Until recently, extended breastfeeding was considered to be wrong. Now we can see more and more mothers who breastfeed their 1,5 and even 2-year-old kids. Disputes about whether extended breastfeeding is good or bad still attract attention nowadays.
Well, everything has its pros and cons. Let’s try to figure them out in this article.
The restriction of the duration of breastfeeding in the recent past was primarily due to the fact that women went to work and children were sent to a nursery. In this situation, breastfeeding was simply impossible.
At all times, women breastfed for a long time – for a year, two, and even three years. This facilitated the issue of feeding the baby very much. At the same time, in some cultures extended breastfeeding itself doesn’t exist.
The Pros of Extended Breastfeeding for the Baby
- Balanced diet. Breast milk is considered to be the gold standard of the baby food. When a child becomes older, the composition of breast milk continues to change in order to meet their nutritional needs. There is no age at which breast milk can be considered insignificant for a baby’s nutrition. But this does not mean that the child does not need a lure.
- Protection against infections. Everyone knows that in the first six months or a year of baby’s life, mom’s milk is a reliable protection of the baby from illnesses. The milk passes on the mother’s antibodies against a variety of viruses and diseases.
- High intelligence. Some researchers claim that children who are on extended breastfeeding demonstrate a higher level of intelligence and socialization.
- Emotional attachment. Breastfeeding is a close body and emotional contact between mother and her baby. It helps the child to feel safe and forms their credit of trust to the outside world.
- Psychological comfort. Breastfeeding is one of the natural ways to meet the child’s need for tactile contact with their mother. Applying to mother’s breast, the child has the opportunity to make sure that everything is in order. They feel safe, feel their mother’s responsiveness as well as her love and care. For a mother, breastfeeding is an excellent reason to sit down for a moment, take her mind off the daily worries, and give her time and attention exclusively to the baby.
Extended Breastfeeding: Pros for the Mother
- Extended breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing certain diseases. It helps to avoid the risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Extended breastfeeding improves health. Studies show that the longer breastfeeding lasts the better the overall health of the mother is.
- Extended breastfeeding helps to lose weight.
Other Conveniences of Extended Breastfeeding
- Extended breastfeeding facilitates teething.
- It helps on the long road or while traveling.
The Cons of Extended Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding imposes a number of restrictions on the mother’s diet. You can’t drink alcohol and eat exotic fruits and vegetables. And if the child has an initial tendency to allergies, then you have to forget about a number of other products.
- Exhaustion of the mother’s body because all the nutrients go to the milk. A balanced diet and intake of vitamin and mineral complexes for lactating women can help. The consumption of specialized products can also be useful in such a situation as well.
- Problems in personal life. Not all dads share the desire of the wife to breastfeed for a long time, especially if the child sleeps with the parents.
- Extended breastfeeding puts mom in front of the fact that she can’t leave the child for a long time. And in the case of forced absence, she must express milk to avoid leakage or more serious problems, such as the risk of mastopathy.
- Another disadvantage of extended breastfeeding is the excessive dependence of the child on the presence of their mother. This makes it difficult for them to enter the children’s community if you have to give the baby to the kindergarten.
The World Health Organization gives specific recommendations on breastfeeding of children. Start feeding immediately after birth and up to at least 6 months. After half a year it is advisable to start introducing complementary feeding. However, the end of breastfeeding is strictly individual. It can last up to 2 years, and in some cases – up to 3 years. Only the mother has the right to decide how long to breastfeed her child.
Rules for Extended Breastfeeding
If a woman decides to breastfeed for as long as possible, then the rules of organizing extended breastfeeding will help to make breastfeeding as comfortable as possible:
- after a year and a half it is necessary to establish a number of restrictions for the baby – try to explain that mother’s milk can be eaten only at home or just before going to bed;
- do not put the baby to the breast because of their boredom;
- do not reduce communication with the grown-up kid. Play with your child, read to them, go for a walk, etc;
- do not insist on feeding if the baby refuses to breastfeed;
- be sure to introduce complementary foods into your baby’s diet in a timely manner, gradually get them acquainted with the whole variety of taste palette;
- weaning should be natural and gradual.
As a rule, children refuse to breastfeed at the age of 1,5-2 years. If the child older than 3 years asks for their mother’s breast – this is the occasion for talking to a psychologist.
Moms who breastfeed 2-year-old kids are not such a rare phenomenon but often such mothers and their babies are being ashamed. In this case, the main task is not to get into a conflict but gently explain that this is your position and your personal choice and it does not concern anyone.
What Role Does Breastmilk Play in the Diet of an Older Child?
It depends on how much breastmilk your child drinks. After the child reaches the age of one year, they can continue to regularly drink a moderate amount of breast milk. As a result, breast milk will be the main source of nutrients for the baby. However, many infants eat solid foods to satisfy their nutritional needs and therefore drink a small amount of breast milk.
If you have questions about your child’s diet or about the role of breast milk and about how it affects the growth and development of the baby, talk to the pediatrician.
Does Extended Breastfeeding Make the Process of Weaning More Difficult?
Not necessarily. Often the easiest way to start weaning is when the child themselves begins this process which can happen sooner or later than you expect.
Weaning often begins naturally at about 6 months of age when it is necessary to begin to add complementary feeding into the baby’s diet. Some children begin to gradually move from breast milk and look for other forms of nutrition. Closer to one year they feel quite comfortable without breastfeeding. Other children can’t initiate weaning themselves for a sufficiently long time.
How Should I React to Negative Responses About Extended Breastfeeding?
Worldwide, children are weaned at an average age of 2-4 years. In some cultures, breastfeeding continues until the children reach the age of 6-7 years. In other parts of the world, however, extended breastfeeding is less common. Sometimes it can provoke the appearance of negative information and the negative reaction of people.
It’s none of anyone’s business how long you are breastfeeding your baby. If close and even unfamiliar people try to share their opinion about when it is necessary to wean the child, remind them that it is your decision. Try not to worry about what other people think. Instead, trust your instincts.
Extended breastfeeding can be an intimate way of continuing to educate your child. If you are planning extended breastfeeding, think about what is the best for you and your child and enjoy this special time together.