There are quite a number of advantages to extended breastfeeding, or breastfeeding well past the usual one year and into the toddler years. It allows the little one to get more of the immune-boosting and nutritional benefits of breastfeeding for a longer period of time.
While it is still not very well studied, there is growing evidence that it can have a positive impact on the baby’s health. It’s even recommended by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization.
Despite all these benefits, however, extended breastfeeding isn’t exactly all sunshine and rainbows. There are quite a few negative effects that mom must consider before diving into it.
Generally, as with most things, it’s not universally the best thing for moms and babies across the world. Often, mom will have to weigh the pros and cons before deciding that it is the best choice. As such, she mustn’t base her decision on huffy better-than-thou moms who can actually afford to breastfeed their child for years and wrinkle their noses on moms who “wean too early.” Each situation is different, after all.
All across the internet, however, there are way too many articles that preach the benefits of extended breastfeeding. And don’t get us wrong: the benefits are there. But to give moms a balanced view of what extended breastfeeding entails, we’ve compiled a list of all the cons for mom to take into consideration as well.
Hopefully, this list can help moms weigh their options and make the choice that is best for them and their baby.
15 It’s Inconvenient
Breastfeeding into the toddler years is exactly what it sounds like: breastfeeding into the toddler years. That is, it’s got all the inconveniences of regular breastfeeding extended for another year or so. While some moms may say that breastfeeding is no inconvenience at all, this isn’t the case for everyone. Maybe they’d understand better if they put themselves into someone else’s shoes.
For pure breastfeeding, it entails bringing the kid around practically everywhere. With the added disadvantage of the fact that taking a baby everywhere is easier than dragging around a toddler. After all, a toddler has a mind of its own, so to speak. And the kid can walk, too. Whether in the grocery store or in the office, it’s not exactly going to be easy for mom.
If pumping and feeding is permissible, this will mean having to lug around pumping equipment and making sure the person watching the toddler continues to prepare the milk safely. And then there’s waking up on time for the next feeding. Of course, some moms can afford this sacrifice. Others, however, just can’t.
14 No Breathing Time
Even the best of moms need a bit of space away from the toddler. Sure, mom loves him very much. He’s adorable. He needs her. He’s the center of her life. But as with any other relationship, it’s not always a great thing for them to always be together.
While the toddler might be happy, it might drive mom crazy not to be able to do things she likes to do because she’s got a toddler at her heels 60 percent of the time. If the toddler has been weaned from breastfeeding, on the other hand, mom is freer to leave him with dad, or at least to spend an hour or two in a different room without someone asking for a snack.
It doesn’t feel good to admit that mom doesn’t always want to be with her child. But that’s reality. Without space, mom might grow to resent the responsibility. If it’s not possible to get that space during the first year of breastfeeding, maybe it’s best not to continue.
13 It’s High-Maintenance
Breastfeeding requires a lot of energy and attention. For some moms, particularly those who are working, this kind of energy and attention is just not possible. For one thing, she’ll have to continue to pump at work to maintain her milk supply.
For another, imagine coming home from work exhausted, and then having to attend to a breastfeeding toddler. Sure, it can be relaxing, but sometimes it can tie mom up if she has to make dinner, or she just wants to rest. When this happens, she may become distracted and not be able to devote full attention to her little one.
No mom wants to give her kid half-baked, incomplete love and care. If this is not possible during the course of extended breastfeeding, maybe it’s best to consider if she can do it with the child weaned off her breast. That is, it’s best to choose the option where mom can give her hundred percent. Even the most ideal-sounding parenting routine isn’t all that great if it’s only half-done.
12 Meds In Milk
Over the course of breastfeeding, chances are that mom might get sick at least once. Maybe it’s a cold, or maybe it’s something a bit more serious. In any case, mom might need to take medication to treat her condition. The trouble with that is that she’ll have to screen her meds – yes, including over-the-counter ones and even herbals – as to their effect on breastmilk.
For prescription meds, it’s best to inform the doctor that she’s breastfeeding so doc can prescribe something that either doesn’t turn up in breastmilk or is safe for the baby.
As such, mom’s med options become limited. This may not be bothersome for some conditions, but with others it might be necessary to stop breastfeeding while she’s on medication. Of course, in this case, it’s best if she has a stock of frozen breast milk good for the entire time. And she’ll have to pump as well to maintain milk supply.
