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5 Secret Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding

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I'm here to tell you that once your baby crosses that magical threshold between the baby year and toddlerhood, she's still pretty much a baby. Her needs aren't that much different than the 11-month-old version of herself, and that includes how and what she eats. If you've nursed your baby this long, there really isn't a distinct reason to quit if you're not in the mood for it. Plus, there are specific benefits that you can and will enjoy as the mom of a nursing toddler or preschooler.

1. Instant tantrum stopper

Your kid is freaking out because you got him the blue cup instead of the green one? You won't let him throw the cat in the trash? You are ready to leave the library? A quick nurse will help him get over it, and fast.

RELATED: 10 Reasons I Love Breastfeeding My Toddler

2. Boo-boo healer

Toddlers are notorious for falling down, bumping their heads, banging their elbows and eating concrete. Breastfeeding in times of distress can really help calm, soothe and chill your kid out. It really is magic, and you will be glad your boobs are still going—I was when my youngest toddled over to a shelf at Kmart and managed to bang her face on the only corner visible in the entire store. We sat right down and she was fine a couple minutes later.

3. Perfect for sickies

You know when your kid is too sick to really eat anything? Forget pushing Pedialyte or popsicles and praying he doesn't barf all over you. Often, such a kid will still gladly nurse, getting comfort as well as fluids and nutrition that he otherwise might not be able to keep down. My friend Parker, mom of one, agrees: "When she got sick and didn't want anything else, it was awesome knowing she was still getting everything she needed."

Yes, older kids can and do breastfeed, and this is totally normal and fine.

4. Precious, precious sleep

Nursing babies are often super easy to get to sleep, and that doesn't change much when they get older, either. Stomping around a playground in the morning? Your kid will likely nurse right down for a nap. "Oskar is 27 months and nurses to sleep on occasion; he falls asleep much faster than if he doesn't get to nurse," explains Christine, another friend of mine. "I can't complain about that."

5. That health, though

The health benefits of breastfeeding don't stop once your child turns one. "The longer a mom nurses the more benefits in terms of developing osteoporosis, premenopausal ovarian cancer, breast cancer, depression," says Leigh Anne O'Connor, who is an International Board certified Lactation Consultant, a La Leche League Leader and a mom of three children breastfed into toddlerhood. And her child will benefit, too. "The longer a person is breastfed, the less likely they are to develop diabetes, obesity and various forms of cancer and heart disease later in life," she says.

RELATED: Celebrities Who Practiced Extended Breastfeeding

Deciding when to wean a kiddo—if she doesn't decide herself—is a personal decision. Yes, older kids can and do breastfeed, and this is totally normal and fine. Kids who breastfeed past infancy eat regular food and drink from cups—they just also breastfeed as well. The World Health Organization recommends that moms breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, and then up to two years of age, and beyond. If it's right for you and your child, that's the only approval you need.

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