Extended Breastfeeding: Nursing Beyond a Year

July 8, 2013

happy familyWe all remember the “Are You Mom Enough?” cover of Time Magazine in May 2012, featuring model Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her 3-year-old son. It caused a media and mommy uproar over nursing beyond the first year, also known as extended breastfeeding. But whether or not you do it, extended breastfeeding is exceedingly common around the world. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for as long as you and your child mutually desire it.

It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again: breast milk is liquid gold.

Extended breastfeeding provides numerous benefits for your child, even as a toddler. Your breast milk continues to change to meet the nutritional needs of your growing child. It provides crucial immunities, enzymes and vitamins that your child may not get from solid foods, ensuring he or she is as healthy as possible. Breast milk can also be a cure-all for many bugs your child may catch, especially if he or she is sharing germs with other kids at day care or on play dates.

There are remarkable benefits for moms as well. Extended breastfeeding is connected to lower risks of cancer in women, especially breast and ovarian cancer. While breastfeeding, moms may not get their period for a year or more. Great news for moms who don’t want to go back to monthly cramps, PMS and bloating! It’s also a healthy way to keep your weight in check after pregnancy. Moms who breastfeed longer tend to lose more of their pregnancy weight.

Unfortunately, western society tends to stigmatize mothers who choose to nurse “older” children since such an emphasis is placed on independence and individuality in our culture. For toddlers, extended breastfeeding can be an important source of emotional support, as well as continued nutritional benefits and physical growth. Nevertheless, it is a perfectly natural and beneficial way to nourish your bond with your child. If you’re faced with criticism when you breastfeed, have a response ready. Whether it’s a witty joke, a surprising fact or simply ignoring the comments, make sure it reflects you and your personality.

What do you think about extended breastfeeding? What is the most important breastfeeding benefit to you and your little one? Share with us in the comments below!

40 thoughts on “Extended Breastfeeding: Nursing Beyond a Year

  1. My baby is also 10 months old and my ultimate goal is 18 months if he will keep it up. He’s really curious while he’s nursing now, especially if big sisters come in. I try to nurse him in a quiet place and that helps. I pump at work (with the Advanced In Style Double pump!!) and I’m constantly asked when I will stop pumping and I tell them when my baby and I are ready. I get dirty looks when I say 18 months and I also get comments because he only gets solids twice a day! He gains weight and grows just fine so I ignore them…I know what’s best for him and I’m the not afraid to speak her mind type :-) .

    • That’s great to hear, Jeana. It’s so unfortunate how many moms receive negative comments about their personal decisions. Thank you for speaking up for yourself – you never know if you could help out another breastfeeding mom or help someone think twice about what they’re saying. It makes a difference! – Kathy

  2. My little one is 8 months old. We are still going strong in bf. I love the closeness that we have while he’s breastfeeding. My desire is to allow him to breastfeed as long as he wants too. I know I won’t have everyone’s support and that’s ok. Every time I feed him and look at those adoring eyes I get all the confirmation I need.

    • Tasha, that’s so sweet. You’re right – it only really matters to you and your baby. No one else gets to experience that beautiful bond. Thanks for sharing – Kathy

  3. I had prayed with my first to make it to six months with ONLY breastmilk and when I did I just kept going and never looked back….nursed her until almost age three–even through my entire pregnancy with baby two and then tandem nursed them both for an entire year after–never had thought I would do that, but the more I learned about breastmilk the more convinced I was/am that it is the most amazing substance in the world. I ended up nursing first child until a week before 3rd birthday and baby two until about a month after 3rd birthday–yep that’s five years straight lactating and I am sooo happy I did breastfeed that long!!!! I ignored the comments or politely told people them it is my and my child’s choice-thanks!

    • Hi Bridget, that’s a perfect response to criticism. Thank you for sharing your experience – we’re proud of you for sticking with it as long as you did. – Kathy

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