breastfeeding after 12 months

Should I Continue Breastfeeding After 12 months?

If you’re considering breastfeeding your baby beyond 12 months of age, you’re not alone. Many mothers choose to continue nursing their babies well into toddlerhood for various reasons.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with the continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant” is recommended.

So, should I consider breastfeeding after 12 months?

The short answer is: yes! If you are happy to continue they absolutely go past your child first birthday. there are plenty of psychological and nutritional benefits to extended breastfeeding.

Most leaflets, publications, or instructional videos of breastfeeding feature very young babies, even newborns straight after the baby’s birth. I wonder if this has conditioned us to only expect women to nurse those young babies rather than older ones or even toddlers. This may lead to some moms choosing not to continue to breastfeed their children, and breastfeeding rates dropping, fearing that they will be judged for feeding a child who is ‘too old’.

The truth is, apart from it being totally normal and doctor-recommended, there are plenty of reasons to extend breastfeeding for children past the first year.

Is breastfeeding still beneficial after 1 year?

If you’re wondering whether breastfeeding is still beneficial after your baby’s first year, the answer is a resounding yes! A lot of people are of the mistaken belief that breast milk lacks nutrition after a certain age but for the entire time that you nurse, your milk contains nutritional value.

While breastmilk is no longer the sole source of nutrition for your child’s diet when they turn one, it still provides essential nutrients and immunological benefits in early childhood. According to a study by Dewey (2001), breastmilk is still of nutritional importance well into the second year of life (12-23 months).

Here are some of the benefits of breastfeeding after 1 year:

  • Continued immune system support: Breastmilk contains antibodies and other immune factors that help protect your child from illness and infection.

  • Nutritional benefits: Breastmilk continues to provide your child with a variety of nutrients, including protein, calcium, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin B12.

  • Emotional benefits: When your baby breastfeeds it can provide comfort and security, and can strengthen the bond between you and your little one.

  • Convenience: Breastfeeding is a convenient and cost-effective way to provide nutrition and comfort to your child, especially when you’re on the go.

It’s important to note that breastfeeding after 1 year is a personal choice and may not be feasible for all mothers and children. Some mothers may experience a decrease in milk supply as their child grows older, while others may face social or cultural barriers.

Ultimately, the decision to breastfeed beyond 1 year should be based on what works best for you and your child.

How important is breastfeeding after 12 months?

Once your baby reaches 12 months of age, you might be wondering if it’s time to wean them off breastfeeding. However, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organisation recommend continuing to breastfeed past one year old.

Although your baby may be eating more solid foods, breastfeeding plays an essential role in protecting your baby from childhood illness providing important nutrients and antibodies. Human milk contains the perfect balance of:

  • protein

  • fat

  • energy

  • iron

  • zinc

  • plus other important nutrients that can be difficult to get from other foods.

Breastfeeding after 1 year can also provide comfort and bonding for your child. Nursing sessions can be a time for snuggles, relaxation, and connection. Another one of the benefits of breastfeeding is that it can help your child feel more secure and independent as they explore the world around them.

Does solid food replace breastfeeding?

As your baby grows, their nutritional needs change, and they start to explore new tastes and textures. Breastfeeding can continue to be a source of nutrition and comfort, while also allowing your child to gradually become more independent with their feeding.

Introducing solids, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, and meats, can provide a variety of nutrients and help your child develop a taste for new foods and different tastes and flavors. Your pediatrician can provide guidance on when and how to introduce these foods, and how to balance them with breastfeeding or infant formula.

As your child continues to eat more solid food, breastfeeding can also provide a healthy complement to their diet. American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children weaned before two years of age are at increased risk of illness (AAFP 2008). Remember to give your baby plenty of cuddles during the weaning process so that you and your baby still have plenty of close time together.

You can offer your milk in a cup instead of a bottle to help your child transition to drinking from a cup.

You can also continue to breastfeed at nighttime or during times when your child needs extra comfort.

Should I swap to cows milk for my baby?

If nursing 2-3 times a day, you don’t need to supplement your toddler with cow’s milk or toddler formula. However it is worth noting that your baby isn’t ready to digest the proteins in cow’s milk prior to one year old.

How often should you breastfeed after 12 months?

As your baby grows, their breastfeeding needs will change. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Breastfeeding should continue up to two years of age or beyond.” However, the frequency of breastfeeding may decrease as your baby gets older and starts to eat more solid foods.

Every baby is different, but on average, a nursing toddler may breastfeed four to six times per day. As your baby gets older and starts to eat more solid food, they may breastfeed less often.

