Breastfeeding for any amount of time is one of the greatest gifts you can give your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends exclusively breastfeeding for at least the first six months of a baby’s life and up to a year or more as the mother and baby desire. The vast benefits of breastfeeding continue as long as a baby receives breast milk so why stop at one year? We’re exploring breastfeeding beyond one year today.
Many moms feel that when their babies turn one is the acceptable time to wean. However, like other developmental milestones, babies (and mothers) have different needs, desires and abilities. Putting an arbitrary expiration date on your breastfeeding journey just because your baby has a birthday may not be the right choice for you or your baby. Consider your own situation and the impact it would have on your baby before making a decision. Breastfeeding is personal and the decision to wean should be too.
Breast milk is an incredible superfood that offers your baby benefits on many levels. And breast milk continues to evolve to meet your baby’s developmental needs. As your baby ages, your breast milk offers more intense nutrients including heartier fats and proteins that he needs for growth and development. Additionally, your breast milk responds to your baby’s immediate needs. For instance, if your baby is hot or cold, your breast milk will adjust to warm or cool him. Or if your baby is sick, your breast milk will literally help nurse him back to health. As an immune booster, breast milk helps keep your baby healthy and reduces the risk of many diseases now and in the future. Plus breastfeeding proves to increase cognition and social development.
Emotionally breastfeeding beyond one year can offer your baby a sense of security and stability. Toddlers are known for their curious minds, but with that come fears and uncertainties. Breastfeeding can be comforting to your baby as he branches out in the world. Plus, bonding between a mother and child is endless so the closeness of breastfeeding contributes to a strong lifelong relationship.
Breastfeeding beyond one year will change in some ways from your first year’s experience. During the first year, the majority of your baby’s nutritional needs should be met by breast milk. After a year, this changes and solid foods take a more significant role. The combination of a healthy diet and breast milk can be the best nutrition for your 1+ year old baby or toddler. You can think of it as the healthiest nutritional supplement on the planet – and the most rewarding one too.
Breastfeeding beyond one year may come with some challenges if people in your life (or even complete strangers) are against it. Only you and your baby can make the decision about what is right for both of you. Don’t let a birthday dictate the physical, emotional and mental health needs of your baby. Happy Breastfeeding!
Sources: Healthy Children and Kelly Mom