10 Reasons to Breastfeed an Older Child

10 Reasons to Breastfeed an Older Child

I’ve been breastfeeding for 9 years straight now.

Four children and close age gaps has meant there has always been someone feeding for as long as I’ve been a parent. That seems like a long time when you think about it! But, it has been one of the best decisions. My older two daughters weaned when they were three and a half, my younger two are still feeding at four and a half and three.

It’s something I never expected I’d do in the beginning, but now it just seems so…normal. I think there are so many positives to continuing to breastfeed into the toddler years and beyond. I know it’s not always easy, and I know you’ll come up against some negative people, so I wanted to offer some encouragement and support.

If you want to keep breastfeeding (and your child does too), then go right ahead. Your body, your choice.

10 Reasons to Breastfeed an Older Child

1. Because You Both Want To

Breastfeeding is between two people, the one feeding and the one being fed. If both mother and child are happy to continue then that’s all that matters. People thinking they get an opinion on it is pretty odd. Worry about your own breasts!

10 Reasons to Breastfeed an Older Child

2. Normalising for You and Others

When I had my first daugter I decided I’d breastfeed for a year. That’s what my Mum did. Then when my daughter got to that age it seemed weird just to stop. There was no great change in her from the day before her birthday until now. Continuing to breastfeed just felt natural. I knew that other people didn’t feel that way though and that they thought she was getting too old to breastfeed. I felt awkward about feeding around others. Fast forward to my fourth daughter and it doesn’t seem strange at all. I had totally forgotten that after she was a year old people might be thinking she was too old to feed. I’d fed her big sisters until they were over 3 years old.

Not only does breastfeeding toddlers and older children help normalise it for other people, it changes your perspective too. I seem to automatically assume most toddlers are breastfed now until I learn otherwise, ha! Normalising breastfeeding is super important and I’ve certainly done my part. Everyone should be supported in their choice to feed their child.

3. Nutrition

10 Reasons to Breastfeed an Older Child

So many people believe that breast milk only has nutitional benefits for babies, and after that there is no point. That’s simply not true. Breast milk is nutitionally valuable for as long as it continues.

For example, In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:

  • 29% of energy requirements
  • 43% of protein requirements
  • 36% of calcium requirements
  • 75% of vitamin A requirements
  • 76% of folate requirements
  • 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
  • 60% of vitamin C requirements

You can read more here.

4. Connection

10 Reasons to Breastfeed an Older Child

Not only does breastfeeding nourish our children’s bodies, but our connection with them too. It is incredibly bonding. Breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin, the love hormone, which encourages nurturing, and a strong emotional bond. Some research has also suggested that “women who breastfeed their children longer exhibit more maternal sensitivity well past the infant and toddler years”. Maternal sensitivity was defined as the the mother’s responsiveness to her child, emotional tone, flexibility, and ability to read her child’s cues.

I always found that breastfeeding made me pause and connect with my child during the busyness and exploration of the toddler years, and I loved that.

5. Soothing

Guys, boobs are so handy in the toddler years. They’re the perfect kid soother and comforter. Booby (as my kids call it) has fixed many a problem around here. Some people see that as a negative. They say kids are only breastfeeding for comfort. So what? That’s like saying you’re only hugging them for comfort. Of course I am!

6. Sibling bond

10 Reasons to Breastfeed an Older Child

With small age gaps here, there were a lot of years of tandem feeding. The first time around, I was worried. Would my eldest daughter be jealous? Would she not want the baby to feed? But oh my gosh, I was amazed. It was all just love! She never cared about having to share. She would have some and then hop off and tell me that she didn’t have too much because she wanted to leave some for the baby. It was something they were both a part of, the baby was welcomed into her world. It has only ever been positive around here. I know not everyone has that experience but it was definitely a bonding experience between siblings for us. Also, can I just say, having a toddler feeding when you’re experiencing engorgement after your milk comes in, priceless!

7. Because Bottles are Ok

Sometimes people ask ‘Why don’t you just give her a bottle?’ and I find this quite strange. Why would it be perfectly acceptable to still have a bottle at this age but not breastfeed? The only difference is more work for me. No thank you. If bottles are still ok then breastfeeding should be no different. Is it because they see me breastfeeding a child and think it is somehow sexual? Dude that’s creepy, get some help.

8. Because Arbitrary Rules Make No Sense

I’m not a fan of arbitrary rules about anything. We don’t do that here and breastfeeding is no exception. It makes no sense to me to come up with a random cut-off age when we will wean. What do we do instead? Just be authentic. Boundaries and needs are an ongoing discussion. As the kids get older I let them know my personal boundaries. I am happy to feed a newborn whenever they want for as long as they want of course, but with a 3-year-old we can negotiate. I don’t want to sit down and feed all day and that’s ok. We both matter. We work out what we’re both comfortable with.

10 Reasons to Breastfeed an Older Child

9. Independence

Breastfeeding a child past infancy does not make them less independent. You can’t force independance. Taking away their comfort is not going to make them more independent. What fosters independence is children feeling secure and meeting their needs. When they are ready they will naturally become more and more independent and will be much more confident in that, knowing that they will not be forced to do anything before they are ready.

10. Sleep

All my children have fed to sleep. People tried to warn me about getting into this habit when they were young, like it was a bad thing. I thought these people were crazy, ha! Breastfeeding is the easiest way to help a tired child to sleep. Why on earth would I give that up? Also, have you never snuggled up with a child and fed them to sleep and watched their eyelids flutter and seen the dreamy totally in love look they give you? It’s pretty much the best thing ever. I’ll be doing that as much as possible thank you very much.

