Ask any breastfeeding mother and I’m sure she will tell you that breastfeeding a toddler is no easy feat.
That being said, many mothers enjoy the continuation of the special breastfeeding relationship that nursing a toddler provides.
This articles discusses some of the common topics involving breastfeeding 18 months: acrobatics, co-sleeping and nutrition.
Extended breastfeeding: when nursing sessions turn into acrobatics
At this stage of your breastfeeding journey, you might find that your typical nursing session feels more like an acrobatics display than the dreamy early postpartum image of quietly feeding your peaceful baby.
Most toddlers are often far more interested in the world around them to sit quietly for an extended period of time to do anything – including breastfeeding.
This can result in some strange and often uncomfortable breastfeeding positions, particularly if your toddler engages in acrobatics while still attached firmly to your breast. Ouch!
Breastfeeding 18 months an older toddler
Although the constant physical activity is totally normal behaviour, this could also be an opportunity to introduce ‘nursing manners’ to an older toddler.
It can be as simple as asking your nursing toddler to ‘Try to be still while mummy is feeding you’ or stopping breastfeeding and saying, ‘It’s too hard to feed you when you’re squirming around.’
This approach respects your breastfeeding relationship while also teaching your child that you are a person with thoughts and feelings, too.
Sometimes the acrobatics can be so enthusiastic that you might have mixed feelings about whether to continue nursing at all.
At times like this it can be helpful to remember that, although challenging, it is most likely a passing phase. And you have successfully continued nursing through all the other challenges you have faced so far.
Co-sleeping with your child
Many families find they get more sleep when they share the same bed with their child. This is called co-sleeping.
Some parents choose to co-sleep with their children; others find themselves doing it unintentionally.
In a UK survey of over 3,900 parents, it was discovered that 9 out 10 parents had co slept with their baby at some point.
Over half of the parents surveyed had fallen asleep with their baby in their bed by accident, and more than 40% had fallen asleep with their baby on an armchair or sofa.
How to co-sleep safely
Some parents might be worried about the safety of sharing a bed with their baby or toddler.
The safest way to share a sleep surface with your baby is to know the risks and follow the guidelines for safer co-sleeping.
Red Nose Australia recommends the following steps for safer co-sleeping:
- Place babies on their back to sleep
- Make sure the mattress is firm and flat (no wool or other soft underlays or waterbeds)
- Keep adult bedding (blankets and pillows) away from your baby
- Use a sleeping bag with no hood and leave baby’s arms out (swaddling is not safe for bed sharing)
- Remove your jewellery and tie up long hair
- Don’t have your bed placed against a wall, where a baby could get trapped
- Don’t let your children bed share with older siblings or pets
- Consider using a floor bed that your baby cannot fall from.
Co-sleeping and night feedings
Many mothers who are nursing toddlers find bed sharing easiest for night feedings. This avoids the need to get out of bed each time your toddlers breastfeed throughout the night, then settle them back in their own bed.
Most mothers find night nursing sessions are more efficient and everyone gets back to sleep faster when sharing a bed.
If this is working for you, there is nothing you need to change.
Some mothers worry that if they don’t start sleep training or night weaning by a certain age, their children will be in the parents’ bed forever.
Some people might even suggest that breastfeeding past a certain age can cause psychologic or developmental harm.
This is untrue. All children wean naturally in their own time.
If you are thinking about beginning the weaning process, you can find more information in BellyBelly’s article Weaning From Breastfeeding – A Gentle Approach.
Nursing a toddler: the nutritional value of breast milk
As toddlers grow, their diet evolves, until the bulk of their nutrition is coming from solid foods.
Even so, you should not underestimate the advantages breastfeeding continues to provide your child.
Breastfeeding into your toddler’s second year of life provides:
- 29% of total daily energy requirements
- 43% of daily protein requirements
- 36% of daily calcium requirements
- 76% of daily folate requirements
- 75% of daily vitamin A requirements
- 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
- 60% of vitamin C requirements.
In addition to its nutritional value, breast milk also contains living cells, immunoglobulins, bioactive molecules and hormones.
Another interesting fact is that the longer you have been breastfeeding, the greater the fat and energy content of your breast milk.
With this information, it’s clear to see why the World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding to 2 years and beyond.
Recommended diet – solid food
Although breastfeeding still provides toddlers with important nutrients, they should now also be getting a substantial amount of nutrition from a wide variety of solid foods.
Foods to include in your toddler’s daily diet are:
- Dairy products, such as cow’s milk, yoghurt and cheese
- Fruits and vegetables
- Carbohydrates, such as breads, pasta and rice
- Proteins, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or tofu.
Many toddlers are picky eaters. Don’t worry if your toddlers often turn their nose up at what’s on their plate; this is very common. Just continue to offer a variety of nutritious food for them to choose from.
For helpful tips, you can read BellyBelly’s article Toddler Meal Times A Stress? 11 Tips For Fussy Eaters.