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Updated 08 August 2013

Why I still breastfeed my toddler

Despite the strange looks she gets and the challenges that come with breastfeeding a toddler, this Health24 writer is adamant to continue for as long as she can.

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When people find out that I’m still breastfeeding my toddler, who is now almost two, the reaction I usually get is, “When are you going to stop doing that?”

The answer quite simply is, why? Firstly, why does it matter to you? How is the fact that I choose to continue offering my child the best possible nutrition any of your concern?

Secondly, why not? The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for the first two years of life – and yet I find myself very much in the minority when it comes to doing just that.

I suspect this is more of a middle-class problem, as millions of women across the world without access to the various media, arguing the benefits of breastfeeding and debating whether nursing mothers should cover-up or not, continue to breastfeed their children until they wean themselves.

I intend to do the same. I am not at all sure when that will be – if he wants to drink at the breast until he is three, then I will allow him to do so. My mother breastfed me and my brother until we were three with very little social judgement. But things were different then.

Not always easy

However, while I know I’m judged for choosing to breastfeed my child for so long, despite all the benefits – the only drawback being continuing sleepless nights – I know that for many women breastfeeding is tough, and for some, not even an option.

I don’t judge them for this because every situation is different. Every mother is different. For me, this works. And if you can possibly breastfeed, I strongly suggest you also make every effort to do it for as long as possible.

Breastfeeding didn’t come easily to me. Despite what many people think, it’s not really a very natural thing at first, and for months I struggled. Apart from difficulties with latching, I didn’t have enough milk – even with medication to boost my milk supply. It was tough and for a while I topped up with a bottle of formula every day.

I didn’t want to go that route, but my baby was losing weight and the doctors advised it. And it worked. It didn’t last long but it gave me a chance to catch my breath – as any new mother knows, those first few weeks are a blur.

The good news is that it does get easier – in some ways. Breastfeeding a toddler isn’t always easy, they don’t lie still, they often want to chat while they nurse and they do occasionally bite.

But lying next to my child in the dark while he gently feeds himself to sleep, as I stroke his back and marvel at how he has changed from a baby to a little boy, the closeness that I feel to him in those moments is incomparable.

Breastfeeding is not only good for him – it feeds my heart and soul as well.

 
 

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