“How much longer do you plan to breastfeed?” This is a question I get quite often. (My baby is 17 months old.)
I’m happy to answer openly — but I never felt the need to go into too much detail regarding my answer until it was my husband asking the question.
I responded to him by rattling off a few of the benefits of extended breastfeeding (beyond 1 year). But it left me feeling like I didn’t quite articulate what extended breastfeeding really meant for me and our baby.
It kind of made me sad because I obviously hadn’t done a good job communicating all of the known benefits, in addition to my decision to keep milking a good thing — so to speak.
He really stumped me when he asked how many other mothers I knew who breastfed beyond 1 year.
I really didn’t know very many, as most of my ‘mom friends’ stopped breastfeeding for a variety of reasons:
- “One day, my baby just stopped and didn’t want to nurse anymore.”
- “Breastfeeding was quite painful, and I finally just said I was done.”
- “I couldn’t produce enough milk.”
If you talk to any number of mothers, you will find the list of reasons that women stop breastfeeding are endless. I certainly don’t pass judgment for any of the reasons why. And I do feel empathy for the mothers who never got a chance to breastfeed — especially when they really wished they could.
Before… Breastfeeding Toddlers Seemed Weird To Me
I definitely count my blessings — because I know it’s not always easy or possible for some mothers.
Before I became a mother, I didn’t really understand the concept of breastfeeding. Especially when it came to a mother’s choice of allowing her toddler (no longer a baby) to breastfeed. It just seemed weird… until I became a mother myself.
I think Mayim Bialik said it best:
When I see my precious son gaze into my eyes and grin that milky grin – the same eyes that looked into mine minutes after he careened out of my body; the eyes that convinced me that my only job was to keep this child thriving with the miraculous resources given to me through my body- not much else matters. Source
Now… I’m A Breastfeeding Advocate
As a mother who is still breastfeeding my baby (almost toddler) at 17 months, I can confidently say… I am an advocate for breastfeeding.
I honestly don’t know how long I will continue to breastfeed.
I will more than likely let my baby decide — because I know one day he will simply grow out of it, just like his clothes.
Benefits Of Breastfeeding
Baby and I have both enjoyed the benefits of extended breastfeeding firsthand.
Here are just a few of the reasons I am grateful that I’ve been able to breastfeed for so long:
- Breast milk is the best nutrition for baby. It is now universally recognized there is no commercial equivalent to breast milk. Baby is getting milk which is rich in vitamins, nutrition, digestive enzymes, hormones, carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. My baby is eating solid foods too — but it’s nice to know he is getting all of his nutritional needs met with the breast milk. He was off the charts at most of his wellness checks, and now he weighs as much as some 2 and 3 year olds we know.
- Breast milk keeps your baby healthy. Breast milk contains immune boosting components — which help the baby resist infections. There is an actual information exchange at the breast between baby’s saliva and receptors in the mammary gland, and the breast milk is constantly customized and changing according to your baby’s needs. Breast milk is formulated with the appropriate antibodies and immunity cells. My baby has only been sick with a cold a couple of times in 17 months. We have been so fortunate to have such a healthy baby, never experiencing high fever or constant ear infections.
- Breastfeeding gives mom a higher metabolism. I actually lost weight after my baby’s birth and ended up lighter than my pre-pregnancy weight. I have an insatiable appetite and generally eat whatever I want without exercising. I read that breast milk is generated from the fat in my body. Technically, I’m still eating for two. (At least, that’s how I always justify my second helping!)
- The breastfeeding sessions are priceless. My baby latched on within minutes after birth and we instantly were bonded. I opted for chest to chest contact for 1 hour immediately after his delivery –because it was our best chance to start breastfeeding naturally. Nowadays, we are pros at breastfeeding and it’s our chance to connect quietly during the busy-ness of our lives. It gives me a break from the endless housework, and I love to have baby just sit still, quiet, and close — even if only for a few minutes.
- Breastfed babies are easier to calm and soothe. My baby can be instantly comforted when I draw him close to my breast. It has been the easiest way to calm my baby from crying, having tantrums, or whining as a result of being overly-tired.
