Friday, May 25, 2012

Ten Reasons I Choose to Nurse Past Infancy

This was originally published as a guest post on one of my favorite blogs about a year ago.
One year later, these ten reasons are still applicable.

When I was pregnant, it seemed like everyone wanted to know if I was going to nurse and then for how long. I don't think I even knew humans breastfed prior to becoming pregnant; I had never seen it, but for some reason, my answer to the questions was always "Yes, I'm going to give breastfeeding a try for at least six months and then it depends on how it goes after the baby gets teeth." For some reason, I was doubtful and kept those free formula samples in the cupboard "just incase" (never did use them). I had read about the risks of feeding babies with formula and I knew I wanted to give breastfeeding a try. What I didn't know was about the amazing aspects of a nursing relationship *other* than food. We have blown past 6 months, 12 months and 24 months. I definitely didn't plan on extended nursing, but why stop a good thing? We wean when she is ready. Gumby still nurses very often and we both absolutely love our special time together.
1. Bonding, Cuddling and Snuggling Time
As your little angel gets more and more mobile, you may find that the little baby that wanted held and snuggled and rocked begins to change into a little toddler that can't stop moving! Gumby is always on the go, and nursing the little squirmy critter that seemed to somehow grow eight eight-feet long legs is how she got her nickname Gumby the Octopus. But sometimes, that little octopus of mine retracts her extra legs and just wants to lay and nurse. Sometimes she runs her hands over my face; sometimes she wants me to sing to her; sometimes she wants me to hold her and hug her as tight as I can while I'm mooching her; sometimes she just gazes lovingly into my eyes ... and, all times, I melt and am so grateful for our special time together.

2. A Soothing and Calming Experience

Christmas Morning Cuddles, Gumby age 27 months.

When I nurse Gumby, there is a certain calm and peacefulness that enters into both of us. Science will tell you that it is because of the hormone prolactin that is released during nursing and that the act of nursing blocks stress receptors, but I think it is so much more. Nursing a toddler continues to be about, not just feeding, but also about nurturing the relationship between mother and child, just as it was with an infant.

3. A Way to Reconnect
Anytime I am gone from Gumby, when I return, I am greeted with a vivacious "I need nummies!" Whatever it is she was doing is immediately stopped. Whatever thoughts or negativity that I returned with are put aside. Our focus is soley one each other. It is almost as if we were never apart. With mamma's milk flows the hormone oxytocin which releases feelings of love and nurturing.
Nursing also helps promote reconnections during the day. Sometimes toddlers and mamma's do not quite see eye to eye on everything; sometimes the two of us have what I call an "off" kind of day where we just can't seem to get on the same page with each othes. Whatever the case may be nursing serves as a wonderful time for us to stop what we are doing and just remind each other and ourselves that we love each other.

4. Finally Confident Enough

Nusring Gumby at 22 months on a bench at a Zoo.

It took me until Gumby was 3 months old to stop hiding to nurse. I spent so many of her early days, hiding in the bedroom when visitors would come. Not because I was embarrassed, I have always been proud of breastfeeding my baby. But, I have also been a very private person. I don't even like V-neck shirts. But, as Gumby grew, I, too, grew ... and got tired of sitting in a room alone. I finally realized that I could nurse discreeting, protecting my privacy, but also any time and any place in order to meet my baby's needs. Okay, so maybe it didn't take me until she was considered a toddler, but the longer we nurse, the more confident I am, both in my actions and my decisions.

5. Dental Benefits
Breastfeeding itself requires the use of different facial muscles than sucking on a bottle or pacifier. The exercising of these muscles results in better jaw alignment and a lowered need for future orthodontic work.1 Breastmilk contains lactoferrin which kills the bacteria that causes tooth decay. In addition, the milk proteins coat and protect the enamel. I am not saying this is a substitute for regular brushing, but I am saying that toddlers have teeth and this can't hurt.2 As a side note to anyone who may be worried about nursing a little one with teeth ... it is physically impossible to nurse AND bite at the same time ;)

6. No Other Lovies Needed
Gumby doesn't really have a favorite toy, blankie, etc. If we go somewhere, while we do pack things and sometimes it seems as though we pack the entire house, there isn't any one item that we really need to remember to take with us. Whether she makes the request "Nummies go too." or she doesn't, nummies go too. I have never left home without them.

7. Health Benefits for Mom

Still Happily Nursing at 29 Months :)

Besides the fact that Gumby was over 2 when my ol' Aunt Flo came to visit for the first time in a long time, breastfeeding lowers the risk of several cancers (breast, ovarian, uterine, endometrial), rheumatoid arthritis, and protects against osteoporosis.5 Often, the health benefits continue to increase the longer nursing is continued.

8. Health benefits for toddler
The same reasons that mother nature designed breastmilk for infants still applies for as long as the child nurses. They will continue to have less illnesses, fewer ear infections, fewer allergies, lowered risk of asthma, lowered risk of obesity, lowered risk of diabetes, lowered risk of heart disease, lowered risk for central nervous system degenerative disorders, lowered risk of digestive diseases, lowered risk of multiple sclerosis, lowered risk for sleep apnea, better eyesight, and increased cognitive development.3, 4, 5

9. In Times of Sickness
Breastmilk is alive and changing all of the time. As toddlers become more active and social in the word, they are exposed to more germs and potentially illesses. Should a toddler pick up a virus, it will be transfered to the mother while nursing. Not that mom will get sick (though she may through any of the close contact that comes with having a little one), but her body will make the antibodies *on the spot* and pass back to the toddler via breastmilk. This could happen before your nursling even shows signs of illness. Breastmilk is very gentle on the stomach and intestines. It provides a protective lining against germs in the intestines. It could be the only thing your little one wants to consume and/or can hold down. All of this, in addition to the emotional closeness and comfort.

10. Comforting an Upset Toddler
Over the summer, we were on vacation and staying at a hotel. We had just finished swimming, but Gumby still had some energy to run off, so we were in the common area playing and she was running around. And then, it happened. She took off at full speed and turned, smacking her forehead right into the corner of a table. It grounded her instantly and she screamed like I had not heard before. We sat right down to nurse, while Deeda tried to figure out what to do next. She was so upset; and, have you ever seen forehead bumps swell? They swell right before your eyes and look horrible. But, she latched on. The screams turned to whimpers and the whimpers turned to calm... within *minutes*. I was grateful to be able to sooth her when she was so upset and in so much pain. Toddlers fall. The comforting aspects of nursing are still very neccessary at this age.



  1. how do you stay so healthy when the girls are taking so much nutrition from you? you look wonderful and I don't ever read about you being sick. Maybe there are medical benefits for Mom too?

  2. Thank you for your comment! There is no evidence based research showing that a lactating mother's body provides for the children to the detriment of the mother. Lactation is a normal function of the body and offers several health benefits to mom (lowered risk of several cancers (breast, ovarian, uterine, endometrial), rheumatoid arthritis, protection against osteoporosis) as long as nursing continues. While each woman is different and caloric intake is based on amount of milk the nurslings are drinking along with the mothers body type, metabolism, activity level, etc, a generalization is that mom may need around 500 extra calories per nursling. It is suggested to eat and drink to suit your appetite because your body will tell you what is needed. Personally, I follow a vegetarian diet eating whole grains and a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, limited processed foods, as well as taking daily vitamins. I am also one of those lucky people who rarely seem to get sick anyway.

    For more information on nursing and mother nutrition, visit