Should breastfeeding continue over the age of two?
Many moms decide to wean their babies at about six months because of the discomfort breastfeeding older children may create in society.
When people think of breasts they think of them as sexual objects instead of what they really are: Natural, beautiful parts of a woman’s body that were originally made to feed a child.
The health benefits of breastfeeding continue for as long as you breastfeed, so why not continue?
(Your baby is considered a toddler from 13 months until three years of age – The world average age for weaning is 4 years)
There is no “perfect” or “right” time to stop breastfeeding your baby or toddler.
The benefits of breastfeeding older children
- Breastfeeding is convenient – You don’t need to wean baby before he is ready to wean.
- Breastfeeding is calming – Have you ever heard of the terrible twos? Well, they are terrible. And in my case they lasted a whole year! When you breastfeed a toddler you can calm him when he starts to feel overwhelmed
- A breastfeeding toddler has immune protection – As long as you are nursing a toddler you are passing all your immunity to illness to your child, who will benefit for years to come.
- Nutrition – If baby doesn’t always eat enough food (especially when he is sick), at least he will be receiving something with all the necessary nutrients in it… and it’s free!
- Breastfed toddlers have been found to have a higher IQ and quicker motor skill development
- A New Zealand study on breastfeeding older children (older than a year), showed less behavioural problems in six to eight year olds
How does the extended breastfeeding help mom?
- Weight loss – Some moms say they just could not lose weight while breastfeeding, but then others lose the weight really quickly. It makes sense that mom will lose weight as she is losing about 1000 cal daily through breastfeeding. Some moms have found that the fat stores stay during the first year of nursing, but then disappear with the second. I think nature intended women to breastfeed for at least two years.
- Natural contraceptive – Not 100% safe, but yes 90% of the time a breastfeeding mom will not fall pregnant. So you could use breastfeeding to lengthen the time between babies.
- Prolonged breastfeeding can decrease mom’s risk of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer. It also decreases the risk of osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Breastmilk composition “breastfeeding nutrition” after six months
- Breast milk produced after six months contains protein, fat and other elements that are appropriate for breastfeeding older children
- A nursing toddler will receive greater amounts of immune protection factors (also protects against allergies)
- The breast milk will still contain all immune system factors that help the gut, brain and other organs mature and develop.
The challenges of breastfeeding a toddler
- You will need to let your toddler know if you are not comfortable with nursing in public.
- You will have to handle criticism from family friends and even strangers. The best thing to do is to visit or talk with other moms who are “like minded” and who are also breastfeeding older children.
Transition away from the breast should be a gradual one for baby, at baby's own pace. Studies show that the majority children will wean naturally between the ages of 3 and 4. So why not allow nature take its course? Don’t feel pressured by friends, family, or even your own pediatrician to stop breastfeeding. Do what works best for you and your toddler.
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