Extended breastfeeding means breastfeeding your baby beyond one year. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months after the birth. After six months, combining breast milk with solid foods until the baby reaches one-year mark. Mothers can continue nursing beyond the first year as long both mom and baby wish to continue. So, it is absolutely fine if you see a mother breastfeed a 3-year old child.
Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding for Babies
- Breast milk is the main source of infant nutrition. However, to meet your baby’s nutritional needs, the composition of your breast milk changes as your baby gets older. Moreover, there is actually no particular age when the breast milk is nutritionally irrelevant.
- According to the studies, breastfeeding toddlers are less sick as compared to the weaned toddlers. Even though your child eats most of the solid foods and gets good nutrition, your breast milk still offers your child growth hormones, calories, immunities, enzymes and vitamins.
- If your child is sick, your breast milk should be the only thing he should consume. This not only boosts his immune system but also helps him in staying hydrated.
- As your baby starts adjusting to solid foods, he becomes more self-reliant. Breastfeeding beyond one year can be an important approach to form reassurance, emotional support, and a better bonding.
- Most people feel that weaning off a child early helps him in developing a strong sense of independence and self-worth. But weaning a child even before he is ready might end your child being more clingy rather confident.
- If you travel more often and stay in places that are not familiar with your baby, the comfort of your breast would be the apt way to ease out your child’s fear. This will, in turn, give him a feeling of security.
- The best time to wean your baby is when he is ready. It would feel more natural.
Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding for Mothers
- Breastfeeding is not only good for your baby but also is good for your own health. Nursing women have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure as compared to the women who never breastfed their babies.
- Continued breastfeeding or nursing beyond the first year help you in keeping your weight in check. Experts say that the combination of breastfeeding along with a healthy diet and exercise may keep you slim for the coming years.
Most people feel that the extended breastfeeding may make the weaning process more difficult for both the mothers and the babies. This is not necessarily true. The best time is when the baby initiates the weaning process, which might be sooner or later than the mothers expect.
Making Extended Breastfeeding Work for Mothers
- Handling the criticism for extended breastfeeding is difficult, especially when your baby lifts your shirt up in public at the age of 3 or 4 years.
- Set your nursing routine during the daytime, if you opt for extended breastfeeding.
- Teach your child a code word to let you know when he wants you to feed him.
- Apart from breast milk, make sure that your child is eating well-balanced and nutritious meals so that he grows at a healthy rate.
If you wish to continue extended breastfeeding, you need to be prepared for the milk supply. As your hormones level changes, the taste of your milk may change, or you may produce less milk. Take care of yourself, eat healthy foods and drink enough fluids to keep yourself hydrated. Remember, there are no studies supporting that extended breastfeeding is harmful. In fact, it is exactly the opposite.