- Breastfeeding builds a baby’s confidence. When I look at my 17 month old, there is no question he is still a baby — even though he is on the cusp of toddlerhood. He has the rest of his life to be big, strong, independent, and no longer needing his MaMa… or my breastmilk. At this stage, I’m happy and grateful to always be there for him. As MaMa, I’m privileged to soothe, comfort, and encourage him as he builds his confidence with all the developmental milestones he will face during the first 3 years of his life. (Babies learn the most in their first 3 years than they ever will in any other 3 year span in their life.)
- Breastfeeding gives baby a built-in mobile milk bar anywhere… anytime. I’ve never had to warm a bottle or prepare formula. I pumped for a bit at first in the beginning, but my baby never took to a bottle — so I ended up giving my frozen milk away before it expired. With breastfeeding on demand, baby always has access to milk without having to pack it or store it. There were cons to this for sure… like never being able to leave my baby for the first 8 months because he was exclusively breastfed until that point. But it was such a short window of precious time that I don’t regret it one bit.
- Breastfeeding delays the return of your period. When I was pregnant, I really enjoyed the absence of my monthly menstrual cycle because my ‘time of the month’ was miserable, painful, and irregular. I was beyond excited to not have another monthly visitor until 17 months postpartum. Yes, I said it right — basically 2 years and 2 months menstrual cycle free, counting the months I was pregnant! My menstrual cycle has recently returned and I can say with absolute confidence, I definitely didn’t miss it. I guess it’s fair to say… I was milking the benefits of extended breastfeeding to avoid my menstrual cycle for as long as possible.
- When breastfeeding, you have an increased breast size. I have never had any meaningful size breasts — I’ve always been a B cup pre-pregnancy. I have tried to be thankful for the way God made me, but I certainly have been enjoying a full cup size increase! I feel better proportioned, my clothes fit better, and I am less self-conscious about my chest.
Benefits Of Extended Breastfeeding
There are many more known benefits to breastfeeding beyond 1 year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) advocates exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life for optimal baby’s health and development.
They even recommend continuing breastfeeding with complementary foods up to 2 years of age — and beyond.
Extended breastfeeding is not only beneficial for the baby. It’s good for mothers as well — because breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of:
- Breast Cancer
- Ovarian Cancer
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Postpartum Depression
There are long-term benefits too. For example, studies have shown that children, adolescents and adults who were breastfed are less likely to suffer from obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Read some other amazing facts about breastfeeding here.
The Bottom Line…
Extended breastfeeding comes with so many benefits, and I am beyond blessed (and grateful!) to have the ability to nourish and nurture my baby with my breast milk for so long.
As a Mama, I just want what is best for my baby — and I’m not interested in taking away something so special from my baby just yet.
Like I said before, baby will outgrow nursing like he does his clothes. But it will be up to him to decide — or I, should I choose I don’t want to breastfeed anymore. (Whichever comes first)
I am inclined to let nature run its course as long as I’m still producing milk packed full of healthy immune system building ingredients vs. some synthetic manmade concoction.
I hope this article helps shed some light on the subject: Breast is Best. Please support any Mamas you may know and their decision to feed their child from the breast.
More Info About Extended Breastfeeding
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources to help you learn more about the benefits of extended breastfeeding beyond 1 year:
- Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy: What You Need To Know
- Dr. Sears On Extended Breastfeeding: Science Is On Your Side
- Breastfeeding Past 1 Year: A Helpful Fact Sheet For New Moms
- 68 Breastfeeding Myths Dispelled
- Celebrity Moms Who Practiced Extended Breastfeeding
- Beautiful Quotes About Breastfeeding
I’m a first-time mom. I work from home and write — mostly about my quest for time- and sanity-saving techniques as a new mom. I also like to share details about the alternative choices I’m exploring, as I enjoy this journey called motherhood. My family includes a newborn, 2 teenage stepchildren (who live with their mom), 2 dogs, 2 cats, and a wonderful husband. My pre-pregnancy life was full of freedom and adventure, so I have a fresh new perspective when it comes to having a small tiny human by my side 24/7!