Top 10 Reasons to Nurse a Toddler

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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My youngest, Mary Elizabeth, will turn 2 in just a few weeks and as far as I can tell, she’s still going to be frequently asking for mama’s milk. I have no real plans to begin the gentle process of weaning; however, since I’m pregnant with number four and have a history of premature dilation, down the road I may have to start  curbing her nursing sessions.
People occasionally ask me why I’m still nursing. I usually just say something generic like “because it works for us.” Not that I owe anyone an explanation, but this is true and perhaps the most important reason to continue breastfeeding beyond what is considered the norm in the Western world. If Mom and Baby are happy with it, then why wean? 
Still, the reasons I’m nursing my toddler, enjoying it, and not planning to force weaning right now are many. I decided to come up with a top 10 list based on my own motivation for practicing and embracing extended breastfeeding. If you’re nursing a toddler, I’d love to hear reasons that would make your top 10 list. 




Kate’s Top 10 Reasons to Nurse a Toddler

10. Because your toddler wants to.

9. Because you want to.

8. Breastfeeding is a great way to quell your tiny tyrant and is the single best (and often easiest) way to diffuse a titanic tantrum. An added bonus: When your toddler’s mouth is taking its fill of mama’s milk, he can’t physically emit pteranodon-like screeching.

7. You’d rather your tot get her narcotic-like hits from you than from some other form of toddler crack (i.e., furry red monsters; noisy, obnoxious toys; singing vegetables and/or animals; sticky lollipops, etc.).

6. Babies don’t keep, and you don’t care what anyone else says. Your toddler is still very much a baby.

5. Extended nursing boasts both nutritive and emotional benefits for moms and children. Plus, you’ve always been somewhat of a rebel.

4. You get some great mom’s-eye views.


photo%252833%2529 Top 10 Reasons to Nurse a Toddler
Actually, a camera really can’t capture the kind of view I get while nursing Mary Elizabeth. The colors here are all wrong. Her eyes are greenish-blue and look brown here, and in real-time the way she gazes at me goes straight to my heart. You lose that palpable love in a photo.


3. When you nurse her, your toddler looks at you like you’re the universal life force, and it’s good to be queen, especially when you suspect (fear?)  spontaneous eye-rolls directed at none other than you are likely in your future. For now, you’ll savor the “I’m in ecstasy” eyes rolling in the back of the head as your sweet nursling draws nourishment from you.

2. Nursing a toddler is a nice ego boost because it feels really good when a child climbs on your lap, cuddles close, says, “Mama,” “milk,” and “love,” and you’re reminded that nursing a toddler is just that – an act of maternal love.

1. Toddlers and all children in fact – whether they’re nursing or not  – deserve the milk of compassion and as their mother, you’re thankful you’re there to give that to them drop by drop, day by day.

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55 Responses to “Top 10 Reasons to Nurse a Toddler”
  1. Calah says:

    I love this post, Kate! I'm still nursing my 27 month old, although it's difficult for me. Since my baby (7 months old) was born, nursing the older one has been difficult for me to sit through, and she's regressed so much that she wants to nurse more than the baby! But she's not a cuddly child AT ALL, and I think nursing is the only way she gets her need to be held filled, so we still nurse. Many times a day, in fact, much to the chagrin of…everyone I know.

    But I don't care. She needs it, so I'll give it to her. And you're right. Those eyes, they kill me!

  2. Patti says:

    Oh, I SO agree about nursing being an EGO BOOST. It matters to me that I matter to my baby! :-)

  3. Sam says:

    What works for you is best. Love those babies ladies…they will be teens soon. I nursed all 12 of mine for about 14months…Love it. What a gift and treasure.

  4. Lauren @ Hobo Mama says:

    Hilarious and beautiful! I totally use the breast-as-silencer approach, especially late at night in our shared building. :) Works like a charm!

