by Elizabeth Nagle
Why you and your baby can benefit from extended feeding
While it’s fun starting your baby on solids from six months, some women follow the old wives’ tale of going straight to cow milk when their loved one starts on food, when they really don’t need to give up feeding just yet. There’s so much pressure to change to formula, or go to other forms of milk, but there’s no need to stop breastfeeding if you and baby aren’t ready to. There are so many benefits to mum and bub for feeding beyond six months, and even beyond a year, that many don’t know of. Here are some facts you can give, the next time someone tries to tell you to stop breastfeeding your loved one:
A valuable source of nutrition past one year of age
All information available at present shows that breastfeeding is still an important nutrition source, and offers protection from some diseases (for the duration of breastfeeding). Breastmilk doesn’t suddenly lose its benefits as soon as your baby turns one.
Breastfeeding your toddler can give them:
- 29% of his daily energy needs
- 43% of protein requirements
- 75% of Vitamin A requirements
- 60% of Vitamin C requirements.
(Source: Dewey KG 2001, Nutrition, growth and complementary feeding of the breastfed infant.)
Breast milk changes to suit your baby
This is one of my favourite facts about feeding! No two mother’s breast milk is the same; if you have a premature baby, your milk will be different than if you were to have had a full-term baby. This continues throughout the breastfeeding journey; the milk you produce for your toddler continues to change as they grow.
No matter how old your child gets (in some countries they breastfeed until age seven or more!), breast milk is still perfect for your child, because it is always changing and adapting to their needs.
In built comfort
There’s nothing wrong with comforting your child when they’re upset or scared. You can’t spoil them with affection! Breastfeeding is a fantastic way to provide your child with comfort when they are sick or hurt; I know when my little girl is sick, she often won’t eat anything, so it’s great to be able to give her breast milk when she refuses everything else.
Breastfeeding gives your child a sense of security and stability, and helps them feel close to you, even as they go through their rapid developmental changes.
Breastfeeding provides so many medical benefits for both mum and baby, and the longer you feed, the more protection you’ll both receive.
For baby, the benefits include:
- More resistance to infections, so less illnesses and less instances of hospitalisation.
- Lower risk of developing lactose intolerance and allergies
- Less thrush and nappy rash
- Compared to formula fed babies, those who are breastfed are at a lower risk of developing heart disease, obesity, or developing malnutrition
Mum gets some benefits too, from increased bonding with their child to having a lower risk of developing breast cancer. How wonderful is breastfeeding?
Makes weaning easier when the time comes
Trying to wean a child before they’re ready just makes things horrible for all concerned. Letting breastfeeding progress (and end) at your baby’s pace makes for a much more pleasant weaning experience.
I hope this blog has encouraged you to reconsider, or has changed, your opinions on breastfeeding past six months, or even a year. You and bub will both benefit from the amazing things that only breastfed mothers and babies share. Enjoy the bond it fosters, and know that even though it may be tough sometimes, it’s one of the best things you can do for your baby.
Guest Blogger Elizabeth lives in Brisbane with her husband and daughter. She’s a passionate breastfeeding advocate, and wants to spread awareness and education about breastfeeding, to help other mums have the best nursing journey they can.
Elizabeth loves to write whenever she gets the chance (which isn’t often with a toddler). She also enjoys food, wine, and lazy days with Netflix.