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Breastfeeding - Breastfeeding a Young Child (3 Years or Older)
He's a big boy now and wants to nurse only once in a while.
"Gabriel", from Only my mama: songs for families with nursing babies. Written and sung by the Lester Family. Distributed by New Moon Records.
At this age, breastfeeding is mostly for psychological benefits, rather than nutrition or health reasons (although breastmilk continues to be an excellent food , and contains higher concentrations of antibodies than ever). Your child gets plenty of nutrition from other sources, but there is still nothing like the breast for comfort and security.
As your child grows more independent, the importance of a source of security that she or he can return to whenever necessary is great. Breastfeeding is a perfect way to fulfill this need.
By this time, your child is likely to be very verbal. You can ask her or him to wait (e.g., until you go back home from shopping) to nurse, and she or he is likely to listen.
If people tell you that you are harming your child by breastfeeding, don't listen! Breastfed children are happier, and even if they seem to be more dependent at this time than weaned children, they grow up to be even more independent.
If your child is breastfeeding too often (as often as a young baby perhaps), she or he may be looking for attention rather than the breast. Think about whether you are paying your child enough attention.
Criticism is likely to be a problem at this stage. If you want, you can tell your child that you only nurse at home (or whatever you both find comfortable). Your child will probably understand.
Breastfeeding is a great way to prevent or weather temper tantrums. Many a breastfed toddler or young child never has a tantrum. Even when one is about to start, you can often avert it by offering to nurse right away. Consider yourself lucky!
Breastfeeding is also great in case your child is sick. Nursing is often the only way to comfort a sick child. Very often, a sick child refuses all foods, but will nurse happily. It's nice to know that you can at least do this for your child.
A child who has been breastfed beyond the third year will retain conscious memories of nursing into adulthood. These will be among his or her most cherished memories. Such a child is never likely to feel that she or he has not been loved enough! There's a bonus for you too: many years later (perhaps when you have grandchildren!) you and your child can talk about the time you nursed together. A child who grows up with a conscious memory of nursing and remembers how much she or he loved it is more likely to think of nursing as the right way to feed a baby. This way, you will be contributing to the development of a breastfeeding culture to replace the awful bottlefeeding culture we live in.
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