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Am I Crazy to Breastfeed My Toddler?

Updated on February 22, 2010

It's not unusual to breastfeed a toddler in most of the world

Most mothers think it is normal to breastfeed a toddler
Most mothers think it is normal to breastfeed a toddler

Should I breastfeed a toddler?

How long you should breastfeed your child is certainly a complicated and highly personal decision. Whether you should continue to breastfeed a toddler can even be controversial.  However, for those of you in America that are thinking about breastfeeding into the toddler years, don't feel like you are alone. In fact, the vast ,majority of the world breastfeeds their children well into the toddler years. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the world average for breastfeeding is 4.2 years. Additionally, WHO recommends that children be breastfed for at least two years. Anthropologists have determined that the natural weaning age for humans is at least 2 1/2 years and possibly as late as 7 years old. According to UNICEF statistics, the number of mothers who are still breastfeeding after the first year are as high as 90% in other parts of the world. Given these facts, is it truly so unusual to want to continue breastfeeding your child after their first birthday?

The nutritional value of breastfeeding a baby is a well established fact. Doesn't it seem illogical that those benfits would arbitrarily stop because your child has reached her first birthday? Of course, by her first birthday she is eating solid foods as well so one might argue that a child doesn't require her mother's milk anymore. She may not require it, but it will continue to provide her unique benefits that only a mother's milk can give a child. Personally, I nursed all three of my children. Actually, I am still nursing my 16 month old. My two older children are now 19 and 16 (yes, you read that right - I started all over again!). My son was nursed until he was 1 1/2 and my daughter until she was 2 1/2. I cannot scientifically prove to you that nursing them for that length of time made a difference. I can, however, tell you that they have been extremely healthy and secure children. I can count on one hand the number of times they needed antibiotics. When all of my friends children were battling ear infections and colds, my children were healthy. Maybe I just got lucky, but I believe the breastfeeding helped. I know it didn't hurt.

Lastly, nursing an older child provides security and comfort that has no substitute. Children to not quite needing the comfort of their mother when they turn one year old. Children feel safe when they are nestled in mommy's lap. There is a bond that is formed through nursing that cannot be duplicated. When the child is secure in his attachment to his parent, he becomes independent very quickly. Therefore, a child who has the option to turn to her mother for comfort will actually become independent faster and with less trauma than other children.

The desire to breastfeed a toddler is quite normal.  The bottom line is that if you WANT to breastfeed your child after that magical fist birthday - do it.  You and your child will both be happier and healthier.


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    • leigia67 profile image

      leigia67 5 years ago

      Sunburn: Sounds like it worked out perfectly!!!!

    • sunbun143 profile image

      sunbun143 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I breastfed my older son until about 18 mths (though he drank cow's milk from a cup regularly also) and then continued to comfort nurse for another few mths (i.e. just for naps). We stopped completely when we brought my 2nd son home from the hospital. I thought it would be bad to wean him overnight, but honestly, I don't think it could have worked out any better. At 22 mths old, he could understand that nursing was just for the baby, not big boys! And he's completely fine with it and loves his baby brother! Great following you!

    • leigia67 profile image

      leigia67 6 years ago

      Freelancer: I'm now in the same position with the same conflicting emotions!

    • Hub Freelancer profile image

      Hub Freelancer 6 years ago from Virginia

      Great article and glad to see support for breastfeeding into the toddler years. I'm in the process of weaning my 2 year old now and we are both having a lot of conflicting emotions about it.

    • leigia67 profile image

      leigia67 7 years ago

      Veronica...I have had plenty of people tell me the same thing but I know what's best for my babies so I don't pay them much attention...just do what your heart tells you to do :>

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 7 years ago from Georgia

      I breastfed my eldest until I found out that I was pregnant with my second - she was two years old at the time. My youngest just turned two and although she eats solid food, drinks juice, water, and soymilk throughout the day, at night and sporadically during the day, I still breastfeed her as well.

      I have had friends and family tell me that she's too old, but I beleive in the method - "don't offer, don't deny" - works well for her.

    • leigia67 profile image

      leigia67 8 years ago

      Thanks for the comments Nancy and rkhyclak...while I realize that some people can't or don't want to breastfeed, I just felt the need to show support for those of us who have the luxury of doing so for an extended period of time and are tired of being viewed as out of the ordinary!

    • rkhyclak profile image

      rkhyclak 8 years ago from Ohio

      Great hub. I wrote a hub this week, The Plight of A Formula Feedin' Mama, about my breast feeding experience. My daughter turns 1 this week and I would have loved to still be nursing her. Great job :)

    • nancy_30 profile image

      nancy_30 8 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you for this hub. As a breastfeeding mother myself its good to hear other breastfeeding stories. My first child stopped breastfeeding at 15 months. I'm still breastfeeding my youngest. She's 17 months. My family members are always telling me she's too old to still be breastfeeding. I talked to my childs doctor about this and he said what you said about WHO. Then he went on to say that I could breastfeed as long as I wanted as long as she was weaned before she went to school. So I think it should be a mothers and childs decision of when the child is weaned. Don't let others pressure you into not breastfeeding once the child turns one. It should be your decision on whats best for you and your child. Again thank you for this great hub.