Your baby growing into a toddler happens in the blink of an eye. Your baby is getting bigger and exploring their world more. As your little baby grows into a toddler, breastfeeding can continue to provide you and your child with many benefits. Breastmilk changes as your baby grows, but it remains a rich source of nutrients, immunoglobulins, and antibodies. Breastfeeding is a relationship and should continue as long as it is mutually desired.
Current recommendations on breastfeeding duration:
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization support continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods for two years or longer and as long as mutually desired by the mother and child. (1)
Breastfeeding is a relationship that offers more than just calories for a baby. It helps meet all their needs, including emotional needs, well past infancy.
The natural age of weaning is between ages 2.5 years and 7 years old. (13)
Other primates wean when the babies get their first molars which are between the ages of 5-6 years for humans. Other mammals similar to humans nurse their young until they quadruple their birth weight, which would be about 4.5 years old for humans.
When a child is ready to wean, they will do so all on their own. It does not need to be taught or forced. As a child gets older and develops more self-regulation and has developed healthy attachment, they have less need for being nurtured at the breast and move towards self-soothing and the ability to regulate their emotions. (14) It is nature's design for you and your toddler to continue breastfeeding until the need is fully met. Many of the timelines created for weaning are society-made, not science-based. You and your child together get to choose what your breastfeeding journey is.
Watching your little baby grow into a toddler is an exciting and memorable time for parents. As you move into the toddler stage, it's important to remember the benefits of continued breastfeeding for both you and your child. Breast milk changes after the first year to meet your toddler's changing nutritional needs, and nursing can help to support your child's immune system, brain development, and overall health. Additionally, breastfeeding can offer protection from certain types of cancer for mothers and help to naturally space pregnancies. Breastfeeding during the toddler years is a natural and effective way to continue developing your child's sense of security and can lead to more secure relationships later in life. So embrace this special time with your growing child and enjoy the continued benefits of breastfeeding.