    I'm so glad you have such a measured and gentle response to critics, and that you're aware of your own reasons to continue nursing. It really is a precious time — and fleeting, despite what anyone else thinks!

  5. minimomist says:

    I'm in love with nursing. I plan to nurse until my daughter chooses to stop. We're nine months into it and I adore every single minute!

  6. Liam J. says:

    "Babies don't keep" makes me want to be all weepy and sentimental. It's true, though, so it's best to get as much babiness out of them as you can!

  7. Wolfmother says:

    This totally made me weepy and sentimental. My son is now 8 months old and is still nursing and I hope he does for a long while but already I feel sad thinking of when he will inevitably stop and those moments will be only in memory.

  8. Maman A Droit says:

    I'm glad I'm not the only one with a pterodactyl :)

    My son's only 19 months old, so not quite two, but we've both been sick twice already this year and both times he's refused to eat pretty much anything for about a week and then spent another week off his usual eating schedule, so I've been really really glad I was still nursing-my cousin had the same thing happen to her one-and-a-half year old who was bottle fed and they ended up in the ER for dehydration. So I think I'd add knowing they're getting hydration and nurtrion even if they're sick (or just being picky toddlers).

  9. suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter} says:

    yes indeed. love love love:)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Kate, I love this post! My 3 children (2 boys, 1 girl) have each nursed until about 2 1/2 years old. They always end up weaning when I'm pregnant with the next (sometimes almost due). I wouldn't trade nursing my babies/toddlers for anything in the world!!! It really is my bonding time with my baby – the 4th is on the way, and she, too, will hopefully nurse a good, long time! Thanks for the post – I always appreciate other mothers with like sentiments towards toddler nursing…there aren't too many mamas out there who feel the same way. ~Laura A.

  11. Dreamingaloudnet says:

    Funny, wonderful and true – I just LOVE number "You’d rather your tot get her narcotic-like hits from you than from some other form of toddler crack (i.e., furry red monsters; noisy, obnoxious toys; singing vegetables and/or animals; sticky lollipops, etc.)" LMAO!!

  12. Kate Wicker @ Momopoly says:

    Maman A Droit, totally forgot about the sick things. Mama's milk is like Ensure for my toddler!

  13. CatholicMommy says:

    I'm keeping this for future reference. My little one is only 7 months and I'm already hearing, "Are you STILL nursing him?" Sigh.

  14. Abby says:

    Kate – thanks so much for sharing this. It was a nice boost for me today, on one of those days when nursing my 21 mo old felt a bit like a chore. She'd been nursing less, but is nursing more again… my cycles haven't started back up yet and I'm getting antsy to start trying for another baby (although why on earth I'm desperate for another baby is beyond me, since she's all the baby I really need at the moment!), and we were both having a cranky day. I wish more Catholic moms around here nursed toddlers… I find I have to go to a secular "Nursing Beyond a Year" group to get that kind of support, and it's nice to see other moms and know I'm not crazy for still nursing her!

    And I second Dreamingaloudnet – love love love the reference to "toddler crack". So, so true :) Why isn't it just obvious that it's lovely for a little one to associate a part of their mom, another human person, with the ultimate in comfort, rather than filling that need with inanimate things?

  15. Kate Wicker @ Momopoly says:

    Abby, just an FYI: I could not get pregnant after I had my first until I weaned. I remember being frustrated, not being able to conceive when *I* thought the time was right. Now I'm so grateful now because the spacing ended up being perfect. I'm a firm believer that breastfeeding can be a beautiful complement to NFP, or as I prefer to call it God Family Planning. :)

  16. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama says:

    Oh Kate – this had me in tears – pteranadon-like screaming in particular! Love this post, and I do hope you'll consider contributing to the "joys of bf'ing past infancy" series I publish on my own site sometime :)

  17. Amanda says:

    I nurse my almost 27-month-old b/c toddlers are notorious picky eaters and I know that her nursing fills in the gap. Plus, she has never been in for a sick visit and at the most has gotten just a slight cold less times than I can count on one hand. All this while having an older sibling in school (who also is very healthy and breastfed until she was 2).

