The Nursing Baby FAQ
FAQ on Extended Nursing
Doesn't the milk lose its goodness past one year?
No, the milk remains virtually the same. The changes that take place in the milk are designed to accomodate the child's new dependence on solids, and lesser milk intake. During weaning, the milk changes yet again, turning salty and higher in minerals.
Isn't nursing past two years sexual abuse?
No, sexual abuse occurs when inappropriate touching takes place. Because the breast is not a sexual organ, breastfeeding a baby or child is not sexual abuse. In fact, this is a common misconception because many western societies place a sexual value on the breast. While the breast, male or female, may be used in sexual relations, there is nothing inherantly sexual about the breast. Biologically, it has nerve endings which are sensitive. These nerve endings help enhance the mother-infant bond by ensuring a good latch. The fact that there are other uses for the breast is not really germane to breastfeeding. An apt, if unpleasant, comparison is that most normal men do not derive sexual pleasure from urination, despite the fact that they are using a sexual organ. In fact, you may be surprised to know that statistically, breastfeeding mothers have been shown to sexually abuse their children less often. Experts say that the deepened bond between many mothers and their nurslings makes abuse less likely.
Doesn't nursing a toddler make him or her clingy?
There is evidence that nursing makes a toddler less clingy (although more attached) than his weaned peers. Breastfed toddlers may be more secure, perhaps because they have come to rely on their mothers as a solid source of comfort, and know that mother can be depended on when needed.
I want more children, what about my fertility while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding will delay fertility, and for some women, decrease their libido. The good news is that fertility will return for most women despite nursing a two or three year old. The fertility reducing affect of breastfeeding varies from woman to woman.
The idea of nursing an older baby makes me uncomfortable. Why do people nurse older babies?
Most women don't begin their nursing relationship with their infant with the idea of nursing for a set number of months. As many women approach what they thought was the "ideal" weaning time, they begin to question why weaning at that age had seemed like such a good idea when they can clearly see the benefits of continuing to nurse. Many women begin to ask, why should I wean when my toddler so clearly benefits? My toddler's anxieties and bumps and bruises are so easily soothed by nursing. Putting him or her to bed is a breeze, and grumpy mornings just don't happen when he or she wakes with a nurse.
I can't imagine breastfeeding an 18 month old in public! Will they be asking to nurse at the grocery store?
This is *so* dependent on the child; however, many toddlers lose their love of nursing round the clock, and are way too busy exploring their world to nurse when in public. Toddlers can also be taught polite ways to ask for nursing. A hand gesture can be a secret way to ask to nurse rather than pulling on a shirt for the preverbal toddler. And toddlers will call nursing whatever you call it - nummies are a discreet word that only another nursing mother might recognize
Some moms are also comfortable establishing a no nursing in public policy. And of course, some moms find that there is no reason not to nurse an older child in public.
Don't moms who nurse older children want some time to themselves?
Of course they do, they have needs for privacy and needs for social time away from their family just like any mother, independent of whether they are nursing or not. The breast is an amazing organ, and as the months go by, breasts are less and less prone to problems such as engorgement, plugged ducts, or mastitis at time apart from nursing. And for moms who do want more than a few hours, pumping when (or *if* engorged) will generally work just fine.
If I don't set a weaning date, when will my toddler wean?
That depends on your toddler and you. Many will self wean if you direct a weaning strategy of not nursing except upon request. Others may need encouragement if you decide you are ready to wean before they do. Just be sure to let the weaning take place slowly, and expect a few setbacks along the way. Most moms report that it is easier to wean an older child than a younger. And still other moms report that their child weaned before they (the mother) was ready!
I can see the advantages of nursing an older child, but I'm planning on returning to work.
Actually, it's very easy to continue a nursing relationship with a toddler and go back to work. Because the breasts are less prone to engorgement, most mothers can simply nurse in the morning before leaving and as soon as they get home. Moms who go back to work early simply begin dropping pumping sessions as their toddler begins solids and other liquids. Moms who've gone back to work and continued nursing tend to feel better about their work experiences, knowing that they are still providing their baby with the best, despite being separated for part of the day. And mothers who continue to nurse find that they have to take fewer sick days, as their child gets sick less often because of the immune-enhancing effect of breastmilk.
I can see the advantages for my baby. What are the advantages for me?
Mothers who nurse continue to receive the hormones of letdown, which relax the mother and help her continue to bond with her child, which can be clearly beneficial in the second year with those sometimes hard to love toddlers! Also, stress levels are reduced in mothers who nurse, making coping with small children (or a busy work day for working mothers) even easier. Mothers who nurse 24 months or more over their lifetime have a 25% lowered chance of developing breast cancer than their bottlefeeding peers. Mothers who nurse also have reduced fertility, which many consider an advantage. Mothers who nurse continue to need extra calories, although fewer than in the first year, which is an advantage to all but those who need to gain weight. And of course, many women consider the appearance of their breasts to be better before they have weaned. Mothers who nurse also have an additional parenting weapon in their arsenal, namely the ability to calm and comfort an angry or out of control toddler, that can't always be done in any other way.