Breastfeeding Your Toddler

Family with breastfeeding toddler

When you want to give your child the long-term benefits of extended breastfeeding, it helps when you have confidence to respond to others.

Every woman needs support. That support can range from family support to hearing about research that explains the benefits of long-term nursing to workplace policies that allow continuation of the breastfeeding relationship. Organizations like the World Health Organization work to support extended breastfeeding on a global scale, and La Leche League International volunteers provide woman-to-woman support.


Extended Breastfeeding Benefits the Child

In addition to positive physical effects, breastfeeding toddlers can have a positive effect on a child’s later social adjustment.

“Research reports on the psychological aspects of nursing are scarce. One study that dealt specifically with babies nursed longer than a year showed a significant link between the duration of nursing and mothers’ and teachers’ ratings of social adjustment in six- to eight-year-old children (Ferguson et al, 1987). In the words of the researchers, ‘There are statistically significant tendencies for conduct disorder scores to decline with increasing duration of breastfeeding.’”

Sally Kneidel, “Nursing Beyond One Year,” New Beginnings, July-August 1990, 6/4: 99-103 (via KellyMom.com).


Successfully Breastfeeding a Toddler Requires Support

The World Health Organization (WHO), as part of their Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, has created specific targets to support breastfeeding for at least the first 24 months of a child’s life. The targets are meant to help create national policies and action plans to support breastfeeding.

“Ensure that the health and other relevant sectors protect, promote and support exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond, while providing women access to the support they require – in the family, community and workplace – to achieve this goal.”

Planning Guide for national implementation of the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding” World Health Organization, 2007.


Responding to Criticism about Breastfeeding a Toddler

Even when we are sure that we can trust our instincts as parents, we know that we will have better success when we have support. More important, we need to have confidence in our own choices. If you anticipate the kind of questions you might get, it can be easier to respond with confidence.

“It always helps to look for what has been called ‘the question behind the question,’ that is, the motivating factor. The reasons vary, but generally people question your parenting style when you have made a choice that is different from the perceived norm. They may be confused about what you’re doing or worried about your baby. Usually, the people who comment on a mother’s choices care about her and her babies.”

“Confidence is contagious. When we believe in our parenting choices, we express ourselves with confidence. Expressing confidence can be the best way to prevent unwanted criticism and questioning.”

Marianne Vakiener, “Responding to Criticism,” New Beginnings, 16/4: 116-119, July-August 1999.

Still need help with your responses? Try a few of these breastfeeding responses.


Your Breastfeeding Questions

Customers ask a lot of specific questions about breastfeeding. We’ve kept track of your questions, and we are looking to reliable sources to answer your questions each Wednesday this month. If you need answers now, breastfeeding support groups bring experienced mothers together with those who need help, and La Leche League always has reliable breastfeeding resources.

Image © Lev Dolgatshjov | Dreamstime.com

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