10 Reasons to Breastfeed an Older Child

Breatfeeding an older child is not a negative thing. Meeting their needs is never wrong. If it feels right, do it. No other opinion matters.

10 Reasons to Breastfeed an Older Child

18 thoughts on “10 Reasons to Breastfeed an Older Child

  1. Absolutely grateful for your article on this. I have been breastfeeding my almost 2 year old in public as a kind of act of activism. And I am happy and relieved when I see another mother do the same. I like when kids come to watch. But boy have I heard it from both other mothers and from family. Worst comments are from family who seem to have taken it as something they’re ashamed/concerned/disgusted for me.. like as if i’m taking my pants off in public but otherwise i’m completely my usual self to them. This is from younger female members of my family, who are too young for kids but somehow have opinions!!

    But as I don’t react or don’t lash out, they seem to adapt or retreat. In a weird way I’m ultra open about it for them too.. and their future children. I try to pretend i’m confident about it when they say “but will you breastfeed till she’s 5?!”

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I have breastfed all my four children and they all self-weaned. My youngest child still nurses at present. She is turning 6 this coming September. When I breastfeed, both of us get to relax and often times, I also sleep after a few minutes of nursing my child. I love breastfeeding!

    • almost same as you, i have children, one is 9, 7 and 6.
      youngest one is stilling breastfeeding, i don’t force wean my kids.
      my other 2 kids weaned at age 5 and 6.
      but sometimes my 7 yr old asks for breastfeeding just to relax and bond with me

    • My daughter is a picky eater… and generally not a good eater. I still breastfeed at 26 months – I love it… she wakes up 2-4 times a night to breastfeed. We are worried that all the drinking is making her not interested in food & I started saying no to the night feeds 🙁 and I feel terrible about it. Could it be true though? That all the breast milk drinking is what’s causing her not to eat. 🙁

  3. Wonderful article. I breastfed my girl until she was 3. In all honesty, I was ready to wean her before that, but many factors intervened (teeth, disease). I had nursing aversion for the last 6 months I think. I explained, we talked, and the weaning was way less traumatizing for both of us than I had expected.
    It was a beautiful journey, and I’m ready to do it again with No2!

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  5. Hi im mom of 3 children’s 8,7,6
    my first and second child was breastfed till age 5 and 6, both self weaned. but
    my third kid is now 6 yr old and still breastfeeds daily, i don’t mind it and i won’t force wean. my third child is little different then others, i think he will take longer to wean

  6. Im happily breastfeeding my toddler of two and a half and will do so until she is ready to wean… I am curious as to how you went about negotiating… she seems to want boobie milk as long as I’m around, sometimes it’s just so overwhelming and often. She also doesn’t sleep through the night as she drinks quite often… I need rest!! Any advice?

    • Taryn, it might help to remind yourself that it is temporary. They grow up fast! My son at 2 and a half would’t sleep longer than 4h in a row; but by age 3 he was breastfeeding only three times a day. At 4, only twice (because he stopped napping).
      It helped me to think that “boobie milk” is the richest food you can give – rich in calcium and lots of other nutrients – and easy to digest.
      Some kids need to feed more frequently because they drink smaller amounts.
      I recommend you sleep when child is sleeping, as much as possible.

  7. So I have my 18 month old son whom I breast feed and then I have my almost five year old who just tonight as they were laying down to sleep really wanted to breast feed. So I let her. I feel bad for cutting her off at one year because of bad circumstances we were in. It was such a bonding and healing time for us. But I’m worried that her dad won’t understand. Can I get in trouble with the court system? How will I deal with people when they find out? I felt weird doing it at first but then towards the end I loved it. She kept saying I love you mommy. So I know it was good for her heart.
    Any advice any words of comfort?
    I had thoughts am I doing something wrong?

  8. Great article!
    My boy of 2years and nearly 2 months is addicted! He calls them ´boombas’ a word he made up! Being half Scandinavian, my family are very open about breastfeeding. My mum fed us all for years and my youngest brother was over 4 when he stopped.
    My husband is French and he is very supported, proud that his son is big and strong. An instant comfort, rarely sick and healthy for both of us. His family are a bit surprised even disgusted a in France 3 months of breastfeeding is deemed sufficient but many don’t bother, take medication for milk to dry out and bottle fed. Also stick a dummy in their mouth all the time. So sad no?
    I loved you talking about the fluttery eye I love you look of little ones that nurse to sleep. Breastfeeding is natural, free and comes in cute containers, am I right? I think that it’s a good idea to have some photos, later for your child to see or siblings.
    Cultural differences and prejudice will always be there. I find woman are far far more critical than men. I find when you have a child, they become world and let others pass comments and hold your head High and proud!

  9. Love this. Thank you so much pointing out that it’s about loving and comforting our children, which is good for them!! Also lol at people who think its somehow sexual. They should seek help. I’m a month away from 3 years with my little man. My sis is the only one weirded out by my still nursing. But she has so many self image issues it’s no wonder. I was never one to conform to what the rest of society thinks is best. Mother nature knows best. Of course breastmilk is always full of nutrients. I hate the belief that it quits being nutritional after age one! How does that even make sense??
    To me it’s about our deep rooted instincts as humans and animals. If we can hear them and feel them, not listen to all the b.s. in the world, then it’s a no brainer to do what nature intended. No other animal would feed their baby some substitute milk with a substitute boobie. Its madness and goes against our human gifts. Rock on all you mommas still nursing those happy, comforted, healthy babies , toddlers and beyond!!

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