The benefits of breastfeeding have been known for a while. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that moms exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of children’s lives, but the organization goes even further than that.
WHO recommends breastfeeding for at least a year and says that going beyond that is also encouraged. Many women are taking this advice seriously and nursing past the infant phase, moving into what is called extended breastfeeding. This once taboo practice is now gaining momentum because of the benefits to both mom and the baby. The research behind it helps, and many women are finding that ending the nursing relationship while their children are still babies is not tempting. They are nursing toddlers and preschoolers, and they have no regrets.
Not convinced? Here are some reasons women are choosing to nurse longer. Fed is best, and no mom should feel pressured to breastfeed if she can’t or doesn’t want to. However, women who want to go the distance also shouldn’t be discouraged from doing so because there’s plenty of information that supports extended breastfeeding.
20 It provides Immune System Boosts
Babies are born with virtually no immune system. It's a horrifying thought, but they come into the world susceptible to a variety of issues because their bodies aren't fully ready to fight off certain issues. Breastfeeding can help the baby build a strong immune system faster, and it can keep that immune system strong as time goes on.
A mom who chooses to breastfeed even past the infant years may be looking at the fact that her toddler is going to interact with the world, and germs, even more than she did as an infant because of mobility. Continuing the breastfeeding relationship can offer an extra layer of protection for the baby's immune system.
19 moms can get a Bonding Experience
Nursing is a bonding experience for mom and her child, and this benefit goes past the newborn and infant months. Toddlers bond with mom when nursing, and since the toddler phase can be difficult due to all the changes a child is going through, nursing can offer a consistent bond that doesn't change for mom or the baby.
Nursing an older child can help end a hard day on a positive note, create a habit that soothes, and help mom view her child as still young even though he's changed so much since birth.
The oxytocin that floods mom's body during nursing gives her all the love feelings that help calm down the hardest of days.
18 it is Research-Supported
The research on breastfeeding is pretty great. Multiple studies show benefits, including a decreased risk of the baby succumbing to SIDS. The World Health Organization (WHO) goes as far as to recommend mom breastfeed for at least a year, more if possible.
Many moms rely on the science to help them make decisions about their children, and the science to support breastfeeding is there.
The immune system boost and decrease in certain ailments for children who are breastfed is enough to convince some moms that if a little milk is good, a lot is better. The benefits don't stop just because a child ages, so mom decides to follow the research and nurse longer.
17 It is Less Expensive
Nursing definitely saves mom and dad money the first months after the baby is born since formula won't be necessary. However, it can continue to save cash. It helps keep a child's belly full, even if they are also eating solid foods, and the immune boost kids receive may keep them from needing medical care as often.
Once mom is used to nursing, it makes sense to keep it up past the year point because the financial savings don't suddenly stop when a child turns one. Mom is still providing an irreplaceable source of nutrition that will help a child stay well and full.
16 It Helps with Picky Eaters
Very few kids are going to turn away from the taste of mom's breastmilk. It's made for them and comforting to ingest, so mom knows her little one is receiving sustenance as long as he's nursing.
Kids will absolutely turn away a ton of other foods that mom and dad introduce as the months go on, and continuing to breastfeed can help mom know her child is receiving nutrients, even if the child is a picky eater.
This makes the introduction of solid food less stressful because if a child is picky about table food, he can still fill up on some breastmilk, packed with all he needs, until his taste buds mature and learn to love other tastes.
15 It Less Taboo Now Than Before
More people know about the benefits of extended breastfeeding due the to the far reach of the internet, so it's a bit less taboo. Sure, some people still think it's gross and weird, but they are usually uninformed. It's not hard for moms today to find a group of other women who are breastfeeding their kids for an extended period of time, and this makes the process a lot less isolating.
Breastfeeding is in the news often, and women standing up for their right to nurse as long as they want has even made the cover of magazines. Mom may still get some glances, but she will also find a lot of support in the world for nursing a child past the one-year mark.
14 It Delays Aunt Flo
As long as mom is nursing full-time, she will likely not get a period. As her child starts solid food and doesn't nurse as often she may notice the return of her period. This is also true when she stops nursing at nights. However, nursing longer can hold off periods longer, and it can make the ones that mom does have lighter and easier to manage.
It's good to remember that even if mom hasn't gotten a period yet, she can still get pregnant. Ovulation takes place before the period, so mom can be ovulating and not know it. Don't rely exclusively on breastfeeding for birth control.
13 It Improves Mom’s Health
The benefits of breastfeeding aren't just for the child. Moms who breastfeed experience an array of paybacks. Breastfeeding reduces the rate of many serious ailments. It can also help mom avoid osteoporosis, giving her stronger bones now and in the future.
There are also the short-term benefits. Mom's uterus will contract while she nurses, and while this may sound awful, it helps her uterus return to its normal size. It can also lessen the amount of blood mom loses after giving birth, a win for any woman hoping to recovery quickly.
12 It Aids In Brain Development
Breastfeeding offers babies a boost in the brain development department, and that is reason enough to keep at it. Studies show that nutrients obviously help, and so does the contact with mom.
Children who breastfeed are also likely to be placed in different positions since mom nurses from both sides.
That means breastfed kids have different views and learn to reach different directions while nursing. They also see things from more than one angle, and this doesn't happen if a baby is bottle fed in one position all the time. Researchers think the position changes also help with brain development, and as a child ages he or she may even nurse while standing, adding yet a new angle.
11 It Has Soothing and Calming Benefits
Babies like breastmilk, and they like to be close to mom. The whole process of breastfeeding can be soothing to a child, and that doesn't stop as they age out of the infant months. Toddlers and preschoolers can also be calmed by nursing, and this is often enough to keep moms letting the milk flow.
