HomeHealth articlesbreast milkWhat Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Breastfeeding Beyond 12 Months?

Breastfeeding Beyond 12 Months - Benefits, Challenges, and Drawbacks

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All mothers have breastfeeding-related worries. This article delivers the knowledge one must possess about the period of breastfeeding.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rajdeep Haribhai Rathod

Published At November 9, 2022
Reviewed AtNovember 9, 2022


Breast milk comprises multiple macronutrients (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), along with other various biologically active substances. It also contains antibodies, growth factors, cytokines, antimicrobial compounds, and specific immune cells. Breastfeeding possesses multiple health benefits. Apart from being the most appropriate and protective diet for the newly born baby, it is also beneficial for the mother. Breast milk is crucial for the growth and development of the newborn and is considered an invaluable source of nutrition for infants.

Planning a sufficient needful diet for your baby is worrisome. Despite various advancements in the formulation of formula milk, breast milk is still considered the best source of nutrition for growing infants. In some cases, weaning is practiced in the daytime, but the child is breastfed during the night.

Nursing a baby is a pleasurable experience for both mother and baby. Breastfeeding nourishes the baby and helps in developing a unique bonding between the mother and the baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Then, continuing breastfeeding, along with the introduction of solid or liquid food items, can be continued until the mother and baby desire.

Can a Mother Continue Breastfeeding Beyond 12 Months?

Breastfeeding for a longer period beyond one year is often referred to as extended breastfeeding. An extended period denotes a time period that is longer than normal. According to all health organizations, the recommended period for breastfeeding, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF, is up to one year. Still, breastfeeding can be continued till you and your baby prefer it. Extended breastfeeding after one year still has many beneficial effects for infants and breastfeeding mothers.

Some commonly reported benefits of extended breastfeeding are:

  1. Nutrition: Breastfeeding is the gold standard nutritional source for infants, and there is no particular age when the benefits could become insignificant.

  2. Improved Immune Response: With continued breastfeeding, the cells, hormones, and antibodies in the breast milk will continue to nourish the child's immune system.

  3. Reduced Health Risks for Mothers: Some studies claim a reduction in the chances of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes in mothers who continued breastfeeding for up to a year.

  4. Boosts Brain Development: It stimulates the child's brain development and promotes a higher IQ (intelligence quotient) in the breastfed child.

  5. Bonding between Mother and Baby: The mother and infants have skin-to-skin contact while breastfeeding. It builds an intimate connection between the baby and the mother.

What Are the Challenges Faced by Mothers for Breastfeeding Beyond 12 Months?

Breastfeeding beyond 12 months or extended breastfeeding helps the mother in developing closeness with the infants. It might be challenging to plan a nursing period for the baby. One might encounter criticism for continuing to nurse the toddler for an extended period. But the mother should try not to be affected by other people's opinions and avoid indulging in these discussions.

A sweet way to communicate your say about your breastfeeding choice is often the best way to handle the criticism for extended breastfeeding. The other way to handle criticism is by simply mentioning that you are doing so as it is advised by your doctor. To say that, you may simply mention it as the doctor's order. Usually, people would not argue with instructions from a doctor.

Will Breastfeeding Beyond 12 Months Make the Weaning Process More Complicated?

It is not necessary that breastfeeding beyond normalcy can have an impact on the weaning process. Weaning (introduction of solids) is variable for all infants. The easiest way to begin weaning is when your child initiates the process, which might be at anytime, and you might have to follow the hint from your baby. Weaning often begins naturally at about six months of age with the introduction of solid food. However, some babies start to gradually show the transition from breast milk and seek other forms of nutrition. Others might not initiate weaning and prefer breastfeeding.

What Are the Downsides of Continuing Breastfeeding Beyond 12 Months?

Although, most mothers consider extended breastfeeding good for their growing infants. However, there are some drawbacks associated with extended breastfeeding for an older child.

The negative impacts of breastfeeding beyond 12 months are:

  • Dealing with social criticism.

  • It can be exhausting at times.

  • There might be a feeling of loss of your freedom.

  • It may affect the child's behavior, as the child may find it embarrassing.

  • It may have an impact on your marriage and sexual life.

  • It may interfere with the ability to spend time with other family members.

Is Night-Time Nursing Good for an Older Child?

Most toddlers need nursing at night as they wake up from hunger in the nighttime. It may surprise many women, but it is very normal. If nighttime can be managed and your baby desires it, you may continue breastfeeding at night. Otherwise, you may try weaning for night feeding. If your child is resisting weaning at night, it can be tried again after some time.


Breastfeeding beyond 12 months is completely normal, and it is not unusual for a child to continue breastfeeding for an extended period. Extended breastfeeding possesses numerous advantages as per the properties of human breast milk. You should not let anything affect you when it comes to breastfeeding decisions for you and your baby, and you must focus on your baby’s desires. In addition, it helps in establishing nutritional, environmental, socioeconomic, psychological, and genetic interactions between the mother and the baby. That is why breastfeeding is recommended for about six months and which can be continued as long as mutually desired by the mother and the child.

