Whatever a mom’s feelings on formula, most can agree that a mom’s milk is great nutrition for the baby. Of course, some people squabble over exactly how nutritious milk is and how much is necessary to grow a healthy tot. But for most moms, the questions about how long to nurse is practically obsolete, given the baby’s opinion on the matter!
Weaning can prove challenging, especially if your baby isn’t willing to let go of the milk. And when both the mom and baby are in agreement, there’s no reason you have to stop nursing just because of your tot’s upcoming (or recently passed) birthday. In fact, there are plenty of benefits to breastfeeding for over a year (and beyond). It’s not only amazing for the baby, but there are quite a few perks for moms as well.
Of course, there are other things that still happen when a mom breastfeeds for over a year that are not innately positive or negative for either baby or mom, but still wind up happening anyway. Everything from what the milk contains to how the baby reacts to it can change over the course of twelve months—and this list of 20 things contains some of the most common things that tend to happen.
20 Far More Calories
From the moment a newborn baby begins nursing, its mom’s milk is full of all kinds of good stuff. But studies have shown that after one year of nursing, a mom’s milk contains even more fat energy than in earlier months. That means mom’s milk is ever-changing to keep up with her busy toddler! After all, plenty of fat is crucial for your baby’s brain development—that’s why doctors recommend full-fat milk if you start giving dairy to your tot. But a mother’s breastmilk actually gives toddlers plenty of fat, so dairy milk isn’t necessary anyway, though you can opt to add it in during toddlerhood.
19 Baby And Mama Bond Even More
One of the things moms love so much about breastfeeding is the bond it creates between them and their babies. It starts from the first moment their little ones start feeding, but even when their squishy infant becomes a rampaging toddler, mama’s milk can still soothe them. Of course, moms can often achieve similar results through bottle feeding and giving their babes plenty of eye contact and snuggles—but breastfeeding is often many moms’ first pick to jump start bonding early on. And when your toddler gets to the point where they’re only nursing when they’re hungry or thirsty, you still get some snuggles!
18 Babies Will Do Much Less Munching
Although many moms let their babies take the lead when it comes to starting solid food, many breastfed babies may be reluctant. After all, a baby who is nursing frequently from mom may not feel hungry enough to try the new foods on his plate. Some babies won’t have many teeth—if any at all—right at one year old, so eating table food could be challenging. Plus, breastmilk tastes sweet—so why would any toddler choose a vegetable over what some little ones say tastes like liquid ice cream? No worries for breastfeeding moms, though, since their milk is still plenty nutritious, despite its deceiving flavor!
17 Better Meals From Mom
We’ve already covered how a mama’s milk often has more fat than alternative tot foods, and the fact that it delivers plenty of calories to growing babies. But one study of breastfed babies found that weaned tots consumed less nutrients via solid food than they did through mom’s milk. Of course, that study was performed in Kenya, so there are some differences between those children’s diets and those of our kiddos in the US. Still, no matter where babies live, they’re likely to get a better nutritionally-rounded meal from mom than anywhere else—and it’s convenient to serve, too!
16 Strangers Begin To Share Their Unsolicited Opinions
It often seems like the moment a baby has her first birthday, strangers (and family) immediately begin to comment on “how old” she is and how she must not need mom’s milk anymore. And it’s even worse if your baby is above average height or size—it looks like you’re feeding a much older baby, and even though there’s nothing wrong with that, people feel the need to run their mouths. Even though scientists note that the natural weaning age of humans worldwide is more in the four- to seven-year-old range than exactly 12 months, that doesn’t stop people in the “modern” world from tut-tutting over how moms feed their toddlers.
15 Potty Time Is Tame
I remember checking in to the hospital to give birth to my first son and seeing a stack of paperwork with all kinds of hospital policies and information. One of the sheets they gave me was like a spec sheet for baby poo—what texture it should have, the color, and what to look out for. To my surprise, breastfed infant poo was supposed to be “seedy” and mustard-colored. Super gross, right? But in fact, breastfed babies have less smelly diapers than formula-fed babies, partly because breastmilk is so easy to digest. So babies who breastfeed beyond one year by default have less toxic diapers than their solid-food-eating counterparts!