If neither is possible, stick to the meds and maybe get some toddler formula.
11 It’s Immeasurable
It’s not possible to measure the amount of breastmilk that the kid is getting, unless he’s getting it through a bottle. Sure, mom might be able to estimate based on how empty her chest feels, but sometimes exact measurements may be needed. This is particularly for kids who are sick, picky or have a nutritional deficiency.
Mom can’t be sure that the little one isn’t getting the right amount of nutrition when he refuses to eat solid food. Just in case somebody out there doesn’t know, it’s a bad idea to exclusively breastfeed a toddler. That’s pretty much a recipe for a nutritional deficiency.
Children should start having solid food at four to six months. After all, it may be unclear whether a child drank so much milk that he’s full or if he’s just not eating enough. Of course, this isn't a problem for most kids who will eat when they’re hungry. There are children, however, where this is a legitimate concern.
10 Staying On The Breastmilk Diet
This can be a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, the breast milk diet is very healthy and great for mom. On the other hand, mom won’t be able to eat - or not eat - everything she pleases on a whim due to the negative impacts. It’s not just that she has to avoid things that will end up in the breastmilk and are bad for baby. It’s for her health, for the most part.
See, the body is great at making sure that breastmilk contains all the nutrients that the baby needs. Sometimes it even does this at mom’s expense. Take calcium, for instance. If mom doesn’t have enough calcium in her diet, her breastmilk will contain healthy amounts of calcium anyway. Only this calcium doesn’t come from her meals, it comes from her bones. As a result, mom’s bones become brittle and she becomes prone to osteoporosis later on in life.
9 Liquor Ban
Even mom has to relax and let everything loose every once in awhile. Some moms might do this by staying at home to read a book. Others, however, want to go out and party with friends. If she’s into parties that involve alcohol, however, she may not have as great a time as she likes. Alcohol does end up in breastmilk, after all, and could negatively impact the toddler’s health.
Roughly the same amount of alcohol as mom’s blood alcohol percentage ends up in the milk. This may not seem like much, but for a child whose blood volume is significantly smaller than mom’s, this can spell trouble.
In addition, the little one’s liver is not quite as mature as moms and is ill-fit to metabolize alcohol. But all the health implications and the glaring issue of child abuse aside, any mom ought to ask herself: the terrible twos are bad enough, why spend them dealing with a drunk toddler?
8 It Might Hurt
The longer mom breastfeeds, the higher her chances of developing pains due to the feedings. Oftentimes extended feeding periods can irritate mom’s chest and make them sore. She might require some rest after each feeding to help get her chest area back to normal.
But if the tot gets hungry again after a while, she might have to go through it anyway, causing even more irritation. Breastfeeding also puts mom at risk for developing thrush on her chest, that fungal infection of the nips that can make them itchy and sore. This condition is treatable, but mom will have to go through a few painful feedings anyway.
Not to mention the teeth. Sucking doesn’t involve biting, however some kids may end up doing this after a feeding. Add that to the fact that toddlers tend to pull and twist and become distracted a bit more than babies and mom can end up with really sore nips.
7 People Will Judge
Any breastfeeding mom knows the drill. There’s always that jerk in the bus who stares disapprovingly when she pulls down her blouse to feed her kid. Even if she was extra careful that nobody got a glimpse of nipple. Yes, breastfeeding is as normal as taking out a bottle to feed the baby. It shouldn’t be shameful or taboo.
Reality however, is that breastfeeding moms do have to deal with the fact that our society has overhypered breasts to the point where it’s indecent to flash one in public to feed a baby. Granted, the same people who frown upon breastfeeding in public are the same folks who frown upon crying babies who wouldn’t be crying if their moms would feed them.
Our frustration about these societal norms aside, each mom has to decide whether she’s willing to deal with a few additional months of dealing with jerks every time she has to breastfeed in public.
6 Extending Engorgement
Give us a mom who breastfeeds and we’ll give you a mom who has problems with engorgement. Imagine having to run an errand that delays breastfeeding time by half an hour or so. Even if the little one is perfectly asleep at home with dad, mom might not be as comfortable.
During this time, the breast will fill up with milk anyway in anticipation of the next feed, and mom might have to wait in line feeling like her boobs are going to burst. They might even leak, too.
