Mama in the City

A blog about raising my family in downtown Vancouver

Top 5 Reasons To Breastfeed Past 12 Months

When I had my first baby my breastfeeding goal was to simply nurse him through till his first year. I knew that breast milk was the gold standard but because of my own experiences I equated weaning to be at 12 months of age. I didn't know about the benefits of breastfeeding past 12 months of age and so I weaned my boy and that was that. This time around I came with different knowledge and knew that I wanted to nurse my babe past her 1 year birthday. I actually have no specific goal this second time around, instead I am just letting things be and knowing that we are reaping the benefits of full term breastfeeding.

Let's roll it out! The top 5 reasons I am still breastfeeding my nearly 16 month old babe and have no plans to stop just yet.

1. Human milk is meant for human babies. Each mammal makes milk that is perfect for their offspring and humans are no exception. Monkey milk is perfect for growing monkeys and cow milk is great for growing cows. The same thing goes for human milk! As a human our milk is different than other mammals milk and contains the right ingredients for us. To be honest I didn't give it much thought until the second baby.

2. Breastfeeding is not just about nutrition but it is also about comfort, and we all know that older babies and toddlers can often use a little comforting! Whether it is teething pains or soothing tears from tumbling while learning to walk, nursing an older baby is a great way to provide relaxing quiet comfort and is probably my favourite reason to nurse past 12 months of age. It's also the perfect way to reconnect with your busy toddler who has so much on the go. I've found that when I'm doing my long shifts at the hospital nothing beats reconnecting with my girl through breastfeeding. The comfort factor of breastfeeding extends past my nursling and is also beneficial to myself. Coming home in the morning after a night shift and hoping into bed with Josie so she can nurse exudes comfort and connection for the both of us.

3. Nursing as a form of meditation. Nursing a baby past 12 months is less frequent than a younger baby and, for us, it's often done first thing in the morning or before bed. I've found that some of my most relaxing quiet moments are when my girl nurses just after she wakes up or before I put her down for the night. Often when I'm putting her to bed we lay down together and nurse and my whole being relaxes and I feel like I can finally breathe. There is nothing else to do other than lay quietly together and take in my growing girl and just be in the moment. To smell her hair and smooch her cheek and decompress about the whirlwind day that was just before us is a form of meditation. I know that when I am much much older these will be some of my fondest most reflective moments of motherhood.

4. An older baby communicates differently about wanting to nurse compared to a younger baby and the cute factor is huge with nursing Josie as she gets older. The way she asks me to nurse is purely adorable and the way she tells me that 'ol' lefty' is empty and it's time to switch sides is actually sort of priceless. This relationship we have is truly amazing and I am so glad that it is still going strong.

I feel like I have to make a comment about people who say, 'once they can ask to nurse they are too old!'. The thing is, right from the very very start when that newborn rushes into the world, they ask to nurse. They put their tiny wrinkly hand up to their mouth, they thrust their tongue and ask for milk. When they are tiny and cry out and you hear 'neh neh neh' they are asking you for milk. Babies always ask for milk, it doesn't change whether they are 1 hour old or past 1 year old.

5. Each time I nurse I get a wonderful rush of oxytocin hormone (AKA the love hormone) and the moment fills up with total bliss and happiness. I get this lovely nurturing burst of love feeling and want to shout out, 'I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU!' to my baby. I actually do say it out loud and Josie smiles up at me and giggles. I didn't realize what an oxytocin junkie I was until someone told me how much they missed that feeling once they had weaned.

One day my girl will wean but for now I continue to go with the flow and do what I know is best for us. I will relish these nursing moments that we have and continue to reap the benefits of nursing past 12 months old. In celebration of this journey I recently went to Diane's Lingerie on Granville Street and had myself fitted with two new fabulous non-nursing bras to add to the rotation of my beloved Anita underwire nursing bras.


I nursed Jacob until 19 months and I weaned him because he was having trouble sleeping unless he could nurse all night long. Once we stopped, he slept great! At the end, we were only nursing in the morning and at night, but he wanted to be attached when sleeping.

Elise is now 10 months old and we'll continue on past her 1st birthday. I don't have an end date in mind, we'll just see what happens.

May 1, 2013 at 3:04 PM  
Melissa said...

Oh I do miss breastfeeding Marcus! We stopped 3 days before I went for my hospital treatment. We lasted 21 months and I would've kept going if I'd not gotten sick. Breastfeeding created such a close connection between Marcus and I. It was such a great experience!

May 1, 2013 at 7:21 PM  
Kristin said...

Oh I could not agree with you more! My girls were 19 months and 22 months when they decided that they wanted things to be different. I totally believed in your #3. It was so much for me in the final months. Really, that time spent just sitting with them and observing was incredibly precious and sometimes just what i needed in a day! i had a hard time with not having that aspect of it when they had weaned themselves. still though, i'd like to think that it does create something special in the bond we continue to have! ; )

May 1, 2013 at 10:03 PM  
Amanda said...

Awesome. Lilah nursed until 26 months when she weaned herself (sadly, because she had hand, foot and mouth, and her mouth and throat were just too sore, but at that point it was only once or twice a week anyway). I think the argument about "when they can ask for it" is silly. Like you said, and I always say, they are always asking for it. So why, just when they are in command of the language to "ask for it" and you know EXACTLY what they want, would you stop purely on principle? It's really the most nonsensical thing I have ever heard. I plan to nurse Henry as long as we are both still enjoying it.

May 2, 2013 at 9:15 AM  
Leah said...

I totally agree! My son will be 3 in August, and we are still breastfeeding. It is only before bed, and only for a few minutes, but it is my most favourite time of the day. With a very active boy, sometimes it is the only time when we get to snuggle. I know he loves his "milka", and I will miss nursing him when he eventually weans...which I hope is not too soon. :)

May 10, 2013 at 5:03 PM  

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