Extended nursing for toddlers who need extra comfort is completely healthy and normal. Not all babies wean at the same time, and every baby is different. Toddlers that are still nursing are receiving many health benefits along with comfort. Nursing toddlers receive immunity benefits and decrease their chances of developing allergies. In addition, moms of nursing toddlers benefit from a reduced risk of several illnesses and diseases. Breastfeeding can be a wonderful exchange of energy and comfort between a mother and baby and does not have to end just because that baby develops into a toddler.
1. Breastfeeding Recommendations
The World Health Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies until the age of 6 months. The organization says breastfeeding can continue without risk beyond 2 years of age, and that although parents can begin introducing foods at 6 months, breast milk still produces a wealth of nutrition for babies and toddlers. According to The World Health Organization, breastfeeding can provide up to 33 percent of the nutrition recommended for a 2-year-old. Moms who nurse their toddlers can rest assured they are still providing their child both comfort and nutrition. Toddlers that are teething and not eating out of discomfort, or are picky eaters, will get what they need from continued breastfeeding.
2. Soothing Comfort
Many babies and toddlers nurse for comfort, and according to Ask Dr. Sears, that is completely normal and healthy. As a matter of fact, Ask Dr. Sears says toddlers and babies that nurse until they self-wean develop a greater sense of independence than those that are forced to wean. This bonding and comfort helps the child develop a greater sense of trust in people. These children also are less prone to anger, and in general, are happier, healthier children. Toddlers need soothing, and the best place to turn to meet that need is the breast and the comfort of their loving mom.
3. Health Benefits to Mom
Toddlers are not the only ones who benefit from extended breastfeeding. Moms benefit physically from breastfeeding as well. The Mayo Clinic reports that extended breastfeeding has been shown to decrease women's risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis. The comfort experienced by the nursing toddler also helps mom physically and emotionally. The bonding experience, coupled with the health benefits for both mom and baby, makes extended breastfeeding a great experience.
4. Immune System Boosts
Just as infants receive immune system health benefits through breastfeeding, so do toddlers. According to La Leche League, even a toddler who breastfeeds a couple times a day for comfort is still receiving essential vitamins and minerals. Extended-breastfed toddlers have decreased incidents of allergies and illness. La Leche League says toddlers should be encouraged to self-wean at their own pace. Even if toddlers are simply nursing for comfort, they are receiving health benefits and the comfort benefits they are actively seeking. Together, these benefits give toddlers an even healthier beginning to life.