Many women ask the question, “Should I breastfeed past 12 months?” While it generally comes down to personal preference, milk supply, and your toddler’s willingness to nurse, many mothers are deciding to nurse two years and beyond. What are the benefits to nursing past 12 months?
- Breastmilk can help your baby fight off illness
Recently, a Facebook post went viral of a picture of expressed breast milk. One bag showed the milk that was pumped one day before, and the other bag showed the milk that was pumped the day the baby came down with a cold. After being frozen, the milk that had been pumped that day resembled the nutrient-rich colostrum that babies receive when they are first born. Studies show that a mother’s milk will change based on her baby’s needs. The human body actually “reads” the baby’s saliva, and in turn creates antibodies to help the baby fight off his or her cold. In some cases, it can be seen in the color of the milk. Any amount of help to get your little one over a cold is worth it.
- Nursing can prevent breast cancer
The longer a mother nurses, the more her risk of cancer decreases. Recent studies show that women who nursed 13 months or longer had a decrease in their risk for breast cancer, as opposed to those who didn’t nurse at all. The risk of cancer dropped even further for mothers who nursed 24 months or longer.
- Breast milk is jam-packed with immunities
Breastfed babies still get a lot of immunities from mother’s milk even if they are eating solids. Breast milk isn’t simply a comfort food for an older baby or toddler; it is the best way to build your baby’s immune system. Babies who wean at a year have immune systems that are only 60 percent developed. So the longer you nurse, the more developed your baby’s immune system will become.
- Constant nursing won’t always be required
By six months of age, solids should be introduced. If your baby is eating solids, chances are they are nursing less frequently. The introduction of solid food is vital, but continuing to nurse is just as vital. You may nurse in the morning and at night if you so choose, or you can nurse more often. The choice is yours. Any amount of breast milk your child receives, whether large or small, is important. If your child is weaned prior to one year, formula will have to be used as a supplement.
- Nurse for comfort
Babies nurse for many reasons other than hunger. They are scared, hurt, upset, etc. No matter the age, a child still needs comfort, and breastfeeding is a fantastic way to give them that comfort. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy quality bonding time with their child?
- It’s recommended
The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends nursing for at least the first year, and the WHO (World Health Organization) recommends nursing for at least two years.
Overall, it is your choice. How long are you comfortable nursing for? Does it feel too demanding to have your 2-year-old child latching on? Is working making it harder to nurse? Your reasons for nursing past a year or for not nursing past a year are yours alone. Do not let others tell you what is right or wrong. Do what feels right for you and your baby.