14 Babies Are Packing On Protein
Plenty of modern parents worry about potential protein deficiencies in their babies. Whether they’re eating mostly solid food, mostly milk, or a combination of the two, it seems like this is the nutrient people ask about most. But as Kelly Mom noted, at least one study determined that milk from moms’ second year of breastfeeding showed a “significantly higher protein concentration” than that of moms who were still in the first year of nursing. The finding likely correlates with the fact that babies need more of nearly every nutrient as they grow, and mom’s body is adjusting to that need. That means our fears about protein deficiencies are likely unfounded- and babies can drink on in peace.
13 Babies Get So Much Vitamin C
Another nutrient that’s seriously packed into breastmilk is vitamin C. And while it’s one of the more important vitamins in terms of immune health (and preventing scurvy!), babies who are breastfed beyond one year are getting nearly 60 percent of their daily value via milk. Even if they’re only eating a bit of table food, breastfed babies over 12 months old are likely still getting plenty of vitamin C from the tap. Of course, supplements and extra snacks never hurt, but breastmilk is making up the nutritional base all around. Plus, if the baby does get sick, the mom’s body will adjust the milk again, producing more help to fight off infection and get baby feeling better.
12 The Milk Is Naturally Nutritious Even For Older Babies
While plenty of people think that babies who nurse past one year old are just doing it for comfort, that’s not the case! According to Kelly Mom, toddlers still get around 32 percent of their daily nutrients from mom’s milk. That means that although babies are getting bigger and likely eating some solid food, mom’s milk is still packing a nutritious punch overall. Of course, it wouldn’t make sense in terms of biology if a mom’s milk suddenly wasn’t worth any nutritional value, but critics of full-term breastfeeding may have you thinking babies need to save room for “real” food.
11 It Offers Various Vitamin Boosts
Protein, Vitamin C, and overall calories are important to a baby’s diet. But breastfeeding past twelve months also gives babies a boost when it comes to vitamins A, B12, and others. Suffice it to say, breastfed babies are getting their multi-vitamin in the form of mom’s contributions, and a bit of solid food on top of that is just icing on the cake. This may surprise those who think nursing past one is just for fun, but it’s true that there’s still plenty of fuel in that milk to keep growing babies to age two and beyond.
10 It Helps With Staving Off Certain Ailments
Another fact highlighted by Kelly Mom is that toddlers who nurse until at least the age of two have been shown to have fewer instances of illness after they wean. What this means is that babies who nurse past one year are further building their immunity, getting them ready for when mom’s milk is no longer available and their immune system is all on its own. Apparently, the milk is boosting the toddler’s body, so the benefits don’t just disappear on their second birthday—even if the milk has all but dried up. Of course, we can only assume that nursing even longer than two years would offer babies even more benefits!
9 Immune Factors Increase
Yet another study clearly documented a higher concentration of “immune factors” during breastfed babies’ second years of life, according to Kelly Mom. Babies who breastfeed longer have higher immune factors during their second year and when weaning, so this is another instance of the positive effects of mom’s milk not “wearing off” as fast as might be expected. So as far as the old saying that breastfed babies are healthier, there is some truth in it, at least where the statistics are concerned. That said, even children who breastfeed well into their preschool years will probably get sick at some point—you can’t win them all!
8 It Gives An Impending IQ Boost
This is a long-argued statistic about breastfed versus formula-fed babies, but here we’re focusing on breastfed versus breastfed babies. Yet another study that Kelly Mom summarized notes that the longer moms nurse, the higher their babies’ IQs are later measured to be. And while there’s no comparison of formula-fed versus breastfed babies, the higher IQs were all associated with babies who nursed beyond a year (or longer). Of course, we need more info to say for sure whether it was strictly breastfeeding that caused the spikes, obviously, it’s a good start for babies’ brains to nurse as long as they want and mom’s willing.
