7 Benefits of Breastfeeding a Toddler

When you think of breastfeeding, you wouldn’t be alone if you think of babies up to 6 months or a year old at maximum. However, there are a lot of benefits to continuing to feed your toddler beyond their 1st birthday (also known as “extended feeding”). After not having the breastfeeding experience I wanted with my first child, I’ve been only too happy to continue with Reuben for as long as he’d like to. He is currently 2 and 3 months, but according to the AAFP, the natural age for a child to wean themselves is between 2.5 and 7 years old! WHO strongly encourage breastfeeding beyond the first year. Therefore, me continuing to breastfeed Reuben is completely natural and normal. Nevertheless, I’ve received increasingly disdainful comments and the “When are you going to stop?” question from some people (most well-meaning, I’m sure) for over a year now! If I wasn’t so strong-willed, I could easily have been swayed. However, I know that there are many benefits to continuing breastfeeding into toddlerhood:

1. Good nutrition

Remember breastmilk adapts to your child as they grow. Therefore, it gives them a perfectly tailored nutritional boost, complementing the food they eat. According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, breastfeeding your toddler can provide:

  • 29% of their daily energy needs
  • 43% of their protein requirements
  • 75% of their Vitamin A requirements
  • 60% of their Vitamin C requirements
  • 76% of their folate requirements
  • 94% of their Vitamin B12 requirements
  • 36% of their calcium requirements

2. Peace of mind for mum

Reuben is a very picky eater like a lot of toddlers who seem to favour safe beige foods. So to know he’s getting all this goodness gives me peace of mind. Likewise, it’s also great to know that I have another tool I can use to comfort him if he’s hurt, unwell, sad and/or anxious. When toddlers are sick, they can keep breastmilk down more easily than food and it helps keeps them hydrated. That was one less thing for me to worry about last year when we all had norovirus.

3. Improved health for your toddler

It’s well known that breastmilk contains loads of antibodies and therefore helps babies’ immune systems. However, that continues into toddlerhood! According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, the longer you breastfeed the more you reduce the risk of:

  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Respiratory infections
  • Ear infections
  • Dental malocclusions (that’s your teeth not aligning properly, I had to look it up)
  • Being overweight and obesity

4. Future health benefits for your toddler

It might be difficult to imagine them all grown up now, but the benefits of breastfeeding will follow your toddler into adulthood. They’ll have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Meanwhile, their risk of being overweight/obese and developing Type 2 diabetes will be lower.

5. Health benefits for you

Continuing to breastfeed is good for you too! It helps you to burn calories and keep to a healthy weight while reducing your risk of:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes

6. It’s brain boosting

It’s thought that breastfeeding can decrease the chances of your child having a lower IQ. According to whattoexpect.com:

Though the research isn’t conclusive, some studies have found that the longer and more frequently a toddler breastfeeds, the smarter heโ€™s likely to be thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids, or DHA, that are unique to breast milk.

7. It’s comforting and helps bonding

Toddlers are busy little people! Breastfeeding may be the only time of the day when you get to enjoy some quiet time together and have a lovely little cuddle. Well, that’s if you’re not being kicked in the face while they try out some gymnastics! It helps build your emotional bond with one another, helping your toddler to feel safe and loved. Plus, it allows them to grow out of being a baby and into a child at their own pace.

Breastfeeding a toddler isn’t without its challenges. However, as long as both your child and you are happy to continue breastfeeding then I am a huge advocate for the benefits it provides.

As for the next person who turns their nose up at me breastfeeding…prepare to be educated! ๐Ÿ™‚