What Are the Benefits of Breastfeeding Past 1 Year?
byKathryn WalshApr 02, 2014
Photograph by Getty Images
Supplementing His VeggiesYour 1-year-old may munch on peaches and turkey, but just because he doesn't have to breastfeed doesn't mean he shouldn't. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers breastfeed beyond one year as long as doing so is mutually beneficial for mother and child. And the World Health Organization recommends children be breastfed until age 2 or beyond. Though the benefits your child receives from nursing don't change after his first birthday, they're no less positive.
By baby's first birthday, his diet should be varied enough that he doesn't rely on breast milk for all of its fats, proteins and vitamins -- but that doesn't mean he can't still benefit from these nutrients. Breast milk helps any growing baby, especially a picky eater, maintain a healthy nutritional balance. After all, explains the American Academy of Pediatrician's HealthyChildren.org website, breast milk hasn't been found to lose its nutritional value after a child reaches a certain age. And your breastfeeding baby also continues to take in the antibodies that strengthen his immune system and help him ward off illnesses. That's a big plus if your child is in child care, where illnesses spread quickly.
As an infant, your little one relied on you for everything. Now that he's moving into toddlerhood, he'll encounter more peers and deal with frustrating physical limitations He may also develop separation anxiety now too. This anxiety about being separated from a parent or caregiver may begin when your baby is as young as 8 months, but in many children this phase begins after the first birthday. Breastfeeding serves as an emotional comfort to a growing child. A breastfeeding session can help a toddler feel confident and secure.
More Benefits For You Both
The cost of feeding a growing toddler is considerable, so supplementing his diet with free feedings is a plus. Now that he doesn't nurse exclusively, you can breastfeed when it's convenient for both of you -- say, when a shopping trip runs long and he's starting to melt down because of hunger. Continuing this skin-to-skin contact past his first birthday may also help you feel bonded to your baby, and that's not the only benefit for you. A study of Chinese women published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that mothers who breastfed their babies past the age of 13 months were at a much lower risk of developing ovarian tumors than those mothers who breastfed for shorter periods.
There's nothing more natural than a mother feeding her child, but you may still be the subject of stares and questions when you breastfeed into toddlerhood. Some women choose to breastfeed only at home and teach their toddlers a code word to use when they want to nurse, HealthyChildren.org notes. Pediatrician William Sears suggests a breastfeeding mom tell those who ask questions that her doctor advised extended nursing. Eventually you'll wean your child off of breast milk, perhaps because your milk dries up, your child stops showing interest in nursing or it just feels like time. Don't let outside opinion influence your decision.