Breastfeeding is a special journey for a mother and her baby. My journey started off with a few hiccups due to clogged ducts. But everything was fine within a few weeks into breastfeeding. There were times when I used to cry whenever it was time to feed my baby because it used to hurt a lot. But I am past that stage and I loved each and every moment of feeding. My son is 22 months old now and is still breastfed. And I know so many moms out there who believe in extended breastfeeding but are not sure about it. This article is for all those moms who are confused about extended breastfeeding.
What is Extended Breastfeeding?
Extended breastfeeding or long term breastfeeding is the term used when you continue breastfeeding your baby after he turns a year old. It is totally normal and has great benefits for both mom and baby. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of extended breastfeeding
Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding
Many people have personally told me that breast milk after one year is equivalent to water, it holds no nutritional value. But I know and can back it up with evidence that this is untrue. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the mean concentration of protein, fat and lactose in milk from women breastfeeding for more than one year was the similar as the milk composition during the 1st year. World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breast-feeding till six months of age and then breastfeeding in addition to complementary foods up to two years or beyond. So if anyone tells you that your breast milk is as good as water, show this article to them.
Breastfeeding increases the immunity and that holds true for breastfed toddlers too. Studies have shown that breastfed toddlers are sick less as compared to others.
Soothing for the child
Breastfeeding is soothing for the baby as well as the toddler. It is the comfort zone for them. I cannot imagine going through the growth spurts and teething monster if I was not breastfeeding my toddler. He wakes up a number of times at night when he is teething, and goes back to sleep within minutes of nursing. Toddlers are always running around, and breastfeeding is a good chance to spend some good time with him and give him your undivided attention.
Breastfeeding is convenient and faster. And it can be done anywhere. Breastfeeding is also a powerful trick to soothe the toddler during travelling. We recently went for an international trip and the long air travel couldn’t have been possible without breastfeeding. He slept off for most of the journey after nursing.
Keeps the mother healthy
Breastfeeding moms are less likely to have cancer. It also helps you burn more calories and shed off the post partum weight. Nursing women have lower rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. You can enjoy these benefits of breastfeeding as long as you like.
Challenges of extended breastfeeding
- Rude remarks from family members and strangers. I got one recently when I was feeding my toddler during a plane ride back to Mumbai. A lady, while staring at me, asks me how old my son is and that he seems to be too old to be breastfed. Ignore them all and tell them you are happy with whatever you are doing.
- It is difficult to wean off a toddler as compared to an infant. It might require more time and effort to wean off a toddler. This is because the toddler is more understanding and stubborn. He knows what he wants and it gets difficult to stop breastfeeding him. Also, it might get a bit embarrassing when the toddler tries to lift off your shirt in public demanding for milk.
- Toddlers sometimes start relying on your breast when they feel bored and want attention. My son does this all the time. It gets so difficult to distract him into playing or doing other stuff.
- It might become a challenge if you’re pregnant. It is physically demanding to nurse a toddler while you are pregnant.
How to make extended breastfeeding work for you
If you overcome the challenges mentioned above, you can make extended breast-feeding work for you. Lets see how? Ignore all the comments you get from others regarding your decision to extend your breastfeeding. As long both you and your child are happy, remember you took a good decision. As far as wearing is concerned, it might get difficult but not impossible. You need to be prepared to take all the steps to start weaning and not give into the demands for feeding from your child. If you feel that our child wants to be fed out of boredom, try to distract him into various other activities to keep him occupied. If you are pregnant and still want to nurse your toddler, be prepared because you milk levels might fluctuate. This is because your body is sending more resources towards your growing foetus.
After six months of age, a child needs more than the breast milk. Do not rely on breastfeeding only. Make sure your child has enough solids as per his age. Try to give him a balanced diet. Also, try to have a good diet yourself and make sure you are consuming enough iron and calcium. Keep a check on your water intake too. Extended breastfeeding needs a little more determination and support from your loved ones. If you overcome the challenges, you might enjoy this journey a little longer.
Best of luck 🙂