However, it’s important to continue to offer breast milk as a source of nutrition and comfort.

Do breastfed babies drink more as they get older?

Yes, breastfed babies may drink more milk as they get older. According to La Leche League International, “As your baby grows, it is normal for him or her to take more milk at each feeding and to feed less often, but still, take in a similar amount of milk per day.”

It’s important to pay attention to your baby’s hunger cues and offer breast milk when they are hungry or thirsty. Human milk is a valuable source of nutrition and can help support your baby’s growth and development.

At what age is breastfeeding no longer beneficial?

While there is little research on children who breastfeed beyond the age of two, the available information indicates that breastfeeding continues to be a valuable source of nutrition and disease protection for many toddlers for as long as breastfeeding continues.

How does breastmilk change after 1 year?

After one year of breastfeeding, the composition of breastmilk changes to meet the changing needs of your growing child.

The amount of fat, protein, and other nutrients in breastmilk decreases, but the concentration of antibodies and other immune factors increases, providing continued protection against infections and illnesses.

Some studies have also suggested that breastmilk may continue to provide other health benefits beyond one year of age, such as reducing the risk of:

  • asthma

  • allergies

  • obesity

What is the longest a mother should breastfeed?

Ultimately, the decision of when to stop breastfeeding is a personal one that should be made based on the needs and preferences of both you and your child. Some mothers choose to continue breastfeeding for several years, while others may choose to wean earlier.

It is important to trust your instincts and do what feels right for you and your child.

How many calories do you burn breastfeeding a 1 year old?

According to NIH, the number of calories you burn while breastfeeding a 1 year old varies depending on your weight and activity level.

On average, breastfeeding burns about 500 calories per day, but this number can range from 425 to 700 calories depending on individual factors. This means that breastfeeding a 1 year old can still help you manage your weight and even lose some extra pounds.

It’s important to note that your calorie needs while breastfeeding a 1 year old may be higher than when you were breastfeeding a newborn. According to Mayo Clinic, you may need an additional 330 to 400 calories per day to support milk production and your own energy needs.

However, you must listen to your body and not force yourself to eat more than you feel comfortable with. Eating a balanced diet with a variety of nutrient-rich foods, and maybe introducing a breastfeeding-approved protein powder, can help ensure that you and your baby are getting the nutrition you need.

Are there any negatives to breastfeeding past 1 year?

While extended breastfeeding has its benefits, there are some drawbacks to consider.

One of the most common concerns is the social stigma associated with breastfeeding a toddler or older child. You may face criticism or judgment from others who feel uncomfortable or don’t understand the benefits of extended nursing past just breastfeeding. However, it’s important to remember that you are making the best decision for yourself and your child. Breastfeeding is also recognised as being extremely eco friendly. Read more about this here.

Don’t forget: you are very unlikely to experience someone being outspoken about their negative feeling towards your choice to pursue breastfeeding an older baby. Most people will keep their thoughts to themselves so don’t waste energy second guessing what other people think!

Another potential negative of breastfeeding past one year is the physical demands it can place on your body. As your child grows and becomes more active, they may nurse less frequently, but for longer periods of time. This can lead to nipple soreness or other discomfort, especially if your child has teeth.

Be sure to invest in a high quality breastfeeding chair. Check out my post for my recommendations: The Best Breastfeeding Chair: Top 5 for 2023

Extended breastfeeding can also be challenging for working mothers who need to pump milk during the day. It can be difficult to find the time and privacy to pump, and some employers may not be supportive of breastfeeding past 12 months.

Finally, some mothers may feel a sense of loss or sadness when they wean their child from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be a special bonding experience between a mother and child, and for many parents it can be hard to let go of that connection.

It’s important to weigh the potential negatives of breastfeeding past one year against the benefits and make a decision that feels right for you and your child.

Remember that every family is different, and there is no one “right” way to breastfeed.

FAQ’s

Have questions? I have answers.

Nursing past twelve months of age has been shown to have health benefits for both mother and child. Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer for mothers. For a child’s health, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of allergies, respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Academy Of American Pediatrics (AAP) states , β€œThere is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.”

Both the World Health Organization and The American Academy of Pediatrics plus many health professionals recommend breastfeeding for at least the first six months of a baby’s life and continuing for up to one year or longer as mutually desired by the nursing mother and baby. Breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.

According to a 2020 CDC report, about 84% of mothers in the United States initiate breastfeeding, but the median duration of breastfeeding is only about 6 weeks.

According to the same CDC report, approximately 24% of mothers in the United States are still breastfeeding at one year.

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