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. Thank you so much for posting this. My 4th child is 1 today and she is the first one that I have been able to exclusively breastfeed. My first 2 my milk just went away at 4 months and then my 3rd I stopped at 7 1/2 months after I got pregnant with my 4th. I have always wanted to be able to go a year (never thought I would) but now that it’s here I am not wanting to stop. This has been encouraging to me because I have gotten a lot of comments on the fact that I am still strictly breastfeeding. No supplementing formula. I have figured that if I have it why spend money on something that isn’t as good as the breast milk. My baby is super attached to me and has never liked a bottle. I am planning to go as long as I can and then maybe pump and put it in a sippy cup. Thanks!

    • Hi Stephanie,

      We’re happy to hear that you enjoyed this blog post. Thanks for sharing your story + keep up the great work!

      Kathy

  2. I am really proud to say that we are still breastfeeding at 14 months. As a mother who works outside the home full time it has taken commitment and determination to continue to make it work. But it is so worth it when I see how it fulfills her emotional needs and knowing it is supporting her physically as well. I am lucky to have my Mother as a great support person (she breastfed my sisters and I until we were 2). I am also lucky our daycare center is supportive of me continuing to send breastmilk. I am hoping I can continue to breastfeed for as long as she needs or desires to nurse.

    • Hi Elise,

      We’re so happy to hear that you’ve found amazing support in both your mother and your daycare provider. What a wonderful accomplishment! You should be very proud. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience + keep up the great work!

      Kathy

  3. I’m still nursing my 21 month old daughter to sleep and nap.
    This was something I really needed to read. I receive a lot of stares and comments from so called friends-”She’s STILL nursing”?!!
    I usually ignore or make a joke to ease the tension but it bothers me. WHy do people care? I’ve been feeling bad about it, but reading articles like this make me feel better.
    There’s nothing wrong with it..my daughter will let me know when she’s done, and I’m ok with that.

    • Hi Michelle,

      You’re absolutely right – it’s up to you and your baby to decide. You should be so proud of yourself for nursing for 21 months, what a wonderful thing to give to your little one. Thank you for sharing your story.

      Kathy

  4. I nursed my son for 16 months, i would have continued, but I was physically ready to stop. Quitting was one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever faced. And it broke my heart for him. However the last three months were starting to get too painful. I’m so glad I made it that far though.

    • Hi Amber,

      Weaning can be a very bittersweet time for moms. You should be so proud that you were able to breastfeed for 16 months, that is simply a wonderful accomplishment. Thank you for sharing with us + have a great day!

      Kathy

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