  18. Abby says:

    Kate – thanks for the encouragement, and the consolation that I'm not the only one who's had to "wait" for that second baby! All of my friends, etc, have pretty much had their 2nd sooner than they necessarily would have started thinking about it, and I'm definitely the odd ball. Starting to get a lot of "well why don't you just wean her" sort of comments, but she's just so clearly not ready, and I'd rather she was able to do it at her own speed – I know the best indicator of her being ready for a sibling will be my fertility returning! One of my goals for this Lent is to really focus on putting my two greatest current desires – for another baby, and for a house for us settle down in – into God's hands, and to learn to let them rest there, because He's got a better view of it all than I do :)

  19. Arual says:

    My 17 month old and I nurse all the time. When he was 10 months my in-laws were perturbed that I wouldn't be able to drink alcohol anytime soon–which
    A) Isn't true
    B) Doesn't matter because I have little interest in drinking.

    Now we can go 8 hours without nursing during the day before I get engorged but nursing is really the way we reconnect after a long day of school or work and I am very grateful we've kept it up or I might be able to avoid seeing him all day (college course work gives me plenty to do without having a baby also demanding time). I am lucky to have a supportive family but am not looking forward to the weird looks or "still nursing!?" questions that may come up in the future.

  20. Mommy says:

    Such a sweet list. I can't wait for baby #2 so I can nurse again : )

  21. Kate says:

    Love this post! I nursed my first until 22 months and my second until 34 months, and both times the 'last times' were bittersweet. The first time DS2 was sick after I weaned him I couldn't help thinking about how he always recovered faster when he had Mama's milk. Your reasons 9 and 10 are my top reasons to nurse a toddler – because it works for him and works for me! When it stops being beneficial for one of us, we stop. But I treasure those months of effortless intimacy.

  22. Annagrace says:

    My son turned 3 in November (yes, TURNED, not turning) and we still nurse. He asks for it and it truly has a calming effect on him! I thought we would be done a LONG time ago, (as my daughter weaned herself at 18 months) but he hasn't wanted to stop, and I don't have the heart to cut him off. I'm sure some people think it is crazy, but I have a happy, healthy toddler who is much more secure than most children.

  23. I'm a full-time mummy says:

    Great post! Love your reasons! My boy just turned 2 last week and I'm still nursing him on top of being pregnant close to 4 months now. I just love, love, love breastfeeding!

    ~ Jenny @ I'm a full-time mummy

  24. Carol - The Lazy Mama says:

    Yes, to my kid, I am queen. And my kid asks so nicely with a "please" and flaps his eyes beautifully. How can you say no to that? I'd definitely get the best out of it before completely stopping.

  25. Jess says:

    Great post! I have been feeling a lot of pressure to stop nursing my son (who turns two next week), and posts like yours really help to fight the unwanted negative influences.

  26. Erin says:

    Wow, didn't expect to feel the sting of tears while reading this. My nursing days are over, and I so miss that look a toddler gives you when nursing, and when they reach up and cup your cheek or touch your nose or hair. I got to experience it longer than a lot of moms, 4+ years each time, but there's still a melancholy when I think about nursing my sweet babes.

  27. venuse says:

    I also love feeding my baby, i nursed my baby till 1yr 5 months, actually when he was just 1 month he was not drinking milk then i have to use electric breast pump and did feeding simultaneously nursing for 5months, day and night i use to remove milk and store in the fridge then he started directly, i use to not get rest at all, everyone use to tell me why are you taking so much trouble, give him bottle milk but i wanted him to drink only my breast milk and till 6months i nursed him without giving anything else then after that also when milk got decreased i took some medicine to increase milk and nursed him for 1yr without giving him outside milk after 1year i started slowly giving both.
    I have heard from most of my friends they nursed only for 3 months for 5 months but for me i decided i have to give him till i can, and i use to enjoy a lot when he use to look at me while nursing and give a beautiful smile. it was like i am in the heaven, and i don't want anything else.

