Both the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding until after the age of two. Just as breastfeeding your infant is important, breastfeeding your toddler can be just as important. Both moms and toddlers can benefit from breastfeeding as long as both parties feel comfortable with the process.
Toddlers get some great benefits from a continued supply of breast milk. Like babies, toddlers still have immature immune system. A child’s immune system will not develop for several years. As a result, his or her exposure to germs often results in illnesses that can slow their development, result in costly doctor’s visits and medication, and put a strain on the entire family. Your breast milk gives your toddler a measure of protection against these things. As your immune system deals with the germs around it, it makes antibodies in response to certain germs to keep you healthy. These antibodies are passed through your breast milk to your child, no matter what age they are. As a result, their immune system does not have to work as hard to produce the same antibodies, because you have already made them for your child. You are giving your child the tools he or she needs to handle infections without succumbing to illness. Moreover, should your toddler get an illness, breastfeeding throughout the illness can serve as a source of comfort. If a toddler has an upset stomach, breast milk may be the only thing he or she can tolerate, which can keep them from dehydration during illness.
Continuing to breastfeed into toddlerhood also helps your child’s ability to mature. It has, unfortunately, been suggested that toddlers who are not weaned from the breast have a problem becoming independent. In truth, though, children only become fearful and clingy when they have been offered too much independence at an early age. Toddlers are not tiny adults. They do not develop a sense of independence overnight. They will have continuing dependency needs throughout childhood. A toddler who still has a breastfeeding connection has those needs met on a regular basis. There is little concern in his or her mind that he can depend on Mom to provide the things he or she has come to expect. Mothers are both close and available during breastfeeding, and this sense of closeness can help the toddler mature on an emotional level much faster. This emotional connection, in turn, can help with discipline problems. Toddlers are just beginning to explore the world of right and wrong. To help a toddler explore this world, they must have a solid sense of self esteem. The only way they can develop that is by having all of their emotional needs met. Breastfeeding your toddler meets, and in most cases exceeds, those needs.
Society tends to frown on breastfeeding throughout the toddler years. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics only suggests breastfeeding until twelve months of age. However, breastfeeding beyond the first year offers your toddler more benefits. It can give them a better chance at becoming a well adjusted healthy individual.