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Extended Breastfeeding - How Long Is Too Long?

Published on Jun 23, 2022   -  4 min read

Abstract

Most mothers are concerned about the period of continuation of breastfeeding for their newborns. This article classifies breast milk's role in an older baby's diet.

Contents

Introduction:

Breast milk comprises multiple macronutrients (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and other biologically active substances. It also contains antibodies, growth factors, cytokines, antimicrobial compounds, and specific immune cells. Breast milk also contains IgA, IgM, and IgG immunoglobulins.

Nursing your baby is a pleasurable experience for both mother and baby. It nourishes the baby and helps develop a unique bonding between the mother and the baby. Breastfeeding has multiple health benefits for both the baby and the mother. 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 an invaluable source of nutrition for infants.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding your baby for the first six months of life. Then, you may start introducing solid or liquid food items. However, it is crucial to continue breastfeeding until your baby turns one.‌

What Do You Understand About Extended Breastfeeding?

The best food that fulfills all the nutritional needs for infants is breast milk for the initial six months. After that, there are no known food alternatives that could have equal benefits like breast milk. Gradually after some time, infants are introduced to other solid and liquid foods to meet their nutritional needs, usually up to one year. After that phase, there comes a time when the infants are made more dependable on cow's milk and other solid food items and gradually stopped from breastfeeding.

Any breastfeeding practice that extends beyond one year of age is known as extended breastfeeding. In some cases, weaning is practiced in the daytime but breastfeeding during the night.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests feeding with breast milk for the first six months of life. After that, you need to gradually start introducing solid or liquid food items in your toddler's meal to provide adequate nutrition needs.

Is Breastfeeding Beneficial Beyond Infancy?

According to all health organizations, the recommended period for breastfeeding, including AAP, WHO, and UNICEF, is up to one year. Still, you can practice breastfeeding till you and your baby desire it. Extended breastfeeding after one year still has many beneficial effects for newborns and breastfeeding mothers.

Some commonly reported benefits of extended breastfeeding are:

  1. Good 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 your breast milk will nourish your child’s immune system.

  3. Reduced Health Risks for Mothers: Some studies suggest 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 breastfeeding child.

  5. Bonding Between Mother and Baby: It provides an intimate connection between the baby and the child.

What Are the Challenges of Extended Breastfeeding?

Extended breastfeeding helps you develop closeness with your child. It might be challenging to plan your nursing time for your baby. You might face people criticizing you for continuing to nurse your toddler for an extended period. But you need to know that you have to avoid indulging in these discussions.

A short, sweet way to communicate your say to your breastfeeding choice is often the best way to handle the criticism for nursing a toddler. The other way to take criticism is simply mentioning that your doctor has advised you to keep breastfeeding. To say that, you may simply mention that it is my doctor's order. Usually, people would not argue with instructions from a doctor.

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.

Will Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy Make the Weaning Process More Complicated?

Breastfeeding beyond normalcy would not necessarily make the weaning process difficult for you. The easiest way to begin weaning is when your child initiates the process, which might be anytime, and you might have to follow the hint from your baby.

Weaning often begins naturally at about six months of age on 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 until their toddler years.

How Can I Handle Negative Impact on Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy?

You and your child decide the period of breastfeeding. You should not worry about anyone’s opinion. You can remind them that the decision is yours. Try not to get influenced by what others think about you. Breastfeeding after infancy indicates an intimate way of nurturing your child.

Conclusion:

Human milk is considered the best food for infant feeding. However, extended breastfeeding possesses advantages that extend beyond the properties of human breast milk. It provides various health benefits to breastfed infants and the breastfeeding mother. In addition, it establishes nutritional, environmental, socioeconomic, psychological, and genetic interactions between the mother and the baby. That is why breastfeeding is recommended for about six months which can be continued as long as mutually desired by the mother and the child. Breastfeeding is best for the child's overall development and even protects the mother from many fatal diseases.

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Last reviewed at:
23 Jun 2022  -  4 min read

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