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  28. Adventures In Babywearing says:

    Love it! Ivy is 30 months now and still nursing, but it's SO normal, so natural for us. It's been an important part of our lives and our relationship and I truly feel honored I've had the privilege to breastfeed her this long.

    Steph

  29. MomAgain@40 says:

    Great post. 26 months and still nursing! :D

  30. Anonymous says:

    I completely agree and love the post! I would change the term 'extended nursing' to 'full term nursing' because this sounds like the norm which is what it is.
    If you like this you will find my article 'extraordinary breastfeeding – a missed opportunity' interesting too. Check it out at:http://www.sharontrotter.org.uk/rcm2006bfeeding.htm If you want the full draft email me direct.
    Keep on feeding!
    Sharon
    :0)

  31. Nicola says:

    Thank you for posting! And thanks to the first commenter, Calah.

    My two boys are still nursing, the oldest being 27 months, and the youngest being 5 months, and sometimes I do hear "Gah-gee eeease Mammy!" a LOT. Sometimes as many as 5-10 times during the day, which I thought was quite a lot for a toddler.

    Reading your comment made me feel more confident that it can be normal, and what's more, what's wrong with letting a boistrous toddler lay down for a few minutes with me when he asks to and have some of his precious gah-gee?

    I also love the mumma-views that only I get. My son's eyes are so beautiful, and the only time he's still enough for me to appreciate them, are when he's nursing.

  32. trillion says:

    thank you for this! I'm still nursing my nearly 3 year old and also have a 3 month old.

    Before the baby came along I was still feeding my toddler because she asked for it and she's a skinny thing so any extra food is a bonus in my eyes.

    After the baby, I didn't want the toddler to feel pushed out. She has also regressed and feeds more than the new born (as a previous poster describes) and it is frustrating that the newborn sleeps through while the toddler wakes and shouts for milk but it's very sweet when they both feed at the same time and stare into each others eyes. i also find it really sweet that the toddler will stop during a feed, get up and say 'I've saved some milk for the baby'.

    The toddler was also a god send during engorgement in the first few weeks after the baby was born and she's just got me through my first ever experience of mastitis without the need for anti-biotics.

  33. PK says:

    Awesome, Kate! There are so many people in our lives that want to shut us down when we are "still" nursing our babies and call it an ego thing or sick and it just really upsets me. I'm so happy to see a list like this because I know I'm no the only mom, by a long shot, who feels the way you do. Right now I am struggling with a 5 year old who is allergic to milk and while he no longer nurses, I keep hearing from others that it's time to wean my 22 month old or just give him the milk in a cup if I'm so concerned to introduce cow's milk to my baby. Well, I'd like them to try and find the time with 2 kids and very active ones at that to pump.Oh society, why have you forsaken us?

  34. life-is-learning says:

    i love this list and especially the moms'-eye view picture! you are right, the camera never can quite get, but this pic is great! dd is 2.5 and we are still happily nursing away! thanks for sharing and helping to normalize extended breastfeeding! :)

  35. Pamela says:

    My son weaned at 25 months. He wasn't really ready but after a nursing strike, and mom needing mommy time it happened.

    Anyways, I never got the cuddles, and love and then he would ask for milk. Nope, he would crawl up in my lap and say "Boob, Momma."

  36. mamapoekie says:

    Everybody should nurse a toddler, preferably more than one… Can't imagine how we let this become non-mainstream…
    will tweet and share on Sunday Surf

  37. Megan says:

    I like # 1. Very sweet and true. My baby is still young, but I'm looking forward to some of the added benefits you mentioned!

