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!

53 thoughts on “Extended Breastfeeding: Nursing Beyond a Year

  1. I’m on my third month of breastfeeding and plan to exclusively breastfeed until my baby turns 6months. Then IKll try carrying on with feeds when I get hom from work for a long as possible, if only at night and early mornings. BUT I am being told my son is growing fast and because he is big he may need more than breastmilk at possibly 4months. One Dr even suggested introducinf formula milk at 3months. Is this really necessary? And if so, what are the best first solids to introduce- butternut and sweet potato surely must be better than baby shop bought cereals? Thanks for a great blog!

    • Hi Carla, keep up the great work! Moms typically begin introducing solids around 6 months of age. Here are some tips to get started when you and your baby are ready: http://bit.ly/186XDT0

      If you’d like more information on increasing your supply, here’s a link to our blog with many tips: http://bit.ly/o77TdW – If you have further questions, please feel free to contact our Lactation Consultant: http://bit.ly/HyRD4n

      Hope this helps! – Kathy

    • I am not a dr nor do I know your specific case, but I am a mom of two big boys and EBF both until just after 6mo. In fact, with my 9 mo old (9lbs., 9oz. at birth, now about 20 lbs), we’ve been going extra slow with solids and he is a healthy, chunky baby. There is NO rush. They will be eating full meals in no time! As far as if your body is able to produce what is needed, talk to a LC. I’ve pumped some to help increase supply, but not had any issues. As far as first solids, with my first, I started with bananas, avocados, etc. With the second, that seemed too much for his little system (aka rough BMs), so we did brown rice cereal. You can always make your own to make it healthier, too! Grind up brown rice or quinoa or the like!

  2. My little one is 20 months old and no plans to stop nursing in the near future. It brings us so much closer to one another. Breastfeeding is without a doubt one of my greatest accomplishments!

  3. Anne-Marie Lee says:

    I am still bf my lo at 13 months. We have no plan, just day by day. My initial goal was one year, and I’m super proud that we made it, as I only managed 7 months with my first child. I do get many, “so how long are you planning to bf,” questions, but what can I say, I don’t have a crystal ball! I think the choices are so we wean because my daughter is done bf or because people want us to! Yep, my daughter’s needs trump yours, sorry!

  4. Kathryn TIKI McIntyre says:

    I breastfed my oldest daughter (now almost 4) for 2 years, and still breastfeed my 10 month old. I never got any backlash against it, and I’m not one to hide away. If they were hungry, they got fed. Although I was discreet … I was never worried about who was around, and who would see. I have nursed in many different and very public places including while going through security in an airport, in fine dining restaurants, at parades, at Jazz Fest, in church, in the checkout line at Whole Foods, while walking the dog, in the park. I have an ERGO Baby carrier which makes it easy to do hands free if necessary. As far as I am concerned, everyone has breasts…they are just a little different on men, women and children. Another thing i have always believed is that more cleavage is shown on daytime tv than while nursing a child. I believe the more women who breastfed confidently in public…the more confidence it will bring to other women who are interested in Breastfeeding. I wish every woman could experience the bond I have with my girls.

    • Hi Kathryn, thanks so much for sharing your experience. We’re proud of you for breastfeeding with confidence. Keep up the great work! -Kathy

  5. My daughter turned 2 n the 1st and is still nursing, not that I consider that extended… 3 or 4 maybe. I wouldn’t mind if she decided to stop, like yesterday, but she is still just a “baby” and it would devastate her if I stopped now. Nursing on!

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