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Tips for breastfeeding preschoolers

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Vital support for full-term nursing

Breastfeeding beyond one year is becoming more of a norm, but in the U.S., breastfeeding a preschooler is still not a common sight. Staying confident and getting support can be vital to your success.
Breastfeeding preschooler

Are you nursing an older toddler or a preschooler? These tips will help you feel more confident as you continue to nurse your little one.

Know you’re not alone

Just because you don’t know anyone personally who has nursed beyond two years, doesn’t mean that you’re the only one doing it. Just a quick glance through the (mostly positive) comments on this article about breastfeeding toddlers will immediately let you know that you’re not alone. Sure, breastfeeding beyond 12 months is the norm in many cultures around the world, but it’s not as totally uncommon in the U.S. as it may seem. Facebook pages of bloggers like Paa.la can really help you feel like you’re part of a larger community of moms who are letting their kiddos wean on their own.

Nurse in public

Even moms who have no trouble nursing a baby or young toddler in public may balk at the notion of nursing an older child. The good news is that all of your practice nursing in public will still come in handy. Older children may need to nurse when stressed out, frustrated, hurt or scared, but usually the nursing sessions are pretty short at this age — it often doesn’t take a long time to comfort your kiddo. To the casual onlooker, it will look just like you’re cradling and comforting your child, and soon she’ll jump down and be on her merry way.

Prepare for sudden exposure

On that note, be sure that you are prepared for a sudden unlatching and taking off on the part of your preschooler. Amy, mom of two, noted that her 3-year-old daughter would release and run back to play with little or no warning, so instead of sitting and daydreaming as she nursed, she would focus on every moment so she could pull her top back into place at a moment’s notice. “I always wear a nursing tank under a regular shirt for maximum coverage and easy transitions,” she told us.

Set limits

Older children are capable of understanding limits Mom sets, unlike a young baby who is only responding to her vital need to be fed. If your infant cries from hunger when you are grocery shopping, you need to attend to her needs as soon as you can, but if your toddler or preschooler wants to sit down and nurse while you’re in line at the post office, she can wait for a bit. She may put up a bit of a fuss, but if you speak to her firmly, yet kindly, and follow up with the proposed nursing session when you say you will, she will learn to trust that you mean what you say.

Find support

It can be hard to find support when you’re breastfeeding an older child. April, mom of four, turned to online support groups in addition to a real-life group that she had been meeting with since her daughter was a newborn. “Even though child-led weaning is a cultural norm in other countries, here in the U.S., nursing beyond infancy is still somewhat of an anomaly,” she explained. “My local group has been very supportive, but I found even more support online.”

Take comfort

Above all, take comfort in the fact that your decision is the right one for you and your family. Read up on full-term nursing and know that the benefits are many as you let your little one wean at his own pace.

More on breastfeeding

Your guide to breastfeeding
The art of tandem breastfeeding
Pushing through: I made breastfeeding work

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