Toddler Nursing Trends
Its' a well known fact that breast is best for babies as it is undoubtedly the most suitable food source. But what about those toddlers that are still suckling at mommy's breast despite being old enough to not require the nutrition of breast milk any longer? Is breastfeeding your 3 year old a little bit on the over- nurturing side of the spectrum? When do you begin to ask the questions about how long is too long? And what questions do you need to ask?
Comfort and Nutrition Benefit Analysis
When to wean is a question that all breastfeeding moms face sooner or later. Just when is it the best time to introduce solid foods to your baby's diet and should this herald a permanent goodbye to the breast once the child no longer needs the nourishment of mother's milk? In earlier social communities as well as many native social structures it was common for mothers to continue breastfeeding older children along with the new hatchlings or sometimes as a way of staving off further pregnancies.
In our modern society breastfeeding is encouraged but mothers are by some of society's standards, expected to have totally weaned their infants of the breast by the time they are around 18 months of age.
To still be breastfeeding your 3 year old means that you may be frowned upon and ridiculed, overtly or not. Comments directed at the children include such phrases as you are too big for that and only babies feed from mommy's boobies. Women who do educate themselves and still choose to offer the breast to their toddlers, report commentary as well as countless dirty looks from onlookers.
Breastfeeding your 3 year old may indeed be frowned upon but most mothers choosing to do so are at ease doing so, as they have moved past the earlier difficulties of cracked nipples and other issues. The child is used to comfort feeding, and mother and child are quite complacent, having no problem with it.
It is everyone else that has an issue with toddlers still feeding at the breast. Chances are that if you are still breastfeeding your 3 year old you will be gently or sharply ridiculed by friends and family as well as society. If you take it to heart you run the risk of becoming a closet feeder to avoid the negative innuendos and comments. This is sad because there is no harm in breastfeeding a young toddler. In fact many different philosophies on the matter are held. Le Leche League actually supports later feeding for a variety of reasons for moms who have the leisure to choose late breastfeeding.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the world average for breastfeeding is 4.2 years and they recommend that all children be breastfed for at least two years. More often than not an older child will suddenly stop wanting feeds without too much bother or discussion. In reality would it better to give your 3 year old a cheese burger and milk shake? Many mothers find that a sick child that still nurses at her breast can be comforted and soothed more readily.
The emotional benefits alone, of breastfeeding your 3 year old are reason enough for some mothers to continue. The argument on the other hand is that those children breastfed for longer may develop an overly dependent attachment for their mothers. Research amazingly enough has found the opposite to true. In fact such children are more likely to be independent and not show needy behaviors around their mothers.
There are also many benefits for the mother who chooses to breastfeed. In some cases, the breastfeeding is a natural sort of birth control, if not 100% effective, it is safe and helps with the spacing of children. The act of breastfeeding can be seen as a type of meditation and relaxation. Nurturing often takes a backseat in the lives of many busy women. This gives them a good reason to slow down and spend time with a child and to have a moment of rest for themselves. The caloric expenditure of breastfeeding is never anything a woman has been caught complaining about. Many breastfeeding women find that they are able to have a good shot at weight normalization while breastfeeding.
What about breastfeeding an 8 year old?
There have been recent reports of children as old as 9 still having the occasional breastfeed. Surely it's a comfort thing but what do you think? A thought regarding this issue, is to compare it with a child of the same age drinking from a baby bottle for comfort. Chances are most people would not agree with that either and that's understandable. Childrearing offers parents an opportunity to test and expand their understanding of parent child relationship and an opportunity to express their own beliefs and philosophies. There is more than one right way in this as in many pursuits. What do you think. Please head to our forum and post your opinions on this interesting question.