Extended breastfeeding is when you continue to breastfeed your child beyond his first year. There are different theories regarding the practice of extended breastfeeding. Some moms feel it is absolutely not required while there are others who believe in breastfeeding their babies up to the age of 3, 4, or even 5.
The median duration of breastfeeding was 12 months. And approximately 25% of mothers breastfed 24 months or more, who happen to live in rural areas and married young. The World Health Organisation recommends “breastfeeding only” diet up to the age of 6 months and then simultaneous breastfeeding with other solids up to the AGE OF TWO.
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Is Extended Breastfeeding for You?
Prolonged breastfeeding is a result of mutual consent of both, child and mother. If your child is interested in being breastfed and you don’t have second thought about it too, you can continue breastfeeding your baby.
This can go on till your baby moves on from breastfeeding naturally and you didn’t force it on him. The only real problem against this practice are the people who find extended breastfeeding strange and may make rude comments or criticize you.
However, there are a lot of moms who now openly and proudly accepting the fact that they have been breastfeeding their babies who are older and the results have only been better.
So, if you don’t worry or bother about the harsh remarks, don’t let other people’s thought to stop you from doing what you feel is best for you and your baby. If you are a mother of a child who throws a lot of tantrums and it is tough for you to wean him/her, extending the breastfeeding and then slowly introducing the solid foods in their diet may be the right choice instead of forcing your little one into weaning all at once.
We can’t expect a child to start weaning when we think it’s the right time for them to do so. Each child is different and may take their own time.
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Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding
#1. Continues to Provide Nutrition
A lot of people have an opinion that breastfeeding a child for over a year is unnecessary and it won’t provide the essential nutrients. Well, that’s not completely true. How could the most important meal of a child till 6 months of age be considered as unnecessary food after a year?
The protein, calcium, fat, vitamin A, and other nutrients in breast milk continues to help in the growth, meet the nutritional needs of the baby as they grow and compliments the other foods they eat.
#2. Healthier Child
The longer the baby is breastfed, the less vulnerable the baby will be to diseases associated with not breastfeeding like ear infections and upper respiratory infections. Breast Milk increases the immunity of the child against diseases and also lowers the mortality rate.
#3. Helps the Development of Brain
A child’s maximum brain is developed by the age of three and breast milk helps to boost this development with its specific nutritional profile. A study by “The Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort” done in 2011 on school going children of about 10 years of age suggested that babies who were breastfed longer had higher academic scores.
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#4. Breastfeeding is Soothing to Baby
As babies grow older, they hurt themselves a lot. In situations like these, breastfeeding is a great way to distract and calm them down while you take care of the wounds and cuts.
#5. Breastfeeding is also a Mom’s Rest Time
Being a mom is one of the busiest job ever. Amidst of her busy day, a mom can take some time off and relax while her child is breastfeeding without worrying about anything else. Hormones like Prolactin and Oxytocin are also released during breastfeeding. They work together to make milk, establish a letdown, and help the mother to feel calm and relaxed.
Breastfeeding is more convenient than formula feeding to a lot of moms especially when their baby is crying. While it takes some time to prepare a formula, breastfeeding can be initiated right away.
This also saves the day if you are at a different place than home and don’t have resources to prepare the food or formula for the baby.
#7. Helps Raise a Fussy Child
Weaning could be a nightmare with babies who are fussy and throw a lot of tantrums. Breastfeeding can be continued till the time they start to wean along with formula or a few solid foods that they like.
#8. Reduces Chance of Cancer in Mothers
Different research and studies have shown that breastfeeding have great health benefits for mothers too. A breastfeeding mom will have lesser chances of having breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer.
A large-scale analysis of nearly 150,000 women published in The Lancet in 2002 found that for every 12 months of breastfeeding (either with one child or spread over multiple children), the risk of breast cancer decreased by 4.3 percent, when compared to women who didn't breastfeed at all.
Then a 2009 study of more than 60,000 women published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women with a family history of breast cancer reduced their risk of getting the disease before menopause by nearly 60 percent if they breastfed.
Note: A mom breastfeeding two children for two years each will have the same impact if she breastfeeds one child for 4 years.
#9. Helps Reducing Mother’s Weight
Most mothers gain a lot of weight after pregnancy but don’t get time to exercise later as they get busy taking care of their baby. Since breastfeeding consume calories, it can help to reduce a mother’s weight naturally.
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Disadvantages of Extended Breastfeeding
- Children who build a habit of getting breastfed before they go to sleep at night may find it difficult to sleep on their own.
- Breastfeeding a toddler can be painful for the mother when they have teeth and they bite.
- Toddlers are vocal and can demand being breastfed when hungry which could embarrass if you are at public places.
- Mothers who are required to take medications for certain health condition can’t do so, since it will affect the breastfeeding child.
- A mother may not feel free and go out for work or pleasure even after her child is grown up if he/she is dependent on her breast milk when hungry.
- Some mothers may not get their periods back till weeks, months, or even a year while still breastfeeding. If they do, the periods may be irregular when they continue to nurse.
- Some women may get affected by the judgement of the people around them about extended breastfeeding.
Things to keep in mind if you choose to extend Breastfeeding
Now you know all about Extended Breastfeeding, to extend to breastfeed after the first year or not should be your personal decision. If you want to breastfeed your toddler, continue as long as you like. If you don’t, begin to wean smoothly. It should not be affected by any external factors like - Family, Friends, or Internet.
- If unsolicited comments and criticism bothers you, try not to breastfeed in places where you are open to this. Home is the best place and nursing the baby at set times in a day helps a lot.
- If you think your baby wants to be nursed out of boredom or if they want your attention, find other ways to engage him/her. They are curious and just need a direction.
- You don’t want to feel the embarrassment of being asked to nurse when you are out of house. Teach a code word or a sign to your baby to use when he wants to get breastfed.
- Make sure you are taking care of yourself and having a diet that contains lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods.
- After the age of 1 year, be sure that your child is also eating solids or at least having formula milk and getting the important nutrients from them and not fully dependent on breastmilk only.
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