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Why I Nurse My Toddler

Karen Koonce
Rockville MD USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 14 No. 6, November-December 1997, p. 172

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

Why do I nurse a toddler? I have a few reasons, but I don't know if any one reason is the reason. My milk is just as good for him today as it was for him the day it came in. I love the fact that I don't have to worry about how much he eats; some days he can be a bottomless pit at the dinner table, while on other days he eats very little solid food. Because he is still nursing, I am comforted by the fact that he is getting a natural source of nutrition that is specific to him. It is obvious how good it is for him, as you look at how strong and tall Noah's 20-month-old body is.

I also appreciate that breastfeeding meets more than just his nutritional needs. I love the smile he gets on his face when I ask if he wants "nursies." He gets so excited! He almost jumps up and down for joy and makes excited movements with his hands and happy sounds with his mouth. When he is nearing a "meltdown," nursing can transform an unhappy little boy into a calm—maybe even sleeping—child. I think that breastfeeding is one way that I give myself to my son. It is one thing to be present, but another to stop what I am doing and gather him into my arms to nurture him with the warmth of my milk. As I sit here typing this, he has nursed himself back to sleep from an early morning awakening. There is nothing like nursing a toddler.

Nursing makes nighttime parenting much easier for me. There is no running to another room to comfort a screaming baby, or sitting awake in a rocking chair trying to get him back to sleep. Because he shares my bed, he is able to find me when he is first waking and nurse himself back to sleep. We both get a good night's sleep (and so does Daddy!). Nursing is nature's tranquilizer for both of us.

Nursing makes parenting a toddler easier. It's a great way to distract him from undesirable or unsafe behaviors, and so much less distressing than harsh words from someone he loves.

Right now, we aren't interested in weaning soon. Although the process has begun (it began when he took his first bite of solids around 6 months of age), I believe and hope that the discontinuation of our nursing relationship is a while off. I intend to follow his lead. I feel that it is too important to him for me to decide when it's over, at least not without it being something we do together. We are a partnership in this, and to dissolve the nursing partnership we will work together. Both of us need to be happy with the decision.

Noah is my second child, the second toddler that I have nursed. But I have to say that I have a better and more understanding mindset about toddler nursing with him than I had with my first. I'm not sure I could have written these words four years ago when his sister was this age. I hold my experiences with La Leche League, experiences that didn't begin until after my daughter was weaned (at the very same age Noah is now), primarily responsible for the many changes in my attitude toward mothering and breastfeeding. Thank you, La Leche League, for helping me learn about mothering through breastfeeding.

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