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5 interesting things about breastfeeding a toddler

My son recently turned 19 months old, and I have a confession to make. I’m still breastfeeding. This is the longest I’ve gone with any of my kids, and he shows no sign of losing interest. So he’s not ready to stop, and truthfully, I’m not either. But I’m amazed by how the experience has changed recently. Here are 5 notable things I’ve discovered about nursing a toddler.

1. Crossing the language barrier. His first three-word sentence? “Nurse other side.”

2. Judgment calls. Lots of people who used to ask, encouragingly “how long are you planning to breastfeed?” now ask, a bit scandalized, “how long are you planning to breastfeed?!” This includes my pediatrician.

3. Temper tantrums. There’s nothing like an angry (and dexterous) toddler trying to tear your shirt off because you refused to nurse him in the passport control line at the airport.

4. Agility. I’ve never been shy about nursing in public, but my son does these fancy, upside-down maneuvers that sometimes make it hard to be, um, discreet.

5. Attachment. You suspect it’s true when you’re nursing a newborn – it’s not really YOU your baby loves, it’s your boobs. But a talking toddler confirms it. When I lift my shirt, he cheers. Seriously, cheers. I get a warm reception at the end of the day, but the applause meter doesn’t lie.

I don’t know how long I’m planning to breastfeed. I figured he’d tell me when he was ready to stop. And sure, I kind of thought it would happen before now. But it’s his favorite time(s) of day. And mine too. Except in the passport line.

16 comments

  1. I think it’s absolutely wonderful you are still breastfeeding. My daughter nursed until 14 months and stopped when she was ready although I think the hormones from being pregnant had something to do with it. I know exactly you feel about the pediatrician being snippy, mine DEMANDED that I stop or it would cause a miscarriage. So uninformed. ugh.

  2. I nursed my son until he was 3.5 years old. Wouldn’t change a thing. We probably would’ve gone longer, but I was 4 months pregnant and he went a week without asking for any milk so it seemed like a good time to let it go. It’s been a year since we stopped and he and I both miss it. I’m glad he still remembers it and I think he’s proud of himself for giving it up for his little brother. I don’t think my second will go as long, but I am planning on letting him make that call. My first fell into the category of high need baby so I knew early that if I left it up to him he would nurse longer. After he was about 2.5 most of our feedings only happened at home so I only had to talk about it if I wanted to. Our family doctor didn’t say anything, I don’t think anything surprised her after our homebirth.

  3. Me, too! My experience has been exactly the same (through point 4, at least). My first child stopped at 15 months when I was pregnant. Now my second child is still going strong at almost 20mos. I have put limits on when we nurse–no more on demand. But I have no plans to stop and neither does he–once you stop, you never get that time back.

  4. Good job mama! Sounds like you are giving your baby just want he needs right now. I remember my older son getting a little crazy around 19/20 months. I think that is when I started to explain to him that nursing was for at home (and those emergency situations that required a quick boob no matter where we were). I am not shy at ALL about nursing and would be happy to nurse in public as long as my child didn’t start doing gymnastics and as long as he would accept the fact that he might have to wait for a little while.

    I am shocked that your pediatrician questions your nursing a one year old! Crazy!

    One thing that worked for me was to offer him milk before we got into those situations like the passport line. Maybe on a quiet bench outside or in the car. Try to intercede the emergency need. Then you can explain to him that he needs to wait until you are back home/ back in the car/ back outside, etc for more milk. Just an idea that worked for our family!!

    Good luck and thanks for posting about this awesome topic!

  5. How cute! I like to call #4 “nursing gymnastics.” I swear, my son loves to stand up and stretch his leg out and turn himself upside down while nursing. I don’t know how he even manages to stay latched on!

  6. I think you would enjoy this article from Mothering Magazine
    http://indianapolis.momslikeme.com/members/JournalActions.aspx?g=550219&m=7038192

  7. Thanks so much for all the supportive comments. Nice to hear this is something that resonates. Also, I LOVED the article link from yummymummy. Go! Click! Read it. What a fascinating story.

  8. My family used to joke that my son planned to take my boobs with him to prom. I nursed my son until he was 4, and the last year it was really just the night nursings that lingered. Hang in there, it is a special time and very short lived.

  9. Good for you! I nursed my first until about 19 months. At that point I was starting my second trimester with baby #2 and just too tired. I did “don’t offer, don’t refuse” and slowly weaned – it took a LOT less time than I had thought – he was barely drinking any cow’s milk, but it all worked out. I am on 9 months with baby #2 and don’t plan on stopping any sooner this time.

  10. Nurse as long as you both feel comfortable! I nursed my daughter until she was 2 and a half. At that point it was mostly at home putting her to bed, but it’s nobody’s biz but your own. And this shouldn’t have to be a “confession.” It should be a proud declaration and you should be honored for your choice. Our society is so hung on on the wrong things. Sigh.

  11. Sheri- just do you mean exclusively still nursing or whenever he’s in the mood?

  12. Nava – no, just when he’s in the mood. He definitely gets most of his calories from other sources.

  13. Keep it up! I nursed my son until about 18 months when I decided that nursing gymnastics from 5:30 AM until 8 AM was not worth the few extra hours of sleep!! He’s 22 months now and although he doesn’t nurse, my boobs are still his best friends and he will whip them out in the middle of Joe’s on Newbury Street during a full on “I’m tired” tantrum!

  14. Thanks for the clarification. DS is 16 mos and 99% exclusively BF..so was trying to get a sense of when kids self-wean to food more (not that I’m pushing hard, but I do offer food too now that he gets so busy playing that he semi-forgets to nurse).
    Curious- does he nurse to sleep?

  15. Hi Nava,
    He does prefer to nurse to sleep if I’m around, but he’ll also fall asleep in other ways if he’s with my husband or another caregiver. I’ve always started solids at around 6 months and then continued breastfeeding for as long as my kids were interested. My daughters quit between 17 and 18 months, but my son is still going strong. I think every kid is different, but I also think that you could feel fine about moving your DS over onto some solids at this point. Of course, it is your decision to make, one way or the other. 🙂

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