  38. Terri says:

    Love this! I am nursing a 32mo and 17mo and while it's tough going at times there are so many benefits. Keep up the great work Mama!

  39. Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings says:

    Wonderful post! I am currently nursing my twin girls who will be 3 in May. And man, has it been a wonderful experience! There have been so many reasons for us to continue nursing, and really none (that have any merit) for us to quit. I know at some point (probably soonish) they will be done, and it will be so bittersweet. Oh, my babies!

  40. mrs green @ littlegreenblog.com says:

    LOVE that you are still nursing; even my 10 year old looks at me wistfully sometimes when she's feeling stressed or ill :) One of my reasons for nursing is that I was too darn lazy to get out of bed at silly o'clock and mess around with bottles; breast feeding is just so CONVENIENT!

  41. GypsyMomma says:

    I'm tandeming my just turned 3 year old boy and my 16 month old girl and I'm pregnant with number 4. The way things are going I might have 3 simultaneous nurslings. I have to say I love Number 7! And I'm so creeping the natural parenting carnival. Introducing me to so many blogs I've never come across.

  42. Kat says:

    Lovely post! I loved nursing my daughter past the one year mark and looked forward to doing the same with my son, but he had other plans :-( I guess we'll see what baby #3 has in store :-)

  43. morgaine24 says:

    wow so because I was not able to breast feed my child there is no maternal love there. call me crazy but if a kid can say mommy breast milk I don't think they should be breast feeding. just my opinion.

  44. Lauren @ Hobo Mama says:

    @mogaine24: I understand that breastfeeding can be a personal subject that dredges up a lot of emotions, and it must be hard not to be able to breastfeed if you wanted to. That said, I think you're taking a bit of a logical leap to take Kate's words that breastfeeding is an act of maternal love and assume that not breastfeeding is the opposite. For instance, preparing meals for your family might be an act of love, but just because my husband cooks for our family doesn't mean that I don't love them, just that I show that love in different ways. Same with moms who don't breastfeed.

    Also, as the mother of a nursing child, I take exception to the idea that a child who can ask to nurse is too old to do so. My baby could communicate with me his need for nursing even as a newborn — why should I stop listening to him just because he's now verbal? Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing for the mother and child, and the decision to keep breastfeeding is a choice best left up to the pair.

  45. The Mom Pledge says:

    I absolutely miss how I could sooth my daughter at the breast. There's just nothing like it.

  46. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama says:

    @mogaine24 – Lauren expressed my thoughts beautifully. I don't think anyone, including Kate, would say that a mother who did not breastfeed does not love her child. That's just silly.
    And, thankfully, your opinion that a verbal child should not be breastfeeding simply does not stand up to scientific evidence that breastmilk continues to be incredibly beneficial (for mother and child) for years.

    I love this thought from Mandy: "The same person who advocates withholding breastfeeding because a child can verbally communicate his/her needs would not also advocate withholding food because a person could verbally communicate that s/he was hungry. It wouldn’t make sense to tell someone that they couldn’t eat because they recognized they were hungry and told us. If a visiting adult asked for a glass of water due to thirst, our reply would not be, “I’m sorry. You asked for it, so you are definitely too old to have a glass of water.”"

    (http://naturalparentsnetwork.com/if-they-are-young-enough-to-ask-for-it/)

  47. Tat says:

    My son weaned himself at 22 months and now I am still breastfeeding my 22-month-old daughter. I breastfeed because it makes my life easier in so many ways – it calms her down, stops a particularly vicious tantrum and I love the views, too ;).

  48. Margaret in Minnesota says:

    This is a lovely post, Kate–thank you. I am so bolstered by the fact that, as hard as this Lent has been so far, I still have those "mom's eye views" to cling to.

    My son's 22 mos. old and I have been known to complain–good-naturedly–about how much he asks to nurse. No more. His big brother (my oldest son) is 13 and it's all I can do to get him to stand still for a hug. No more complaining, Kate; no more.

