Often, pediatricians recommend breastfeeding a baby until at least one year, but extended breastfeeding for over 2 years of age has become more and more popular. This is because there are many different benefits of extended breastfeeding. What are they?
Well, let me explain…
Here are the benefits of extended breastfeeding:
- Helps with nutrition
- Children with better health
- Higher intellectual development
- Better social skills
- Boosts relationships
- Delays fertility
- Reduces risk of cancer
- Helps you lose weight
- Let’s you get a break!
1. Extended Breastfeeding Helps with Nutrition
It is said that breastfeeding a child is the best thing a mother can do. While the quality of formula and breast milk substitutes have greatly increased, studies show that breast milk will still always be the best source of nutrition.
This is because the mother’s milk naturally changes with time, adjusting to the needs of the child. If the child needs more energy than fat content, the milk will adjust and give the baby what it needs.
Formula is static, it does not change when the child grows older.
Due to contrary belief, mothers who lactate over one year, have higher fat and energy contents in their breast milk than others.
Even though breast milk might only seem like a thirst quencher without much nutritional value, breast milk provides the child with so much more.
In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breast milk provides:
- 29% of energy requirements
- 43% of protein requirements
- 36% of calcium requirements
- 75% of vitamin A requirements
- 76% of folate requirements
- 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
- 60% of vitamin C requirements
— Dewey 2001
Breast milk provides a child with all of the necessary nutrients it needs to develop and thrive. Remember, children over 1 should also be eating some form of solid foods, where they would be getting the rest of the nutrients.
Check out this post with some amazing suggestions on what to feed your child.
2. Children with Better Health
The benefit of extended breastfeeding is increasing your child’s health.
Babies who are breastfed longer have a lower risk of illness and have a better immune system than those who were breastfed shortly or formula-fed.
When a baby experiences an illness during breastfeeding, the mother’s skin picks up on the illness through the saliva and creates antibodies for the baby.
This is basically like a natural medicine for the child.
3. Higher Intellectual Development
Although debatable, studies have shown that children who are breastfed longer have higher IQ scores.
This is mainly because breastfed children are held in various positions. Therefore, they get to experience the same thing in many ways. This stimulates their brain to learn and grow, even during quiet nursing times.
On the other hand, bottle-fed babies are often held in the same position. This gives them no variety.
If you do formula feed your baby, try switching up the positions more often to give them that mental stimulation.
4. Better Social Skills
When children spend time with you, they are developing their social skills.
They learn to be around people, to hear you talk, to interact with you, and much more.
When you breastfeed, a child has your attention and you can’t leave. However, when a baby drinks a bottle it might be tempting to sneak away for a quick bathroom break or snack.
Therefore, breastfed children often have a closer relationship with their mother. However, saying this, it is not always true. Some formula-fed babies are clingier to their mom as they don’t get their cuddle time during mealtimes.
It really depends on you and your child.
5. Relationship Booster
One of the most popular benefits of extended breastfeeding is that it boosts the relationship between mother and child.
Breastfeeding not only meets the nutritional needs of the child, but it also energizes the child, soothes any bumps and bruises, and helps the child manage stress in their daily lives.
Mothers also report having a closer and more positive relationship with their child when they breastfed longer.
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6. Delays Fertility
Although not proven risk-free, breastfeeding can help delay fertility in women.
While breastfeeding, a woman releases hormones that let her body know she is still nourishing a baby. Once these hormones stop, the body is more likely to bump up the fertility.
Personally, I stopped breastfeeding at 10 months due to health reasons. The next cycle after I was pregnant again. I guess this holds true for me!
7. Reduces the Risk of Cancer
Another huge benefit of breastfeeding is that it decreases the risk of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer.
This is especially true for moms who choose to start a family later in life.
With all of the other benefits, this one is just an added bonus!
8. Weight loss… wohoo!
Although it might feel as if the baby weight will never come off for most of us, with hard work it will. Or if you are one of those lucky mothers who drops the pounds easily this might be a no-brainer for you.
Extended breastfeeding has been linked to faster weight loss after pregnancy.
When you breastfeed, your body is burning calories creating milk, and giving some calories to your child in the milk as well. This decreases your daily calorie intake which means less weight for you!
9. Let’s you get a Break
Often, we can be caught up in doing our motherly chores around the house and forget to take a break.
Breastfeeding lets you take a break during the day to sit down and relax, without feeling guilty.
This is especially true when you have more than one child who needs your attention all day. It’s a welcome excuse to sit down, cuddle up, and relax.
These are just a few benefits of extended breastfeeding, yet there are so many more.
If breastfeeding is a struggle for you, extended breastfeeding might not be the way to go. And that is totally okay!
Formula feeding your child should bring no guilt, as fed is best! Your baby is still getting all they need from their bottle.
If you are interested in switching from breastfeeding to formula feeding, check out my post on this topic. I give you some tips and amazing suggestions on how you can do the dreaded switch fast and easily.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you considered continuing to breastfeed? How about keeping in mind the benefits of extended breastfeeding?
Until next time,