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Breastfeeding a toddler and conquering challenges

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...

Tips for staying the course

You may have thought that breastfeeding issues were behind you once you left the newborn stage, but hold on to your nursing bra!

Nursing a toddler is rewarding and beneficial, but not without its own unique set of challenges.

Once you reach the magical milestone of 12 months of breastfeeding, you may feel like all of the early struggles of breastfeeding are a long-ago memory. However, you may be dealing with a fresh, new set of challenges as your toddler nursing experience takes off. How can you deal with what this new phase of breastfeeding brings?

Dealing with comments

Not everyone is supportive of breastfeeding, and even your staunchest allies can begin to question your continued nursing as your baby begins to walk and talk. It's easy to say to ignore it, but even the lightest comments can hurt. It can be startling to hear someone tell you that you're doing something wrong – even if you know you are doing something right.

If you can, try to smile and say, "Of course not!" if someone asks if your child is too old to be doing that. Stand up for yourself and your child if you hear others joking about it. If it's a loved one (particularly your significant other), you'll need to tell him that you're doing what is best for your child. Your friends and family need to know that you've made your decision and their questions and comments are hurtful and detrimental.

Nursing a toddler in public

Even before her first birthday, your baby may yearn to twist, stand up or crawl away – even while nursing. This can make nursing in public a huge challenge. Many babies dislike nursing covers or blankets over their heads from an early age, so a simple "cover her up" suggestion doesn't work. What can you do when your little one tries to pull your shirt over your head, tries to sit beside you or pops off and runs away before you can blink?

You can angle yourself away from potential viewers in case your toddler decides to attempt to further disrobe you, and have a hand on your shirt to pull it down quickly when he escapes with no notice.

Young toddlers may not be able to heed your warnings, but older kids can and should, so start laying down your expectations for proper nursing manners early.

Setting breastfeeding limits

Contrary to an infant's breastfeeding needs, you no longer need to nurse your toddler whenever she requests it. Setting limits are fine as children get closer to their second birthday. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

You may prefer to relegate breastfeeding for when you are at home, because nursing a distracted toddler when you're on the go can be a start-and-stop process – and you also may get accidentally bitten. Time your outings for when your child is generally in a good mood. You can't predict all nursing situations (for example, many children like to nurse when they are scared or hurt) but if your little one is well-fed and has a drink in hand, she's less likely to request a nursing session. It's OK to say, "Wait five minutes until we've gone through the checkout line," if nursing is requested as you're leaving a store. Older kids can also understand longer waiting periods as well.

Keep on truckin'

Keep up breastfeeding as long as you both desire to. There is evidence that continued breastfeeding past the age of 1 has many benefits – not just physical, but emotional as well. No matter what anyone says, you're doing a good thing for your little one, and yourself as well.

More about breastfeeding

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