Toddler Nursing…Oh so sweet!

Posted on April 12th, 2012


I had every intention of beginning to type this blog with two hands.  Computer ready, tea made and a toddler happily busy with her Duplo, I sat down in anticipation of a few moments of quality writing time.  However, an empty, available lap proved far more tempting than a few plastic blocks and before I could protest, there she was… breastfeeding.  Oh…and having a chat.

“Doing, mommy?”…speaking with her mouth full.“Trying to type, Amelia” (Now with one hand)…  “What are you doing?”“Boom-boom…having…mommy.  Yummy”.  Boom-boom is her name for breastfeeding. To keep up the conversation I ask her what it tastes like.  As usual her answer is “Honey…mommy”.  Sweet.  Yummy. Honey.  And I melt.  I must confess that it warms my heart to think that in the most trying of times, when I am feeling tired, sick or stressed, when she begins to feed she still experiences her mommy as sweet.  Amazing.

I don’t think that I ever thought about breastfeeding a toddler.  When I first started breastfeeding if you had handed me a walking, talking little person it would have been the strangest experience.  But my baby started out 8 pounds, 7 ounces.  A wee little lady.  And we both continued to enjoy everything about breastfeeding.  The closeness, ease in getting to sleep, help for ouchies (and boredom), not to mention all the health benefits for both Amelia and myself.  As we move swiftly toward her second birthday, she shows no sign of slowing down or stopping.  And here is were we get to the heart of this blog (thankfully back to typing with two hands!) and the question I am most frequently asked – “but how long do you intend to feed her for?”

My answer – “For as long as she would like”.

So how long will or should that be?  Katherine Dettwlyer, a remarkable anthropologist, wondered what the normal weaning age of human babies would be if they were allowed to wean when they felt ready, as opposed to when society deems them ready, these days in Canada, usually around the year mark.

Examining the breastfeeding and weaning behaviour of non-human primates (those animals as close to us as is possible) she worked out that the natural weaning age would be between 2.5 to 7 years old.  She looked at the milestones non-human primates met before weaning and compared it to when us humans would meet the same milestones.  She found that non-human primates:

•Nursed until they got their first permanent molars = 5.5- 6.0 years in humans
•Nursed six times the length of gestation = 4.5 years in humans
•Nursed until they quadrupled their birth weight = 2.5 – 3.5 years in humans
•Nursed until one third of their adult weight = 5-7 years in humans
•Nursed until about half-way to reproductive maturity = 6-7 years in humans

Therefore a natural weaning age of around 2.5 to 7 years old.

There are a few things about breastfeeding a toddler that are challenging.  The need for it in the most inopportune places, the feeling that one’s body is not quite one’s own, late night and very early morning snacking, etc.  But for the most part, it is a beautiful, intimate experience often laced with humor, laughter and joy.   The best is when I’m brought a toy truck or fire engine and told,
“Gas mommy…boom-boom….gas”.

And now I am definitely not blogging.  I’ve got a fire engine to breastfeed.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Jeni says:

    Love this article, especially the “human equivalents.” I breastfed my son to 15 months when he self-weaned (I was pregnant at the time, so no complaints). I’ll be sad when my daughter decides to give up “nuh nuh,” though. It really is the sweetest thing, for mama *and* baby.

  2. Amanda Kelly says:

    Beautiful! When I asked Daniel as he neared his 4th Birthday if there was any milk in there he said “No”. I asked him why he still wanted to nurse then and he answered “Because mummy is still in there!” How could I argue with that? 🙂

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