  49. Kate Wicker @ Momopoly says:

    Thanks to everyone for their support and for sharing their sweet nursing anecdotes. The other day I was trying to teach my oldest math and help my middle child with a project for little hands when Mary Elizabeth started crying to nurse. I didn't feel like nursing. I had enough to do, and I didn't behave in the most loving way. Then, later, when we were together in the stillness and she was curled on my lap, nursing, and gazing at me with those sweet eyes, all these reasons – and yours, too – flashed through my mind. What a beautiful moment of mercy and love for me after a rough morning!

    Morgaine24, I'm sorry if my words offended you, but I have to echo Hobo Mama and Dionna commented and say that while nursing is certainly one way of showing maternal love, there are plenty of other ways of showing that kind of love as well. This was not an anti-bottle feeding post. You read between the lines there, I'm afraid. This was a pro-nursing your toddler post. There's a difference. Please don't assume things.

    Clearly, more posts of this nature still need to be written when there remain people who believe a 2-year-old is too old to climb on her mother's lap and snuggle to nurse. The problem in this society is that the snuggling involves my breast – a highly-sexualized "object" that should be seen more as what God designed it to be seen as than something sexy to be ogled – a part of my the female form and one – just one, mind you – expression of maternity and sacrificial giving.

    I invite you to read other posts on my blog where I make a strong case that we must support all moms – including those who were unable to breastfeed – and not pitch ourselves against one another. I despise holier than thou posts that induce guilt from parents who don't parent a certain way. On the same hand, I don't like it when people make the illogical jump that if I say that A is B (nursing is an act of maternal love), then if you don't do A, there is no B. As Dionna said, that's just plain silly.

    I'm not sure you'll ever even see this. I've prayed about whether or not I should write an entire post addressing some of your arguments in case there were others who were silent but felt the same. I remain undecided. I just want you to know that my words were not intended to make non-nursing moms feel guilty but rather to bolster those of us who do nurse and have faced not-so-nice comments about how our kids are too old or are leeches or that we are just needy parents who need to feel loved (all comments I've personally received in the "Christian" online community).

    Whether we nurse or not, whether we work outside of the home or are at-home parents, we love our children and are trying to do the best we can, so let's lift one another up, Mamas.

    God bless.

  50. Anonymous says:

    We are going through the bittersweet process of weaning. My son will be 3 in June.

    My top 10 reasons would be:
    10) it helps him nap!
    9) It allows me to sit and put my feet up for a few minutes!
    8)It helps him nap!
    7)We get to cuddle.
    6) He pats me and says "I love you".
    5) It helps him nap!
    4) I don't need to feel any pressure to get back to underwire bras.
    3) I can proudly say that my body has been noursing him for over three years, both inside and outside the body.
    2)Nap nap nap!
    1)Because I can!! Because I have nursed off ONE breast only for almost 3 years. I thought I wouldn't make it more than a few weeks and its amazing how long we've gone!

    -Kelly (nursing Lucas)

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  1. […] I once wrote a top 10 list for nursing a toddler. Mostly, I received an influx of positive feedback from other moms who, like I, have found great love and satisfaction (and sometimes sacrifice, too) in nursing a child beyond infancy. But I also offended someone. I’m not writing this to pick on this mom. I admit to being angry when I first received her comment, but it landed in my inbox during Lent and a time when I was tightly restricting my online activity. So I let it go and didn’t jump in to defend myself. I kept quiet because sometimes silences speaks far more loudly as well as profoundly than a string of impetuous words. […]

  2. […] to photograph; and I don’t write about enough controversial topics (other than reasons for nursing a toddler, perhaps). Sometimes I write to get paid; not so long ago I had to write for an income to get us […]

  3. […] Top 10 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Toddler — Extended breast-feeder Kate Wicker of Momopoly makes her own top 10 list for why she loves nursing her 2-year-old. […]



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