What You Need To Know About Extended Breastfeeding: Pros & Cons

First of all, Happiest Birthday to your little one, and congratulations to you for completing 1 year of motherhood, I know it wasn’t easy!

Now, once your child is past 12 months, the biggest question you’re going to ask yourself is whether you want to continue breastfeeding your baby. To continue or not to continue breastfeeding your child can be a huge decision, and it should be only you who should make the decision-not your partner and definitely not the society.

That being said, extended breastfeeding comes with its pros and cons.

There are a lot of pros and cons related to extended breastfeeding. Some of the major pros are- breast milk is very nutritious for your child, breastfeeding helps develop your child’s immune system which will reduce the chances of her getting sick. It’s a great way of boosting antibodies in your child’s body when she’s sick. It’s hassle-free and way cheaper, and also becomes a great way of bonding with your baby.

The cons of extended breastfeeding are- you can be judged for breastfeeding a toddler, your child can bite unintentionally while breastfeeding. It can be embarrassing for modest moms if the child is vocal in public. There are chances you don’t get any personal space. You can also continue having more sleepless nights because of nighttime feeding.

What does extended breastfeeding mean?

A busy mom with her toddler is doing extended breastfeeding over the ideal 1 year age.

In a single sentence, extended breastfeeding can be said as breastfeeding the baby beyond 12 months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that a mother should breastfeed her baby till the baby is 12 months of age whereas, World Health Organization states that mothers should breastfeed their babies till they are 2 years of age.

Extended breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily mean exclusively breastfeeding. Pumping mothers who pump and then feed their milk through a bottle or supplementing their breast milk with little formula in a bottle also means extended breastfeeding.

Now I know that whether to wean your baby from breastfeeding or not is a huge decision and it can’t be easy. It can give you massive anxiety thinking about the struggle and tears your baby is going to put up if you tried weaning her. But, don’t worry, let’s talk about the pros and cons and then you can make your own decision (psst…in the end, I’ll tell you what I decided for my baby).

Pros of extended breastfeeding

The benefits of extended breastfeeding for your toddler.

Breastfeeding is not something you need to absolutely stop once your child has hit the magical age of 1. The multiple advantages your child gets from your milk when she was a newborn are going to be the same when she’s 15 months, 26 months, or even 3 years.

Breast milk is nutritional

The nutrition in your breast milk never decreases post some age. There’s a reason it is called the ‘golden liquid’ for babies, and even though after your little one has turned 6 months of age and is now eating solids, your child receives most of the nutrition from your breast milk.

Breast milk provides all nutrients like vitamins, calories, fat, iron, potassium, enzymes, and more, which are needed for the growth and development of a baby. Breast milk ‘turns to water’ or will lack nutritional value after your child has turned 1 year is a complete myth. Studies show that breast milk protects babies from conditions like allergies, asthma, diabetes, and even obesity.

Breast milk when compared to other milk is very light and easily digested by babies and toddlers. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of babies suffering from an upset stomach, constipation, and diarrhea.  

Breast milk is also known to be quite beneficial for preemie babies and it is said that breastfed premature babies have an increased survival chance which also decreases the duration of NICU stays.

Breast milk provides immunity

The properties and the ability of your breast milk are truly magical. Your breast milk is tailored according to your baby’s needs.

I’ve read many studies and stories of mothers whose milk components or color have changed when their baby falls sick. It’s said that when your child is sick, your body provided the needed antibodies through the breast milk sometimes even before your baby shows any symptoms.

So the concept of the child falling sick through breastfeeding because the mother is sick too is completely baseless because your breast milk is the elixir that gives immunity from illnesses like pneumonia, ear infections, bacterial and viral infections, to your baby.

Bonding

Breastfeeding your little one is a great bonding time between the mother and the baby. For me, even on the busiest days, breastfeeding my son was the only time when I can get so many cuddles and be connected to my son. Each breastfeeding session was like ‘me and the baby’ time which believe it or not brings the mother and the baby quite closer to each other.

Breastfeeding also helps reduce the risk of postpartum depression and releases hormones like oxytocin (the happy hormone) in your body.

Comfort and security

Nursing your baby can really become the biggest tool to relax them. Though at times it can be stressful for the mother to frequently breastfeed their child when they’re upset, and for a small baby, lying on your breast comforts them.

