I never saw myself being able to breastfeed this long and never planned to. I honestly was one of the ones who thought it was a little odd seeing moms breastfeeding their toddlers. But then I started reading the research on nursing past infancy and learning the recommendations and realized it was actually normal in many parts of the world with so many extended benefits for baby AND mom. But I still didn't think that would ever be us. With my firstborn, I struggled a lot with milk supply barely making it to 9 months before having to supplement. I’ve done things very differently this second time around (another post on this later) and here we are, 2 years in, and still going strong! Breastfeeding at this stage is so different, and some days are harder than others, but there are a lot of things I love about breastfeeding a 2-year-old. Here is a list of 7 of them.
1) Because toddlers and germs. Enough said!
With little hands constantly exploring, picking up bugs, playing in toilet water, sticking hands in the dogs mouth, snacking on french fries off the fast-food floor, these little people need lots of extra help boosting those immune systems to fight off the endless germs they are exposing themselves to. Mama's milk is amazing in its ability to add an extra defense making them healthier and even less prone to allergies. Even when my little one does get sick, it seems to be more mild and shorter lived. And I'm "milking" the extended immunity I'm getting as well while my lactating body works harder to keep me healthy for this job.
2) Because sometimes kissing the boo-boo just isn't enough.
Everyone knows that 2-year-olds can have their share of bumps and bruises as they're still trying to figure out those new feet and awkward little bodies of theirs. My youngest is a climber and extremely fearless, but also extremely clumsy. And sometimes kissing the boo-boos after the fall just doesn't cut it. I've loved having this toddler comfort measure at my disposal (along with an endless supply of band aids) when my little guy hurts himself for the thousandth time that day, or just needs some reassurance that, no, his world is not falling apart and everything is going to be ok.
3) Because nursing through the "terrible twos" has made them not so terrible.
I've nursed two boys...my first until 9 months of age and my youngest who is still loving his milk at two years old. As soon as my firstborn started approaching those testy twos, it made almost every minute of our day as challenging as humanly possible. And to make it even harder, it was a very rare occasion for me to even get a snuggle in amidst the craziness, the tantrums, and his independence at that stage. With my youngest, even though we still have our challenging two-year-old moments, being able to reconnect with him through nursing has made this very difficult stage not so unbearable. And having that sweet bond helps so much. There is nothing like a breastfeeding-induced oxytocin boost to help mama forgive and (almost) forget that mega embarrassing grocery store tantrum that was thrown earlier that day and to make those very big 2-year-old feelings melt away.
4) Because I get to savor the baby moments a little bit longer.
I remember the hardest part about weaning my 9-month-old was feeling like he went from baby to little boy almost immediately. Part of that could have been his personality and the fact that he is very independent, but part of me struggled with the fact that he no longer needed me for his nourishment and, in that way, had “grown up” a bit. In a culture that moves so fast and often requires our kids to keep up and develop at lightning speeds, I love that breastfeeding into the toddler years forces my youngest and I on a daily basis to slow down, reconnect, rock, nurse, and snuggle a bit before getting back into go-mode. These little humans grow up so fast but I'm savoring the precious moments and the baby in him a little bit longer.
5) Because I don't have to worry as much about a wishy-washy toddler appetite.
If you've spent any time dining with a toddler, you know that many of them have horrible eating habits! Jesus once said that "Man cannot live by bread alone", but I'm pretty sure my kids could if I let them. If it was up to them, they'd have biscuits for breakfast, hamburgers WITHOUT the meat for lunch, and garlic bread for dinner. And some days, they could probably try to get by without stopping to eat anything at all if I didn't bribe something down them. But with nursing, I can rest assured knowing my finicky toddler is getting SOME source of nutrients and calories in throughout his day, even if he did refuse his broccoli that day.
6) Because, the extra birth control.
So let’s face it. I’ve got two very spirited, energizer boys under the age of four who, most days, take every ounce of my energy just to keep alive! Where I would love another baby someday, I need these two to get to a point where they’re not daily trying to kill themselves or each other. I’m thankful that breastfeeding helps add a second form of birth control security until we are in a better place to add to our family.
7) Because I never know what he'll "bring to the table" (pun intended).
There's never a dull nursing session with a 2-year-old involved. My nursling is a busy boy with way too much world to explore but when he does need to take a "milk break", he usually brings along some sort of paraphernalia from his play. He has nursed wearing an oven mitt, with puzzle pieces in hand, while driving matchbox cars all over my face, and wearing a boot on one foot and a mitten on the other. Not to mention the nursing gymnastics while he attempts to nurse upside down. And then, it's always fun to find out what's going on in that little head of his during his milk time. He'll often unlatch just long enough to tell me something that seems very important at the time (usually really random and not making a bit of sense but really cute nonetheless). I love that nursing offers moments of conversation with my busy boy where I can see the wheels turning in that head of his as he's sorting through all the new experiences, words and phrases he's learning.
Now tune in next time while I share seven things I DON'T love about breastfeeding a 2-year-old ;). In all seriousness, it isn't always easy and I could definitely come up with several items on that list. But for now, the good still outweighs the bad for both my boy and I so we will continue to press on.