Extended Breastfeeding

Extended breastfeeding is not very popular in most western countries due to traditional concepts of promoting self-sufficiency and independence in the baby. However, in many eastern countries extended breastfeeding continues up to the 2nd birthday. This method is natural and healthy, but for many it also means listening to a lot of disapproving comments from others.

What Is Extended Breastfeeding?

Extended breastfeeding usually refers to the continuation of breastfeeding after the normal breastfeeding period of 1 year. The decision to breastfeed your child is entirely yours and should be made in the light of what is best for the child. WHO advises mothers to breastfeed their children for two years, but it can be continued for an additional year or so. Most western moms stop breast-feeding their babies after six months of age, which is still a fairly young age to be deprived of the ‘much needed’ nutrition that is obtained from maternal milk.

What Are the Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding?

The benefits of breast-feeding are immense and encompasses the lives of both the mother and the child. Here is a look at how extended breastfeeding is beneficial for you and your child.

1.    Benefits for Kids

  • Balanced nutrition

Children are very meticulous when it comes to eating. In some cases, this habit may compromise their capacity to consume a balanced diet. In such cases, breastfeeding can fill the nutritional gap and make up for the discrepancies in the diet. However, the habit of nursing should not hinder other developmental milestones, for example weaning.

  • Boosted immunity

Breast milk has important nutrients and antibodies, which helps with boosting immunological functioning of the body to protect your child from several acute and chronic diseases. Breast milk prepares the body against cold, flu, fever and allergies. Even if your child gets sick, the intensity of his condition will be less severe and healing processes will be much faster.

  • Better physical conditions

Research studies have shown that babies who are breastfed beyond one year of age have lesser chance of developing cardiovascular diseases as an adult. In addition, the risk of developing other metabolic conditions also decreases such as hypercholesterolemia, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

  • Brain development

Breast milk is richly supplied with DHA and omega-3-fatty acids, both of which are important for the development of neuronal connections, maintenance of intelligence and brain function.

  • Comfort and rest

Breastfeeding acts as a pacifier and helps withcalming a fussy baby. Since babies undergo intense metabolic changes after birth, they are more prone to getting tired and adopting a fussy behavior. Healthcare providers suggestthat breastfeeding is a useful option that can be utilized in all such cases.

2.      Benefits for Mom

Numerous clinical and retrospective studies have suggested that breastfeeding moms are less prone to develop metabolic and malignant lesions. Several benefits of breastfeeding in lactating moms are:

  • ŸReduced risk of developingbreast cancer
  • ŸNatural contraception (as lactation delays the return to ovulation)
  • ŸMinimal risk of developing ovarian, endometrial and uterine cancer
  • ŸFacilitates the mother in easy weight loss
  • ŸReduced risk of developing cardiovascular diseases
  • ŸReduced risk of developing osteoporosis
  • ŸLactating moms are at low risk of developing chronic metabolic issues like type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis

Common Concerns about Extended Breastfeeding

Is It Going to Affect the Weaning Process?

For most babies weaning is a natural process and is bound to occur eventually. Usually, babies start looking for other sources of food after six months of age, which is the time when solid food should be introduced to the baby’s diet.

In vast majority of cases, weaning is commenced at about 1 year old without any hindrance from the baby. While, it can be hard for some babies who is less willing to sit still when breastfeeding. Extended breastfeeding does not affect the transition from exclusive breastfeeding to semi-solid and solid foods.

Coping With Negative Reactions

Perhaps the biggest problem for a mother who is considering extended breastfeeding is to face the negativity from her close ones, especially under cultures where extended breastfeeding is not a common practice. The unwanted stares and comments can add up to the pressure of being a parent and can stress you out. But the best way to deal with this situation is to keep reminding yourself the reason why you choose to continue breastfeeding for your child. In addition, you can also come up with a few answers beforehand, just in case you need to use them for any distressing comments. It has been observed that overly negative remarks and gestures can affect the confidence and self-esteem of the baby.

Dealing With the Baby

If you are considering extended breastfeeding, you should prepare yourself for some negative surprises from your baby. Your kid may act inappropriately in public areas, which can be a source of embarrassment to mothers, for instance lifting your top when he wants to be breastfed or pointing towards your breasts, etc. To deal with such a situation, distract your child with his favorite toys. They are, after all, very eager to explore the world.

Extended breastfeeding is beneficial for the mother and the baby in many ways, but the important thing to remember is to stay focused on your goal for the sake of your kid and not feel pressurized by the stereotypes around you, after all it is not fair to be treated differently just because your practices are uncommon.

Here is a video showing a mom breastfeeding her toddler and you may find a support from such an action: