No amount of research and scientific findings could ever pinpoint every reason as to why babies and toddlers breastfeed frequently. No amount of scientific exploration into the composition of breastmilk could grasp the variety of possible answers to the question, “why does my child breastfeed so much?”
This is because breastfeeding is much more than just “the milk”. It is much more than the nutritional importance of breastmilk. It is much more than quenching thirst and hunger, more than getting your baby through that growth spurt…breastfeeding is about mothering.
La Leche League International (a mother to mother breastfeeding organization) talks about “mothering through breastfeeding” in their book, The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding. As I continued to breastfeed my first son until he was just past two, my second son until he was three and as I now breastfeed my nineteen month old, I am reminded every day what this means. What does it mean to “mother through breastfeeding”? It means that is is about more than the milk…our babies do not just breastfeed for hunger. They breastfeed for a wide variety or reasons and in many cases breastfeeding your baby meets most every need that your child might have during the day and night.
Fifteen reasons your baby or toddler is breastfeeding frequently…
1. Breastfeed for hunger and/or thirst
2. Breastfeed to build (and keep up) your supply
3. Breastfeed for pain relief
4. Breastfeed to prevent an illness they have been exposed to
5. Breastfeed for extra immune building, anti-infective, anti-microbial, extra awesome goodness for when they are not feeling well
6. Breastfeed to help settle a cranky baby or toddler
7. Breastfeed to help calm a toddler or child who is having a tantrum
8. Breastfeed to distract a toddler from something
9. Breastfeed to help calm a baby or toddler who is unsettled due to a change in the environment
10. Breastfeed to help fall asleep (breastmilk contains components in it which helps your child fall asleep)
11. Breastfeed to help wake up in a happy mood
12. Breastfeed throughout the night to calm fears, keep up supply and help settle
13. Breastfeed to help comfort a frightened baby or child
14. Breastfeed to help keep bowels moving
15. Breastfeed to meet any and every need our little ones might have…
Don’t worry! If you have a newborn you might be thinking…OMG! My toddler will breastfeed non stop as well?! As your child gets older they will breastfeed much less. Most days they will got for quite awhile in between breastfeeds and will not breastfeed as frequently as a newborn. Now I can leave my youngest for the whole day and know he will be as happy as can be without boob. When my nineteen month old asks to breastfeed when I’m cooking dinner or busy doing something I can say, “no, not right now you have to wait a minute” and he understands this. It is a relationship, it’s not just about them. If you are totally exhausted have a read of my book on how to get more rest (without having to do cry it out or sleep training).
Instead of asking the question, “why do you want to breastfeed again?!” (believe me, I have asked this question many times myself…possibly including yesterday!) look through this list again to remind yourself why babies and toddlers will ask to be fed frequently at times and why it is so important. The “baby whispers” and “baby sleep experts”fail to write in their books why your baby or toddler might be waking to breastfeed for the thirtieth time that night. It is not about “bad habits”, it is not that your little one is demanding…your child is simply asking to be mothered through breastfeeding.
Trust your instincts and follow the lead of your baby…
you will look back in a few years and be so glad you did.