Your baby feels the most comfort in her mother’s arm, and this is true. Place a crying baby in a mother’s lap and try breastfeeding, and she will quickly be super calm. This world is very new and big for a teeny-tiny baby, and there can be times when they’re scared and anxious and they feel comfortable and secure at your breast.

Breastfeeding is cheap and hassle-free

Breastfeeding your baby is easy and cheap. It’s also quite easy on your pocket. You don’t have to go through the whole process of sterilizing bottles, making formula, and sterilizing them every time your baby is hungry.

With breastfeeding, you just need to plop out your boob and your child is good to go. This is beneficial especially when you’re traveling. You won’t need a big bag with multiple feeding bottles, a bottle with hot water, a tin with formula powder, and all your baby will need is you!

Yes, breastfeeding, in the beginning, can be a struggle, but after a while, it becomes easy and easier as babies would’ve mastered the knack of sucking milk more efficiently.

Breastfeeding is beneficial for the mother

As you might already know, breastfeeding helps you keep your weight in check. You’re not likely to get your periods when you’re exclusively breastfeeding. But, some mothers do get their periods back even if they’re exclusively breastfeeding. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) states that prolonged breastfeeding duration protects from and reduces the risk of maternal diseases like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and heart attack.

Cons of extended breastfeeding

A tired mother is frustrated, while her toddler girl is sitting behind her crying. One of the negatives of extended breastfeeding is the continued reliance from the toddler on you to feed.

Sure, extended breastfeeding has many advantages but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. With the pros come the cons too.

  • You might hear a lot of judgmental comments from people on nursing an older kid. People may raise questions like, ‘Isn’t your baby a little older for you to breastfeed him?’, or ‘Are you still breastfeeding your 1-year-old?’
  • You might not get a ‘me-time’ when your baby always wants to breastfeed.
  • As your child grows older, she might not be discreet about wanting to breastfeed in public which may embarrass you.
  • Breastfeeding your toddler means you will still have many sleepless nights as they might want to nurse in the night too.
  • Extended breastfeeding can also mean you’ll have to excuse yourself every time your child wants to breastfeed which either might make you feel being left out from your friends and family or you might be affected by other’s judgment.
  • Though it’s easy to breastfeed your child, it can become exhausting when your toddler wants to breastfeed especially when you wanted some peace of mind.
  • Extended breastfeeding might affect your marriage and sex life, but hey you just need to have an open conversation with your partner and decide on what’s best and more suitable for your family.
  • It can also become difficult to wean your toddler as compared to a baby. Weaning your toddler may require more time and effort.
  • Your toddler might start relying on your boobs all the time when she wants your attention or is bored.

For me, the biggest con of extended breastfeeding is that my son only wanted me all the time. He would be very reluctant to go to anybody else when he was upset, and this would cause a hindrance for me to get anything else done in the house.

So, should you continue breastfeeding your child?

Well, this is something that is absolutely dependent on you and your baby. Breastfeeding your baby or toddler has many, many advantages, and if you can ignore the cons then you should go ahead and breastfeed your baby even after she has turned 1 year old.

If you’re thinking about what did I choose for my son? I chose to breastfeed my son. He’s 13 months old and I have decided to breastfeed him as long as he wants. As I said earlier, breastfeeding is the time when you get to spend some time with your baby and feel connected, and breast milk is so nutritious for the baby. Even though, breastfeeding didn’t come easily to me. It only became easy after going through months of painful engorgement, sore breasts, cracked nipples, and endless tears, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I always stood strong on the decision of breastfeeding my baby till he decided to wean himself, and maybe that day will come sooner or maybe it will be when he’s 2, it doesn’t matter, and for this, I made sure to shush out any voices that told me not to breastfeed my child anymore.

For me, the pros of breastfeeding easily overshadow the cons, but this in no way should influence you to continue breastfeeding. If you think that it’s time to wean your baby off, then you should go ahead (there’s absolutely no judgment here). There are a lot of mothers who aren’t able to breastfeed their child and they should in no way feel guilty or sad for not breastfeeding.

So, mamas, I leave it up to you to decide whether you should continue breastfeeding your toddler, and remember there’s no right or wrong answer here. It’s only you, parents, who will know to do what’s best for your child.

So, comment down below and tell me what you have decided and why!

Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid,  you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best'.

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