Inside: Benefits of extended breastfeeding– How do moms determine if extended breastfeeding right for them and their child? Before making your choice, take the time to educate yourself on the pros and cons of extended breastfeeding.
23.99999 months and still going strong
The length of time each of my babies breastfeed.
When I first started out breastfeeding each of my babies, the plan was always to make it to a year. When I experienced breastfeeding problems with my youngest (undiagnosed tongue-tie), I was just hoping to make it to six months.
I was lucky we were able to correct our breastfeeding issues quickly, and I have more than surpassed my goals. We will be celebrating two years breastfeeding in precisely 7 days.
If you’re wondering about whether or not continuing with breastfeeding is right for you and your child, this post will help. As a mom, it’s your maternal instinct to want to keep with breastfeeding for as long as possible. But there are things to consider before deciding one way or the other.
So what are the benefits of extended breastfeeding? And what are the pros and cons?
Before making your choices, take the time to educate yourself and dive deep on your wants and needs as a parent as well. You might just find that you’re leaning one way or the other without having the full picture and information at your disposal.
What does extended breastfeeding mean?
While it can vary based upon counties and culture, extended breastfeeding means that moms are breastfeeding their children longer than the first year of their life. Extended breastfeeding is an extension into the typical length that most moms breastfeed, and it often extends into their toddler years and sometimes beyond.
How long is it recommended that you breastfeed?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months, with the continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as long as it is mutually desired by mother and infant to continue.
Whereas The World Health Organization recognizes the benefits of extended breastfeeding and recommends mothers to continue breastfeeding for up to 2 years of age or beyond.
Benefits of extended breastfeeding
Depending on who you talk to, there are many benefits of extended breastfeeding. Some benefits of extended breastfeeding are based on pure emotions and can be hormone-driven. While others are actually insights from doctors and physicians. Some of the most significant benefits of extended breastfeeding include:
● Creates a strong bond between mother and child
● Helps your child continue to receive import nutrients
● Protects against common childhood illness (WHO)
● Can continue to provide comfort and stability to your growing child
● A brain boost
● Increased independence
● Helps moms burn calories and return to prebaby weight
● Provides a self-sufficient food source for your child (although they obviously need more food as they get older!)
Many moms who choose to breastfeed beyond a year report that their children are:
● Less prone to illness
● Emotionally secure
● Easier to comfort
And these are just a few of the benefits that can happen because of extended breastfeeding. One of the easiest ways to calm your mind and worries is to talk to your doctor about their thoughts and medical opinions related to extended breastfeeding for your specific child and needs.
Extended Breastfeeding Pros and Cons
While the pros of extended breastfeeding are mentioned above, there can be a few cons to think about as well. This doesn’t mean that these would apply to you. But they are just presented to you in order to be informed of both sides of the story.
Again, breastfeeding and the length of time that you want to breastfeed are very personal, so you have to make the best choice for your current situation.
Cons of extended breastfeeding:
● It takes a lot of time
● Your children will grow more and more teeth during this time…and you might discover pain more often from them
● It might affect your ability to spend time with your other children
● Your child might wake up during the night to nurse, and this will mean that your sleep will be interrupted for years
● It can affect your marriage if you and your partner are not in agreement with your continued nursing
Again, these are just some of the cons that can come with extended breastfeeding. You have to figure out if the pros outweigh the disadvantages or vice-versa when trying to decide what is right.
Are there disadvantages of breastfeeding after 2 years?
Most of the disadvantages that come along with extended breastfeeding are ones that are more personal in nature. The older that your child gets, the less discreet and more vocal they are going to become about breastfeeding. This can be embarrassing for modest moms.
Some moms might find extended breastfeeding has become exhausting, and they develop a nursing aversion and become “touched out.” When this occurs and mom is ready to stop, but the child isn’t ready to wean, it’s can be a battle during that time to get them to understand and listen.
Another disadvantage to consider is that the older your child gets when breastfeeding, the more that people are going to pass their judgment on you as well. People already tend to openly “judge” moms who are breastfeeding babies out in public, but it seems to be more of an issue the older the child is.
The great news is breastfeeding in public is legal and protected by federal and state law in all 50 states.
You just have to decide if these are actual disadvantages that you’re going to be dealing with or just mini bumps in the road that you can easily overcome.
For many moms, taking the time to become further educated on the benefits of extended breastfeeding and learning how to handle naysayers, has only further solidified their commitment to continue breastfeeding their child.
Additionally, having a strong support system in place is important at any stage of your breastfeeding journey, but especially when choosing to extend that journey.
Tips for breastfeeding a toddler
If you’re on board with breastfeeding your toddler, there are a few things to keep in mind. And even though each child is different, you might find that being a bit prepared and knowing what to expect is the best course of action.
- Toddlers breastfeed for comfort and nutrition. They might come to you if they are hurt, sad, or sick. Or just as a quick check-in to reconnect with you.
- Your toddler might have encreased night feedings from time to time during times of illness, teething, or from less daytime breastfeeding due to distractions or developmental advances.
- They may become an acrobat when breastfeeding! Don’t be afraid to end your breastfeeding session until your little one settles down. Sometimes laying down with them helps calm and relax them.
- Most toddlers only nurse for a few minutes at this age. They have become quite proficient at retrieving milk.
- Make sure to give them plenty of healthy choices for solid foods as breastfeeding at this point is no longer their primary source of nutrition.
- Talk to your toddler about when and where breastfeeding will occur if you have specific expectations.
- Have conversations with your toddler that breastfeeding will be stopping at some point regardless if you are allowing them to self-wean.
Open communication with your toddler about reality and expectations can be a great way to prolong your breastfeeding relationship. And when the time comes for your child to wean, having open communication with help ease them into the thought process that breastfeeding isn’t going to go on forever.
Is Extended Breastfeeding Right For You and Your Child?
The bottom line is that no matter who you ask or talk to, everyone will have their thoughts and opinions on extended breastfeeding. Some see the benefits of extended breastfeeding from a health perspective, while others see the cons from a social or personal level.
Once you open up that door to have those conversations and ask those questions, you have to be prepared to process the information and do what is best for you and your child. If you’re longing for more time breastfeeding, you have to understand and dive into those feelings and emotions.
Your child is only your little child for a short period of time, and if you’re looking at extended breastfeeding as a way to stay close to them, continue bonding, and also be able to fuel their body with nutrients, then that is your personal right and choice as a mother.
Just know that more than likely, you’re going to be faced with other people and moms who feel very strongly and disagree with the benefits of extended breastfeeding.
But don’t let the “Negative Nellies” you encounter stop you! Any issues they have with extended breastfeeding is about them and not about you! You do you, mama!
If you do what you feel is right for you and your child, and you seriously can’t go wrong. And when in doubt, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant to get their medical thoughts on the topic as well. More information about the benefits of extended breastfeeding can only help to make you feel happier about your choice.