What Are The Benefits Of Breastfeeding Beyond One Year?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months and to then continue nursing along with solid foods for two years or for as long as Mum and Baby desire.
As a personal anecdote, I did not plan to breastfeed. It was not normal in my world. I had never been in the presence of a person breastfeeding. In my world babies were fed with bottles so why would I do any different?
Something happened when my baby was born though – I was compelled to try and honestly our breastfeeding journey offered me so much emotionally and physically. It was the best thing I ever did for my baby and I can’t imagine a reality where I wouldn’t have been breastfeeding.
That being said – even when I was enjoying breastfeeding I constantly put a limit on it. I don’t really know why but I started with six weeks, moved on to six months and then aimed for the year. By the time my son was a couple of months old, it had gotten so easy that I stopped planning an end date.
I ignored the constant questions about when we would “stop” and actually they became quite irritating as they implied that I was somehow suffering and that it was a sentence or punishment of sorts. We went on to happily breastfeed for two years and two months and I wouldn’t change a single thing.
You might be wondering why a mother might continue to breastfeed a baby passed the one year mark. The argument for many is that after one years of age they do not need breast milk as their diet provides adequate nutrition. But breastfeeding is so much more than milk. I learnt that very quickly. It is so entwined with the emotional bond and connection between mother and child. Your baby is always only one day older than they were yesterday and for many mums it simply feels natural to continue and unnatural to stop.
Here are some of the benefits of breastfeeding your baby for more than one year
1. Breast milk changes in composition to meet the needs of your baby. After the age of one it will still be contributing to your baby’s health and nutritional requirements.
2. It is an incredible tool for comforting your baby. When they are teething, have hurt themselves or come down with an illness breastfeeding will provide them with huge levels of comfort, security and nutrition when they might not be eating or drinking anything else due to the pain or sickness.
3. It can make the weaning process a lot more natural. Feeds will most likely gradually phase out and the weaning process will be less harsh and more natural which will make for a happier mother and baby.
4. After the age of one your child experiences rapid growth physically, socially and emotionally. This is one constant in a sea of change. It can help a child to feel safe and secure.
5. It continues to boost your child’s immune system even after infancy.
6. Research points at the fact that the longer children are breastfed for, the healthier they tend to be.
7. There is a declined risk of illness for the mother. It is believed to lower the risk of certain Cancers such as breast and ovarian Cancer. The longer you breastfeed for the lower the risk.
8. It is a welcomed moment of calm. Life is busy and hectic when caring for a wobbler/toddler. Having a little pocket of calm to just sit, cuddle and be together is a really wonderful thing.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.