A mom who nurses her toddler wants other parents to know that she's doing it for her child's physical and emotional health—not her own.

By Maressa Brown
October 25, 2019

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends "exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant," every parent has their own path when it comes to feeding. Extended breastfeeding is what has worked for one mom and her toddler. Unfortunately, moms who nurse their toddlers are often the target of undue criticism. Melissa Ostroth recently shared on her blog Milkivity's Facebook page that she's done with hearing that she's nursing her L.O. "just for herself."

In the emotional, informative post, Ostroth addressed her critics, writing, "Tell me again how breastfeeding my toddler is just for myself? Doing loads of laundry with a child hanging off my breast is just for me right? Breastfeeding a monkey-swinging, gymnastics-tumbling, handstand-attempting child while your nipple is in their mouth is what us self-absorbed mothers are constantly longing for! No one is breastfeeding their toddler or older child for themselves. It is for their child alone. I repeat: It is for their child alone. No one is forcing their child to breastfeed and not ween."

Melissa Ostroth

She wrote that she still loves breastfeeding. "The bond and those quiet moments when my toddler is nursing and cuddling with me fills my heart with joy, the fact I can cure any tears in a matter of seconds, knowing that they are taking in antibodies and immunities that are tailor-made for them, is so amazing," Ostroth wrote. "However, for whatever reason, some people have gotten it into their heads that mothers who practice natural-term weening are doing it for themselves and are just not willing 'to cut the cord.' Those people are wrong. Breastmilk continues to provide antibodies, immunities, white blood cells, and hormones that are so important for a child to grow."

The mom of two and lactation consultant pointed out that "breastmilk doesn’t lose its benefits with age." She pointed to research that notes, in fact, "human milk in the second year postpartum contained significantly higher concentrations of total protein, lactoferrin, lysozyme and Immunoglobulin A, than milk bank samples, and significantly lower concentrations of zinc, calcium, iron and oligosaccharides." 

Melissa Ostroth

She also cited research that found that in the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:

* 29% of energy requirements

* 43% of protein requirements

* 36% of calcium requirements

* 75% of vitamin A requirements

* 76% of folate requirements

* 94% of vitamin B12 requirements

* 60% of vitamin C requirements

"Besides all the benefits mentioned above, breastmilk provides all the immunoglobulins the immune system takes to develop, which takes around five years," Ostroth continued. "Humans are also the most immature at birth and need the most intensive caregiving for the longest duration to reach maturity (three decades!). Breastfeeding continues to be important for years as the child’s brain and and body slowly continues to grow." And she noted that breastfeeding "provides comfort" and is "a 100% all-natural anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, medicine, sleep aid, and more—not to mention the absolute best bonding mechanism."

Her conclusion: "Call me crazy, but maybe that’s why the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least 2 years and beyond? Maybe that’s why the natural weening age is between 2-7 years old? So again, we aren’t continuing to breastfeed past infancy for ourselves. We aren’t scared 'to cut the cord.' We doing it for our child’s optimal health and comfort."

Ostroth tells Parents.com she was inspired to write the post because she and other moms she knows "have received negative comments from family, friend, and social media for their decision to breastfeed past infancy." "Many people don’t understand why mothers choose to practice this," she says. "I have been told personally and have seen on social media that mothers who are breastfeeding past one need to cut the cord, and we must be only do it for our emotional benefit. I did a lot of research to help encourage and support women in their decision to parent this way and to help educate other on why we chose this."

Melissa Ostroth

Ostroth found that the main misconception people have is that breastmilk loses its nutritional value past infancy, and that's not the case, as she pointed out in her post. "I think this misconception helps fuel the thought process that we must being only doing this for our own emotional benefits," she notes. "Breastfeeding a toddler comes with a whole new set of challenges. They can be very demanding, that can be very rough, but we do it because want to, and we still do emotionally enjoy it. People also don’t realize that breastfeeding is more then just food."

Ultimately, she hopes her post raises awareness that empowers moms to continue breastfeeding if they and their child decide to. "I want mothers to feel encouraged and supported in their decision especially when they are questioned about it," Ostroth says. "Mothers who know this information are more likely to continue despite the stigma it can sometimes have. I want people to understand and be educated on why mothers chose to continue to breastfeed. That’s it’s not because we don’t want our children to grow up or we can’t let go, but it’s because we are still providing a need that our child has. That it’s not weird, we aren’t weird, this is how we chose to parent and this is why."

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