Some mothers breastfeed to 6 months, others to 1 year and many go well past the 1-year mark and go on to breastfeed until 2 years and other beyond that. Babies older than 1 year old can still benefit from breastfeeding and mothers can benefit as well.
Why Breastfeed After 1 Year?
During my pregnancy I had a goal to breastfeed until my daughter was 1 year old but even if I lasted 6 months I would have taken it. Then before I knew it my daughter was turning a year old and we were still breastfeeding at least 6 times a day. I hadn’t grown tired of it and my daughter certainly hadn’t either so I told myself if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There are people around me that think I’m crazy for doing it for that long. I guess they must think I care!
I never thought I would still be breastfeeding a toddler that is almost 18 months old. You think once the child is 1 year old you wean them off and add in cow’s milk. But I thought why would I do that when I’m still making milk and both of us don’t mind breastfeeding.
I get comments from people like she’s too old for that and she’s getting too big for that and the longer you wait to wean her off the harder it’s going to be. People don’t seem to realize she is still benefiting from it. I tell them that mothers in India breastfeed their children until 3 years old which is considered the norm there. In North America though it’s a different story.
The reason I chose to keep breastfeeding was because I thought, why not? It’s not the norm and people are going to offer their opinions to you but if it works why stop at 1 year?
Benefits Of Extended Breastfeeding For The Child
It’s good for their brains. Research has shown that babies that are breastfed any amount of time score higher on cognitive testing, receptive communication and fine motor skills than children who weren’t breastfed. But babies that breastfed longer than 1 year scored the highest.
Lowers risk for certain diseases. Nursing past 1 year can reduce the risk of the child getting diabetes, heart disease and multiple sclerosis.
It can help improve a child’s eyesight because of the DHA that is naturally found in breast milk. It can also improve dental health, helping to align teeth that are coming in properly.
The proteins in breast milk are easier for a toddler to digest than cow’s milk.
Breastfeeding past age one can also decrease the likelihood of the child developing obesity later in life. Research is showing the longer a child breastfeeds the lower the risk of them becoming over weight or obese later on.
It’s good for sick kids. Once your child starts daycare or preschool they will come into contact with more germs. As with infants, breastfeeding your toddler continues to boost the immune system. The longer the child is breastfed the less likely your child will have sicknesses that are associated with not breastfeeding such as ear infections and upper respiratory infections. If the child does happen to get sick it helps to shorten the duration of the sickness and gives them the nutrients to help them feel better faster.
There are tons of benefits to breastfeeding past a year as you can see. Too bad more people don’t know this then they may stop questioning us moms that decide to continue beyond a year.
Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding For The Mother
Just like breastfeeding benefits the child, it also benefits the mother. Moms who breastfeed for 12 months of their life or extend breastfeeding past their baby’s first year of life may have a decreased risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases. According to Mayo Clinic, there may be a solid link between breastfeeding and improved health for the mother over time.
Breastfeeding has shown to reduce stress in moms. Not only does it help to calm a child but it can have an effect the mother as well. When you are nursing Oxytocin (the feel good hormone) is released calming the body and mind. No wonder we sometimes fall asleep when our little ones are nursing!
Don’t Feel Like You Have to Stop At The 1-Year Mark
Just because it is not a societal norm that you are breastfeeding a toddler over 1 year old doesn’t mean that is reason for you to stop. My thought was that in order for my toddler to go to daycare so I could return to work she would have to be weaned. Not so! She goes the whole day without it but is ready for it in the evening and when she goes to sleep. She even has long naps without falling asleep with it.
You will probably get a lot of comments from people about your decision but it is yours to make. If the baby is still into it and you don’t mind doing it then go for it! I plan on nursing until I get sick of it or my little one self weans, whichever comes first.
People should keep their opinions to themselves. We are doing a good thing for our children and no one should question that.
Did you breastfeed for longer than one year? Did you receive any criticism for it? I would love to know in the comments below.
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