What’s more, long periods of not breastfeeding or pumping can sometimes lead to mastitis, a painful infection where the mammary ducts get infected due to bacteria finding its way into the stagnant milk. Unfortunately for mom, she’ll need to constantly drain her breasts to prevent further infection.
Of course both breastfeeding and pumping will hurt, so it’s pretty much a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.
5 It Affects Mom's Intimate Life
After the baby, many couples often want to catch up with their intimate life. Only they might find post-pregnancy intimacy a bit disappointing for a number of reasons. Since breastfeeding plays a role in this, extended breastfeeding will only prolong this effect.
See, breastfeeding requires high levels of estrogen and other hormones that help regulate the production and release of milk. The thing is that these hormones can reduce mom’s libido and make her vajayjay dry. (Tell that to the folks who believe breastfeeding is indecent.) Of course, hormones affect each woman differently.
Some moms might be able to manage a great intimate life even while breastfeeding. Others, however, might be disappointed. It’s best to assess the first year of breastfeeding to figure if it has a huge impact on mom and dad’s fun time. If not, then great. If it does, mom and dad have to consider if extended breastfeeding is worth less bedroom romping.
4 What About The Other Kids
Extended breastfeeding will mean that mom spends most of her time with the little one. If there are other kids in the equation, this will mean that mom will not be able to revert back to the time she spent on them pre-new baby. And we all know that children demand attention.
They need their mom to talk and listen to them, to help them with homework, to spend time doing projects with them, to attend their school’s PTA meetings. Breastfeeding isn’t exactly conducive to some of those things.
Not only can this endanger the child’s self-esteem and trust in their parent, it might foster resentment and an idea that there’s favoritism. If this is an issue, it needs to be addressed by no less than mom herself. It’s worth asking if it’s possible to go through extended breastfeeding and still give a good chunk of time to all the other kids. The answer, of course, depends on mom’s situation.
3 Harder To Wean
While most moms who do extended breastfeeding will be able to go through smooth, baby-regulated weaning, others may have trouble. This is particularly true if due to a medical condition or any other situation, mom has to wean abruptly. In this case, babies are much less difficult to wean than toddlers, who can be demanding and prone to tantrums.
The advantage of this is that it’s possible to reason with toddlers, who can understand better than babies. But another disadvantage is that they can reason back. And toddlers can be manipulative little devils.
Some experts say that if a toddler gets too clingy or has tantrums, this means that the weaning is going way too fast. For some, it can take over a year or more before they’re truly ready. So an indeterminate period of extended breastfeeding will be something that mom has to keep in mind. But if fast weaning is needed, mom might have trouble.
2 Breastfeeding Plus Pregnancy
Some say that one advantage of extended breastfeeding is that it serves as birth control. Not true. Breastfeeding does suppress ovulation, but only up to six months, give or take, after childbirth. After that, it’s entirely possible for mom to get pregnant.
Birth control will be needed, of course. But if mom just happens to get pregnant while she’s doing extended breastfeeding, she might want to consider if she can maintain both.
Growing a baby in the womb is high-maintenance. As is breastfeeding a toddler, as we’ve already established. Mom will have to do some crazy nutritional balancing, not to mention deal with all the pregnancy symptoms on top feeding the little one. It is a lot of effort to meet all the demands that this entails.
Most moms can’t manage it and not need a therapist after a few months. So any mom who finds herself in this situation ought to think about it. Maybe it’s time to wean the little one.
1 Think Of Parenting Style
Extended breastfeeding is just not compatible with all parenting styles. Many say that extended breastfeeding promotes overdependence and clinginess. This isn’t necessarily true with the right kind of parenting and, to some extent, the kid’s personality.
The best gauge is whether the child is confident and well-adjusted during the course of extended breastfeeding, it’s probably the best thing. If, on the other hand, he can’t go anywhere without mom and constantly demands attention, it might be time to reassess.
In some cases, inconsistency can cause ill-adjustment. In this case, it’s best to look into whether mom has to adjust her parenting style to help the child. In the worst of cases, however, a mom will actually promote overdependence or even withhold feedings if the child doesn’t do as she likes.
This isn’t at all helpful and will lead to a mistrustful, clingy child. If mom does this, maybe it’s best for the child to learn independence the hard way.