It's easier to parent when mom has a go-to ready to soothe her little one when he's frustrated, sick, or uncomfortable. Nursing offers calm for mom and the baby, and this can take a lot of strife out of the relationship. It's normal that mom would think twice before giving up this process.
10 It Is Convenient
Breastfeeding is sometimes seen as too inconvenient to do for long. However, many women find out just the opposite when they nurse. Breastfeeding offers calm and routine for a child, and it can do the same for mom. It's also portable, always available, and doesn't need to be heated.
As a child starts going through the big emotions of toddlerhood, mom may find that nursing allows her to conveniently calm down tantrums and redirect behavior. It solves as a balm to use when things start going off the rails, and it's super easy to offer if mom forgot any other snacks.
9 It Allows the Child to Self-wean
There are moms who never imagined they would be nursing a toddler or preschooler, but they are. These moms may have committed to let their children wean themselves, and that didn't happen as early as expected.
Some kids start refusing the breast on their own early, and others want to continue nursing until they are forced to stop. If mom wants to avoid the stress of forcing a child to wean before he or she is ready, she may end up nursing longer just to delay the weaning process that she has to initiate. This is okay. It's usually easier if the child chooses to wean instead of being forced, but it may cause the nursing relationship to last longer.
8 It is often the case when it's mom's Last Baby
Is this the last baby mom is planning on having? If the answer is yes, then she may surprise herself by nursing longer than most people do. When mom knows this is it, no more snuggling a child who fills up on the food she provides from her body, she may decide to let the breastfeeding relationship go on a bit longer, both for herself and her child.
Coming to the end of the infant years can be both freeing and confusing, and that torn feeling about not having any more kids may leave mom grasping onto the activities she knows will soon be gone for good. Breastfeeding just might be one of them.
7 it Helps Toddlers Deal With Change
Having an infant and having a toddler are two entirely different experiences. Toddlers can be a bit harder to handle in some respects, and some moms choose to keep nursing them because it offers consistency. A child who is used to being breastfed may be soothed by it, and not taking it away when brain and body development are already in major transition can offer some much-needed consistency to a child's life.
It can also make the transition from having a baby to having a toddler easier for mom. The breastfeeding relationship stays familiar, even when a toddler's strong opinions, tantrums, and newfound attitude seem not at all familiar to mom.
6 Weaning Is Hard
Though breastfeeding may seem like a lot of work, it's sometimes the path of least resistance. Trying to wean a child who isn't ready is exhausting, heartbreaking, and at times infuriating, so some women just choose to avoid the process until later. They end up nursing for an extended period of time simply to avoid the weaning process.
No matter why mom keeps nursing, it's good for the baby and good for mom.
A child will eventually wean himself, or mom will finally develop the energy and will to initiate the weaning process. Either way, extra breastmilk isn't a bad idea until that time.
5 it Feels Like a Win for Mom
Parenting is hard, and there are days when it's hard to point to a definitive win in the raising-a-kid department. If mom is able to breastfeed and it makes her and the child happy, she may keep it up because it feels like a consistent parenting success. Even on the bad days when tears and frustration are involved, she can still offer milk from her body and calm herself and her little one.
Because of this, weaning can be hard for moms, and they usually aren't prepared for the feelings that come once the breastmilk dries up. It's okay for mom to take her time ending the breastfeeding relationship because it won't last forever.
4 Milk Changes With The Child
There is not some magic age where a child stops benefiting from breastmilk. Quite the opposite, actually. As a child grows, mom's milk will change to accommodate the child as he ages. It's a wonderful skill of mom's body to provide just what her child needs when he needs it. This magic lasts as long her as her child is nursing.
Breastfeeding benefits last as long as mom is breastfeeding, and some last even longer. Though many mistakenly assume the benefits end when the baby can consume solid food, all evidence points to the opposite. A child nursing is receiving advantages, no matter the age.
3 It Makes Sleep Time Easier
Babies who are breastfed may get used to nursing as a part of the nighttime or naptime routine. That's okay. While some moms prefer not to nurse the baby to sleep, many find it's an easy way to get the little one down on a full stomach. Some moms actually avoid weaning because nursing is such an embedded part of the sleep process.
Night and nap weaning are hard, and to avoid losing even more sleep, mom may decide to keep nursing as her child ages so he'll still take naps and go to sleep at nights like usual. This is a totally normal process, and it can allow mom to get rest since her child has a routine and won't fight about sleep due to losing the breast.
2 It’s Empowering for Mom
Not everything is going to go as planned when a woman enters motherhood. The birth plan may derail, mom may end up making discipline decisions she regrets, and sleep deprivation is going to wreak havoc on life. Some women hold onto breastfeeding because it is the one part of their motherhood experience that feels empowering, no matter how the rest of parenting is going.
Breastfeeding calms the baby, calms mom, and can hit the reset button on a hard day. If the child wants to keep nursing and mom feels like it's her superpower to offer milk, she may opt for extended breastfeeding options.
1 New Baby Comes Along
There are women who never imagined being extended breast feeders, but they ended up in a situation that made it make sense. If mom gets pregnant with another baby while already nursing a child, she may end up breastfeeding the older child for a longer period of time because he doesn't want to wean. A toddler who sees mom nursing a newborn may not be ready to stop nursing, so mom will just latch them both on and go with it.
This is called tandem nursing, and it is demanding. However, many moms decide that they would rather nurse the older one a bit longer instead of have him blame the new baby for getting kicked out of breastfeeding.