Opinion: My toddler isn’t too old to breastfeed

'He's too old for breastmilk': No, he's not

This mum hits back at some of the comments she often cops while breastfeeding her toddler.

'He's too old for breastmilk': No, he's not

‘He’s too old for breastmilk!’ people often say of my¬†23-month-old son.

No. He’s not.

Human milk is a complete food for tiny humans up until around six months old, when they start to need other foods too. It is their main source of nutrition until around 12 months old, and a very important part of their diet until at least two years old. It doesn’t lose its nutritional value and is always much better for them, nutritionally, than formula or cows milk. The average natural weaning age is around two-four years old, but some babies continue to feed longer than this, and some decide to stop sooner.

‘He doesn’t need it anymore! Just give him cows milk!’

He’s a baby human, not a baby cow. Although breastmilk is still very nutritious for him, he could live just fine without it. BUT breastmilk is not just nutrition. Human milk is full of protective factors like secretory IgA, an antibody which protects the mucous membranes of his gut and respiratory tract from infection; Lactoferrin, an iron binding protein which deprives pathogens like E-coli and staphylococcus of their iron and kills them; Lysozyme, an enzyme which destroys foreign particles; and hundreds of other different components which help to protect him from illness.

‘Why can’t you just express and feed him from a bottle?’

Firstly, I haven’t got time for that shit. Breastfeeding a toddler takes virtually no effort, I hate expressing and I hate washing up.

More importantly, it’s not just about the milk. Feeding him straight from the tap means that my skin detects pathogens in his saliva so I produce antibodies to fight them before he gets ill. It gives him a rush of oxytocin which makes him feel happy and sleepy and strengthens the bond between us. It’s instant pain relief when he hurts himself and helps him calm down after a tantrum. It also makes him actually want to go to bed at night and take naps.

‘He’s going to be so clingy!’

Actually he’s the complete opposite. Can’t take your eyes off him for two seconds or he’ll disappear and Daddy is his favourite, not me. Babies who are breastfed for longer are less likely to experience separation anxiety and be ‘clingy children’ as they are likely to be more secure in their bond with their mothers.

Breastfeeding a toddler is the biological norm and helps babies to grow up happy, healthy and confident. According to the World Health Organization, if every baby in the world was breastfed until at least two years old it would save 800,000 children’s lives and prevent 20,000 maternal deaths from breast cancer every year. If seeing a little bit of breast offends you, don’t look! But know the facts before spouting your ill-informed opinion.

This post is not bashing formula feeding. It is bigging up breastfeeding. That is not the same thing. I formula fed my first child from four months, and she is perfectly healthy. That doesn’t make anything I wrote here less true.

This post originally appeared on Facebook, and has been republished here with permission. By Lottie Edwards.