Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months, and then continuing to offer breast milk along with other foods until 12 months of age, many parents choose to nurse even longer. The Mayo Clinic states that on average, children worldwide are weaned from nursing between 2 and 4 years. If you are extending nursing, you might find that that it is time to potty train your child while continuing to breastfeed. Nursing while potty training is not harmful or any more difficult as long as your child is meeting the nutritional requirements for his age.
Extended nursing is safe for your child as long as you are continuing to offer her solid foods appropriate for her age. By 12 months, she is able to eat most regular foods, including small finger foods, by herself. It might be difficult to help her establish bowel control without a consistent and regular schedule of solid foods, so make sure the majority of her nourishment comes from food instead of breast milk. Since nursing helps keep you in tune with your child’s eating schedule, you will be able to help her to the toilet after nursing sessions or meals to try and get her to use the toilet.
Your child’s potty training is not likely to be hindered by extended nursing as long as you do not initiate potty training and weaning at the same time. KidsHealth.org warns against potty training during stressful times or significant changes in your child’s life. Deciding to cut out breastfeeding while introducing potty training can make the concept stressful and difficult for your child to grasp, especially if he continues to nurse for comfort, and weaning shortly after potty training can lead to some regression. The Mayo Clinic recommends weaning when your child initiates the process himself.
Potty training when your child is ready is a significant part in ensuring success. According to KidsHealth.org, most kids are ready for potty training between 18 and 24 months, though some children can be ready earlier or later. Signs of readiness include an interest in using the toilet, the ability to follow basic directions, and the motor skills required to pull up underwear and pants. Once you start the potty training process, encourage your child to master the skill at her own pace.
Keep in mind that you need to do what works best for your family when it comes to both extended nursing and potty training. You will find what makes you and your child comfortable, although it might be different from what other families find comfortable. If you are unsure about nursing your child for an extended period of time or how to approach the potty training process, talk to your child’s doctor for help.