The beauty of breastfeeding shouldn’t have to end when your baby reaches the recommended age by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Breastfeeding is fundamental to child survival, nutrition, development, and fosters mother-infant emotional bonds and a sense of security. It holds benefits for both mom and baby to their overall health.
Now that you’ve been breastfeeding through the first year should you still continue? Breastfeeding beyond the first year milestone is absolutely fine. You know what’s best for you and your little one and as long as both of you are seeing success. The minimum age the AAP recommends for exclusive breastfeeding should be performed through the first six months until at least age 1, in combination with solids as the baby starts weaning.
According to a report by UNICEF, there are more health benefits to both mom and baby when the little one is being breastfed longer. Take note that a child’s immune system does not fully develop until two to six years of age. As long as mama’s milk is being offered, it will continue to support baby’s immune development.
Wouldn’t I have trouble during the weaning process?
No it won’t. Actually, it can be seen as a way to practice your child’s independence. Naturally, at 6 months solid foods are introduced to the baby’s diet and as they get closer to age 1 they begin to transition from breast milk to other sources of nutrition. Gradual weaning lets your precious little one outgrow being breastfed on their own. Children who self-wean commonly share independence as one of their traits.
Benefits of breastfeeding beyond the first year
Balanced nutrition. We’re not a stranger to this benefit as it’s a standard in infant nutrition. The nutritional benefits of breast milk do not reduce in significance at a certain age. Breast milk will adjust to an appropriate level of nutrients to meet the dietary needs of your little one.
Boosts immunity. The longer your baby breastfeeds, the more it will benefit in boosting their immunity. It has been found that breastfeeding toddlers aged 1-3 years old had experience being sick less often or getting ill for a shorter period of time (Mølbak 1994, van den Bogaard 1991, Gulick 1986).
Boosts brain development. A great benefit babies get from being breastfed is it helps in their brain development. Brown University researchers discovered that a 20%-30% increase is seen in brain growth when the baby is breastfeeding. In their study, they also took into consideration how long the child was fed off the breast. Significantly, they found that when babies breastfed past the first year, they had greatly enhanced brain growth, especially with the brain areas dealing with motor function.
A healthy mama. Breastfeeding past the first year shows that mama could have a lower risk of acquiring breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, heart disease, diabetes, postpartum depression, etc.
An opportunity for downtime. Moms get so caught up with their tasks at home and at work that resting at times between feedings seems difficult. Taking time to breastfeed your baby creates an opportunity for some downtime. It also becomes a bonding time between the both of you creating a better mother-child relationship.
Don’t worry about other people when you decide to continue breastfeeding until their toddlerhood. Trust us, there are many mamas who have decided to do the same. If you think it’s what is best for you and your baby then do it and continue to enjoy your special bond through breastfeeding.