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Breastfeeding Older Children: How Old is Too Old?

Breastfeeding older children/toddlers

Breastfeeding older children is viewed by many cultures as a logical continuation of breastfeeding a baby. Some nations breastfeed their babies for as long as 6-7 years.

In fact, many researches show that breastfeeding for at least 2.5 years is the most beneficial. This is what many refer to as “extended breastfeeding”.

In North America any breastfeeding beyond the minimum of one year recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics is referred to as “extended”.

Breastfeeding toddlers and older kids is frowned upon by many people. In fact, many women stop breastfeeding because of negative comments from outsiders and pressure within the family. Here are other reasons why most women wean. 

Nursing satisfies baby’s natural need for sucking. So why doesn’t a toddler with a bottle trigger as many discussions and reprimands as a breastfed toddler?

Myths of Extended Breastfeeding

Decision when to wean should rest in the breastfeeding couple’s hands. But in case you doubt your choice, here is what breastfeeding older children does NOT do:

* It doesn’t make them dependent or spoiled. If anything, having his/her mom’s reassurance, approval and support in the form of breastfeeding at all times creates positive atmosphere for the little explorer.

Breastfed toddlers grow to be more independent, do not suffer from detachment discomfort, start relationships easier and are more confident. They are also easier to discipline.

* It doesn’t cause cavities. Even breastfeeding a baby to sleep will cause less or none tooth decay compared to bottle-feeding.

Breast-sucking mechanism is different. It pulls the milk in deep to the back of the mouth and throat. Bottle-sucking lets the food settle in the mouth and pool around the teeth.  

In addition, breast milk composition and protein build-up is safer for teeth and gums than the formula.

Breastfeeding Toddler Extras

Here is what extended breastfeeding DOES:

  • Promotes normal jaw and facial muscle development and correct palate structure. This ensures enough space for coming teeth and lays the ground for correct food chewing.
  • Ensures correct breathing. Bottle-fed babies breathe through their mouths, breastfed babies breathe through their noses.
  • Most of the human brain and intellect development happens during the first three years of life. Breastfeeding during this period creates a positive atmosphere and stimulation for brain development.
  • Human milk changes to adapt to the needs of a growing baby. It “grows” with your baby and provides the right type of antibodies and nutrients for any given age.

Remember: Breast milk doesn't lose its nutritional value as your baby grows. It always provides vitamins and minerals needed at every developmental stage.

  • Breast milk boosts your baby’s immunity, which is especially important when he/she starts exploring the world around.
  • When you start introducing solids, breastfeeding softens their effect on baby’s immature digestive system. Extended breastfeeding postpones the onset of allergic reactions to new foods. Since most allergies are outgrown by the age of 3, by breastfeeding your baby for as long as possible you lower the risk of any allergic reaction altogether.
  • Nursing helps a child through a sickness. It has a soothing effect. In addition, if your child refuses all the other foods because of the sickness, he/she will still get nutrition through your breast milk.
  • Breastfeeding assists with putting your baby to sleep at nap times and for the night.
  • Nursing stays a perfect way to calm down and console an upset or frustrated child.
  • Nursing helps older children cope with the stress caused by some life-changing events, like changing day care centers or moving.
  • If you are expecting another baby keeping on breastfeeding older children through pregnancy (with your doctor’s approval) and tandem nursing after the delivery, tremendously helps your older child to adjust to the new situation. If you quit breastfeeding shortly before the new baby, your older child is likely to get jealous every time you nurse your baby.

If you still decide to initiate the weaning, here is the best way to do it.

There are many ways to show your love and devotion to your kids and to win their trust. Breastfeeding is the most natural one.



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