Frequently Asked Questions


Are There Advantages to Breastfeeding Beyond One Year?

Breast milk contains antibodies that may aid children in battling infections. Breastfed babies have reduced asthma rates, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, respiratory infections, diarrheal illnesses, and diabetes. Breastfeeding can continue to provide nutrition, immune protection, and emotional benefits to the mother and child.


Are There Any Drawbacks to Extended Breastfeeding?

Extended breastfeeding does not have significant drawbacks, but some individuals may face challenges or social pressures. Continuing to breastfeed beyond infancy may demand more time and energy from the mother, and some may feel discomfort or inconvenience in specific situations.


What Is the Ideal Age for Discontinuing Breastfeeding for Optimal Health?

The best approach for infant feeding is to provide only breast milk to the baby during the first six months after birth. It is recommended by both the WHO (World Health Organization) and the American Academy of Pediatrics. They advise continuing breastfeeding along with additional foods. Additional foods can be introduced to a child's diet starting at six months of age and continue to be included until the age of two years or beyond.  The best approach for infant feeding is to provide only breast milk to the baby during the first six months after birth.


How Long Does Breastfeeding Provide Significant Benefits?

Motivating mothers to breastfeed their infants for at least one year is advisable, as breastfeeding is directly proportional to the level of protection against certain illnesses and chronic diseases.


Is It Acceptable to Breastfeed up to Two Years of Age?

Yes, breastfeeding is perfectly fine and normal until two years of age or beyond. The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding and additional foods for up to two years of age or beyond, as breastfeeding can provide essential nutrition, immune protection, and emotional benefits to both the mother and child.


Does Extended Breastfeeding Have the Potential to Create a Hormonal Imbalance?

A research study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that women who breastfed for at least two years had higher levels of the anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) in their blood and experienced menopause at a later age compared to those who breastfed for a month or less.


What Is the Most Difficult Aspect of Breastfeeding?

Although breastfeeding is a natural process, it can present difficulties for certain women. Some of the most common difficulties that women may encounter while breastfeeding include:
- Physical discomforts like sore nipples, engorgement, or infections. 
- Another difficulty can be ensuring that the baby is latching on correctly and getting enough milk. Sometimes women may also experience low milk supplies, which can be stressful and make breastfeeding more challenging.
- Finding a comfortable position to breastfeed in, especially if the mother had a C-section delivery or is experiencing back pain, can be another difficulty faced by the mother.


In What Situations May Breastfeeding Not Be the Best Choice?

Breastfeeding may pose more difficulties for a new mother in various situations, such as chronic physical or medical illness, prolonged use of certain medications, and history of mental illness, including postpartum depression or anxiety. In addition, not all women can produce enough milk or may not have access to a safe and supportive environment to breastfeed.


Can a Mother Continue to Breastfeed Her Child Indefinitely?

There is no specific age limit for breastfeeding. A mother does not need to breastfeed her child indefinitely. Breast milk becomes less nutritionally important as a child grows and eats more solid foods. It is usually recommended to gradually wean the child off breastfeeding around two years of age. Ultimately, the mother's decision to continue breastfeeding is personal and should be made in consultation with the doctor.


Do Breastfed Babies Become Intelligent?

Research studies have shown that there may be a correlation between breastfeeding and higher cognitive development in infants. Breast milk contains various nutrients and components beneficial for a baby's brain development, including fatty acids, proteins, and antibodies that support immune function.


What Is the Reason for a Toddler’s Love of Breastfeeding?

Toddlers may love breastfeeding due to their comfort and closeness when nursing and the taste and familiarity of their mother's milk. Breastfeeding can also serve as a source of emotional comfort and security for a toddler.


Can Breastfeeding Impact Personality?

Research suggests that breastfeeding can have a small but statistically significant effect on personality development. For example, studies have found that breastfed children for longer durations tend to have slightly better cognitive outcomes, lower rates of anxiety and depression, and fewer behavioral problems. However, other factors besides breastfeeding can influence personality, including genetics, environment, and life experiences.


What Is the Reason for Breastfed Babies Being Chubby?

Breastfed babies can be chubby for various reasons, including that breast milk is higher in fat content than formula, which can contribute to weight gain. Not every breastfed infant has a chubby appearance, and a healthy weight range differs among individuals.


Can Breastfeeding a Toddler Cause Tiredness in the Mother?

Breastfeeding a toddler can be tiring for the mother, especially as the child grows and demands more frequent and longer feedings.  It is normal for breastfeeding mothers to experience intense tiredness due to the emotional and physical demands of caring for a young child. Additionally, as toddlers age, they may naturally start to breastfeed less frequently, which can help reduce tiredness.


How Does Breastfeeding Impact the Development of the Brain?

Breastfeeding has been shown to impact infants' brain development positively. This is because breast milk contains various nutrients and bioactive compounds that support the growth and development of the brain, including omega-3 fatty acids, choline, and lactoferrin.
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Dr. Rajdeep Haribhai Rathod
Dr. Rajdeep Haribhai Rathod



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