Breastfeeding Toddler Myths

So why is it that when someone decides to do something “different” from our perspective that we feel the need to attack & shame them? I ask this as someone who has repeatedly fought for the choice I’ve made to breastfeed until baby self weans.

Now to be clear if you choose to formula feed, or can’t breastfeed or for any reason choose to wean before I have I have NOTHING against you. Please if it works for your family keep doing what you are doing!

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But what I find is that I keep hearing well-meaning comments that seem targeted to get me to change my ways. Of course, Kiddo and I are currently coming up to 3 years of breastfeeding and going strong. What I find most interesting is that everyone else seems to think that they have a right to tell me when to quit. I’d love to be able to laugh it off but mostly I find it rather insulting.

For instance, I had a brief conversation once with someone where I work, who was adamant that if I keep breastfeeding all this horrible stuff will happen (including sleep deprivation) and of course I can NEVER complain about being sleep deprived because by choosing to keep breastfeeding I’m choosing to not sleep…….. I ended the conversation rather abruptly by walking away because I saw at that point there was no changing her mind or having a discussion.

She was set on her preferences and “knew” that everyone should follow her ideals. And yes I will admit, that she had to have found something that worked for her and her family as she has 2 daughters that she very clearly adores. But I wonder, what would happen if she had tried to keep an open mind and actually discuss things with me? I don’t know and likely never will, but here are some of the concerns and comments she and others have made while nattering in my direction.

Breastfeeding in baby sling outdoors

Myth – Mamma won’t have any independence

I really don’t see how me breastfeeding my son inhibits my own independence. Sure in the early days, weeks and months where kiddo is exclusively nursing I might modify what I’m doing to make sure they can feed (no one wants a screaming hungry baby in the house.

But once kiddo is on solid foods that no longer applies. I mean really if you think about it, a child is dependant on their parent for many years whether Mamma is breastfeeding or not. As for Mamma being able to go out and do things without kiddo, I do that all the time. He isn’t latched to me 24/7, and other people can and do look after him. He goes to daycare where he doesn’t even get pumped milk all day while I work, and his father can stay home with him while I go to appointments or do things around the house without any issues. There is no reason to think I don’t have my own independence.

There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.”

American Academy of Pediatrics

Myth – It Stunts the development of the Toddler’s Independence…

Really?!?!? my NOT forcing my kid to wean is making them overly dependent? at 3 years old? Studies actually show that children who nurse longer tend to exhibit stronger independence earlier, something to do with knowing they have the support and attachment to a parent that builds the courage and self-awareness to develop that independence.

Per the American Academy of Pediatrics “There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.” And the American Academy of Family Physicians notes that the natural age of weaning in humans has been estimated to be between 2 and 7 years, adding “There is no evidence that extended breastfeeding is harmful to mother or child.”

Even if the research and experts are off base, I dare you to spend a day with my Son. We regularly dub days as “Independence Days” because he is insisting on doing everything his way or by himself. That’s a normal process of a toddler growing up. Just this morning we spent 10 minutes as he figured out what he wanted to wear and then had to put on his pants, shirt, and socks without any help from Mom or Dad… and it’s not the first time that has happened.

If you met my kid you would see the independence radiating out of that little ball of energy. This is a kid after all who can dress themselves, has been using the potty for months (Started at a year old), and feeding himself solids for over a year already. Yeah, kiddo is plenty independent already and likely this is due in part to the confidence he has that was built through the bond we have (which was developed as part of breastfeeding among other things).

Myth – Mamma will never get any sleep

yeah, I won’t get any sleep because my kid is breastfed…. I’m being a bit sarcastic here. If you think about it, no matter how you feed them, little tummies empty quicker then big tummies. So little ones need more frequent feedings then adults. Plus if I was strictly bottle feeding now I add the prep component of getting the bottle ready, and cleaning up after kiddo eats to my nightly interruptions…. not sure how long that takes but right now, kiddo wakes and in 5 minutes or less I’ve got them latched & nursing and we can both go back to sleep…so in all likely hood I’m sleeping more then if we used a bottle.

breastfeeding toddler busting the myths

Myth – Breastfeeding a Toddler prevents others from bonding with them.

My husband has NEVER breastfed our son, besides the fact that he physically can’t (he’s all male) feeding a child is NOT the only way to bond with them. My husband and son have an incredible bond and frequently play together and with much laughter and connection. It’s a joy to watch that I love seeing each and every time.

Will the bond between my husband and son be the same as between myself and my son? NO, but it’s not supposed to be! Even if my son was bottle fed as a baby and my husband helped with it the relationship is NOT meant to be the same. No Father-Son relationship is meant to be the same as a Mother-Son relationship! My husband can teach our son how to be a MAN, I can’t! I can teach him other things, like what to expect from his future wife and mother of his children. Our roles as Male/Female in his life should be different. That doesn’t make the bond dinfferences better/worse or more/less just different.

Oh, and Grandma/Grandpa don’t need to feed a kid to bond, they have whole other toolsets and things they can do to bond in their own special way… just like I bond with my husband in a different way then my best girlfriend. Kiddo needs those different kinds of bonds and relationships in their life.

Myth – Breastmilk loses its nutrition value after the first year of nursing

Ummmm… NO. The science shows that Mamma’s body adapts the milk per the child’s needs as long as kiddo nurses for. While in the first year after birth Mamma’s milk will provide substantial amounts of nutrients that continue until those nutrients are replaced by other sources (like solid foods), but Mamma’s milk remains a valuable contribution to a child’s diet and includes important nutrients designed especially for brain growth.

Mother breastfeeding her young toddler beside window

Myth – The Immunity support in Mamma’s Milk is negligent after x-amount of time.

The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children weaned before two years of age are actually at an increased risk of illness. And I can attest to the fact that just nursing a toddler through an illness actually makes my life easier. You don’t want to know how many times I’ve rushed kiddo to the hospital to be told by the Doctor that they can’t do anything for him that’s better then what I’m already doing by breastfeeding him.

Sick kids are NOT a fun situation to deal with and I certianly would NEVER wish an ill child on anyone. However it is a fact of life that kids pick up all sorts of bugs, and when they are NOT feeling well it can be hard to get them to drink enough to stay hydrated. As dehydration is the source of many complications to common illnesses especialy in kids having a nursing toddler makes this stage easier to deal with, since I KNOW he is still getting liquids and some nutrition. Even when kiddo was sick and throwing up constantly he could still keep down breastmilk …

Myth – Breastfeeding a child older than a year is the same as breastfeeding an infant

Nursing frequency and duration vary from child to child and Mamma to Mamma during the first year and beyond. As a child grows and develops their needs and reasons for nursing will change, for instance kiddo right now really only nurses for sleep and then only when I’m around. Why? Because that is what works for us. But he will also ask to nurse if he hurts himself or suprises himself in a big way.

I am not at this point nursing him every two (2) hours like I was the first week after he was born … I am however having to find ways of ocupying his hands and fingers while he breastfeeds or risk getting purple nurples on the side he isn’t feeding from. Somthing I didn’t worry about until a year or so ago.

Myth – Mammas who breastfeed past infancy have not figured out other ways to comfort their child.

Uhhhh, thanks for the vote of confidence. And yes I’m being sarcastic here. We have enough “Mommy Wars” happening and you feel the need to question if I have other tools in the parenting tool box makes me think you are looking to pick a fight.

The Fact of the matter is that I have many tools and concepts available to me that I use regularly to help comfort my son. Breastfeeding just happens to be one of them.

Myth – Mammas only breastfeed past infancy for their own benefit

Again NO, there are days where I tell you I WISH I were not breastfeeding our little guy. I love him to pieces and all but sometimes I want a break. And when my son doesn’t want to breastfeed there is NOTHING I can do to make him nurse. I keep nursing him because he isn’t ready to wean and most Mammas that are nursing into toddlerhood are doing it for the benefit of their child.

Mother breastfeeding her boy. Mom nursing and feeding toddler. Close-up portrait.

Myth – Mamma needs to wean to get pregnant again

Yeah that’s why I’m pregnant right now? While historically there was a belife that breastfeeding prevented pregnancy it’s been proven false over and over again. And while we are on it Breastfeeding while Pregnant is fine too, just talk to your Doctor to see if there is any reason you need to stop, but for most healthy pregnancy keep going if you want to.

Myth – The longer a child breastfeeds the harder it is to wean them.

Weaning has more to do with a child’s developmental readiness than a set age. Each of our children is unique in their developmental timeline for child-led weaning. If mom initiates weaning, then the closer kiddo is to weaning on their own the easier it will be (for both Mamma and kiddo) to progress through this stage. If the child takes the lead in weaning there is usually no issues at all from them, though I know of many Mom’s that find it traumatic if they were not ready.

Extended Breastfeeding is surrounded by many myths and often seen as a negative in today's society.  People frequently make assumptions and false accusations without knowing the science behind why breastfeeding a toddler is good for the child and Mother.