7 It Creates Surprisingly Social Tots
Some critics of extended breastfeeding will snarkily ask whether the baby will be breastfeeding once she goes off to college or when she starts driving. This implies that babies who nurse for longer durations will wind up over-attached to their moms and won’t ever leave home—or require mom to tag along to feed them. But in fact, the opposite is actually true: studies show that babies who nurse longer are more social and outgoing than babies who wean earlier. So moms are left to wonder what causes this shift—is it the extended opportunity for bonding with mom? Or maybe it’s the fact that being that close to mom (and her facial expressions) means that babies just learn how to handle people better!
6 Dependence Facilitates Independence
Everyone understands that newborn babies are dependent on mom for their care. But that doesn’t end at some arbitrary age or magical developmental period! Toddlers need just as much attention and care as a newborn—if not more—and they’re more verbal about demanding it. The thing is, studies have shown that catering to toddlers’ needs in early childhood helps make them more independent later. It makes sense, though—making sure your toddler’s nutritional and social needs are met ensures that they won’t cling to caregivers (or others) to get their needs taken care of. In this case, dependence facilitates independence!
5 Mom May Not Ovulate
For many mamas, the longer they nurse, the longer Aunt Flo stays away. Of course, it’s not always the case—sure didn’t happen for me! But plenty of moms are given a reprieve from their monthly visitor as long as they’re nursing full-time. Imagine skipping almost two years’ (or more) worth of periods! And in many cases, a lack of a period means lack of ovulation (though not always!). This means nursing for a longer term can help moms prevent pregnancy—super helpful if you’re aiming to plan another pregnancy far off or just want a specific spacing.
4 There Is A Reduced Risk For Certain Illnesses
This fact has long been spouted by lactation consultants and pediatricians alike, but it’s apparently true! Another statistic cited by Kelly Mom notes that the longer a woman nurses her child or children, the lower her risk of cancer becomes. This is true in terms of both nursing one child for an extended period and nursing multiple children over time. Basically, the more milk you make, the more protection against cancer you’re likely to develop! Of course, there’s no magic number of months that lower the risk, but beyond one year is no doubt a good start!
3 It Offers A Bit Of Bone Protection
Along with a reduced cancer risk, nursing longer can give mamas the benefit of lower odds of developing osteoporosis. The thing is, when moms are nursing, their bone density lowers for some reason. It’s probably because the babies are literally siphoning the nutrients out of us, right? Consuming enough nutrients for two can be tough. But after the baby weans, bone density improves to even better levels than what mom had pre-baby! It’s an odd phenomenon that likely needs more research, but it’s a promising indicator for moms who have osteoporosis in their families or who are concerned about it occurring later in life.
2 Milk-Making Starts To Regulate
Although milk production varies depending on each mom and baby duo’s habits, most moms who nurse for about a year can expect a full milk supply, between 20- and 30-something ounces per day. Depending on your baby’s intake (or if you have multiples, or if you pump often), you might make more or less than that amount. Regardless, however, most moms begin to see drops in milk supply around the time babies begin eating solid foods. Many moms start introducing food at age six months or so, but many allow babies to begin noshing when they’re fully ready—which might be closer to a year in many cases. Suffice it to say, after the one-year mark, most nursing moms stop leaking milk and dry up at least a bit.
1 Mom Wants Her Figure Back!
For most moms, a goal for breastfeeding might be a few weeks at minimum, with many intending to nurse their babes at least until they start sampling solids. But plenty of mamas start out with a goal of 12 months or more! The thing is, after a full year or more of breastfeeding around the clock and on demand, many mamas are just about done with having a baby constantly attached. They’re likely getting tired of wearing nursing bras and nursing tanks, wearing clothes that allow the baby easy access, and always smelling like milk. So one common thing that happens around one year of nursing is that mom will decide it’s time to get her body back. She might begin gently weaning her tot—but that process could still take months or longer!
Sources: Kelly Mom