seem much easier to breastfeed in, then try to nurse your baby while you are there, before heading to the next stop.  This is another advantage of a sling, too.  Sometimes, just being held close will help your baby wait a little longer to nurse, possibly giving you time to get to a more comfortable nursing environment.
  6. Get involved with a breastfeeding support group. Nursing in public will turn heads sometimes.  Unfortunately, it even brings some women comments.  So, having friends who also breastfeed will help you know you are normal.  It will give you a place to vent and encourage one another.  And many times it is just the support you need to keep you going.
  7. Realize that you are not doing something obscene – you are simply feeding your baby.  You should not have to run and hide.  If someone has a problem with breastfeeding perhaps they are the ones with an underlying issue?!  You wouldn’t want to eat your meal in a bathroom; your baby shouldn’t have to either.  Hold your head high, do the best you can to feed your baby modestly, and don’t worry so much what that stranger across the room thinks.  You can be a part of helping normalize breastfeeding in our culture.