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. We are fast approaching my goal of 12 months with no end in sight. I thought I would be ready, but I don’t want to stop yet! My first 2 were weaned at 6 & 8 months, but we are having so much success this time around, we may just keep on going!

    • It’s ultimately your call, so do whatever feels right. Thanks for sharing, Bethany – and keep up the great work! – Kathy

  2. Jennifer Otting says:

    I am coming to a year in 2 days!! I plan to breastfeed until about 2 or until he is ready to self wean. I love my time with him. He also has been healthy and I think the breastmilk has really helped with that. I love feeding him. No plans to stop anytime soon!

  3. My youngest is almost 18 months and he still nurses 2-3 times per day!!! It’s crazy with our busy schedule but we both still enjoy our snuggle nurse time!

  4. I planned on extended breastfeeding my daughter is 13 months .but had to stop 2 weeks ago .i had gotten a horrible MRSA infection out of know where and had to go on anitbotics for of 2 weeks. And my milk had started to fade away and my daughter really wasent interested after she FINALLY took a bottle .I was really sad and disappointed for a few weeks .i think it was harder on me then her I miss it !

    • Hi Katie, weaning can be a very bittersweet time for moms. Know that you provided perfect nutrition for your daughter for over a year – that’s such a beautiful gift. Congratulations! – Kathy

  5. Stephanie Russell says:

    My daughter turned 2 in August and we are still going strong. I’m letting her decide when to wean. She’s as smart as a whip and I have no plans to stop until she’s ready.

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