If there's anything we've learned as mothers it's to expect the unexpected and to keep an open mind. To be prepared for anything. Because this is one area of life you just never know what's going to happen.
For me, I had the goal of breastfeeding my first son until he was 1 year old. But that turned into nursing him well into toddlerhood. It was a pleasant surprise that was very beneficial to both of us; something I am glad I didn't doubt myself on.
This is the perfect example in my life of how listening to my inner voice and reading my son's cues proved to be successful. Everyone's going to have an opinion, but in the end the best thing we can do is simply do what we think is best for our little ones.
Here's why I find nursing your toddler to be beneficial for the both of you (as a mother and a lactation consultant):
1. It's nutrient-dense + packed with vitamins
Toddlers can be super picky when it comes to eating. One day they gobble down plates full of black beans, strawberries and cheese, and the next day all they want are Goldfish crackers on repeat. Knowing that your toddler is still receiving vitamins and nutrients from breastfeeding can put your mind at ease during those finicky days. The immune boost during cold and flu season is extremely helpful, too!
2. There's no dilly-dallying
Nursing a toddler is quick and to the point; they know what they're doing. They can pretty much “serve" themselves at this stage. You don't have to worry about all the gadgets—pillows, covers, breastfeeding props. They usually know how to ask for milk, whether it be verbally or with a sign. Toddler nursing sessions are quick, typically 5 to 10 minutes.
3. It's an effective calm down method
Nursing is like a secret magic trick you have in your back pocket at all times. It's the quickest way to heal a boo-boo or calm a tantrum. Did your little guy fall down on the playground and scrape his knee? Nursing makes it all better. Your daughter is mad she can't watch 26 episodes of Elmo's World? Nursing can calm the most intense Elmo meltdowns around. He's having trouble falling asleep at night? Cuddled up in mama's arms is the best place to be when the world gets a little scary.
4. It offers time to bond with your child
Whether you go back to work or stay at home, life with a toddler can be hectic. Nursing before bed was a special time for the two of us to reconnect and calm down together. Rocking, nursing and getting ready for bed with a song or a story can create lasting memories for you and your little one to cherish.
5. It leads to powerful connection
Spending so much time nursing my son into toddlerhood gave me the opportunity to be able to learn more about his personality. If he was anxious or sad, he would run right over and hop up into my lap to nurse. These moments taught me so much about who he was and when he needed me the most—and helped me help give him the connection and comfort he deeply wanted.
A version of this post was originally published on March 5, 2016. It has been updated.