THE PROS AND CONS OF EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD
There are so many pros and cons of extended breastfeeding.
Making the decision as to whether to go for long term nursing or not is not going to be an easy one.
Before I jump straight in there and list all the pros and cons lets just find out what exactly is classed as extended breastfeeding so we can all be on the same page.
WHAT IS EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING?
The World Health Organization describes “normal” breastfeeding as “providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.”
Extended breastfeeding is simply just an extension of this.
Most experts will tell you that a good age to stop breastfeeding is at 1 year of age. Some will even say four-six months.
Anything beyond one year of age is considered to be extended breastfeeding.
DOES EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING MEAN THAT YOU CAN’T PUMP OR USE FORMULA?
Certainly not! You can certainly mix it up a bit if you want.
There is no rule to say that extended breastfeeding only works when you exclusively breastfeed.
You can choose to pump your breastmilk into a bottle and feed your baby this way or you can mix it up a little and supplement your breastmilk with formula.
In saying all that, the truth of the matter is that the less you breastfeed the less supply you will have.
That’s kind of how it works in most cases but there are obviously exceptions to the rule.
I know some mommy’s who seem to have an endless supply of milk no matter what, but equally I know some mommy’s who struggle with milk supply as well.
Today I’m going to start with the pros of long-term breastfeeding (Just because it’s always nice to start on a positive note)
THE PROS OF LONG TERM BREASTFEEDING
1. IMMUNE SYSTEM BENEFITS WHEN EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING
It will do wonders for your baby’s immune system.
Before I started having children I was completely clueless as to how perfectly tailored breast milk could be.
I was fortunate enough to have a really good milk supply without ever having to really try.
It was only when people started to comment on how easy I made breastfeeding seem that I started to look into it more.
I began to see the health benefits of breast milk for the first time.
I used to think that breastfeeding was just a cheaper way to feed my baby. I was very wrong!
Research has shown that breast milk actually tailors itself according to your baby’s needs.
Some time ago there was actually a case of a lady who was breastfeeding her sick child who had a cold.
In the morning she decided to pump and noticed that her milk appeared to be completely different in color to what it usually is.
You can read more about that story here (Breastfeeding Benefits).
In short the ladies milk adjusted itself specifically to the needs of the child. How awesome is that!
2. FOOD DIGESTION
Breastmilk is gentle on your baby’s stomach making it easy for them to digest the food and process it.
This means that breastfed babies tend to poop with more ease.
3. BENEFITS FOR MOM
There are extended breastfeeding pros for the mother also.
Extended breastfeeding can actually help to prevent and offer a reduced risk of some forms of cancer (Just don’t ask me to explain the science behind it to you.)
It’s a great opportunity for both mother and baby to bond. Breastfeeding (especially on demand) creates a calm peaceful place for your baby.
I often nurse when my baby is upset or just wants a bit of comfort.
I do it because it helps to reassure him that everything is ok and that I am always there for him.
I strongly believe that it also instills a sense of confidence in the child, which is great news for breastfeeding moms.
- 10 Common breastfeeding problems and how to solve them
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- Toddler Breastfeeding: It’s enough to drive you crazy!
5. IT GETS EASIER WITH TIME
Once you get the hang of it, breastfeeding gets so much easier. I’ll let you into a little secret…I don’t even know how to make up a bottle of formula.
I wouldn’t have a clue if it was too hot or too cold or if I had left it out for too long.
With breastfeeding, you don’t need to worry about any of those things because your milk will come out at the perfect temperature to suit your baby.
This is a major extended breastfeeding pro for me.
6. NUTRITIONAL VALUE
Breast milk continues to have nutritional value. There is no cut off age for this.
Some people think that once your child reaches the age of one there is no value in giving breast milk.
Well, that’s just not true. That’s the equivalent of saying that after age 10 there is no nutritional value in broccoli.
There is simply no truth in it.
Your body will continue to provide exactly what your baby needs in the most efficient way possible.
7. PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS
The extended breastfeeding psychological effects on a child can be pretty major. In my experience, it seems that when a child breastfeeds for an extended period of time they seem to be less frustrated and much calmer in general. This is a personal observation.
As you can see there are some amazing advantages to extended breastfeeding past the age of 12 months.
There are equally some very real disadvantages to extended breastfeeding as well. Let’s take a look at those.
THE DISADVANTAGES OF EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING
1. IT’S NOT THE THE EASY OPTION
It’s hard work!
Personally speaking breastfeeding past age 1 is difficult because by the time my child is one year of age I start to feel like I want to get my body back.
My son can walk, even run a little and is able to hold himself independently.
My brain starts to shift out of the baby fog and I realize that I have to take my breast out to feed my son as opposed to just feeding my baby with milk.
This is a big extended breastfeeding con because my body is personal.
2. PEOPLE WILL JUDGE YOU FOR EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING
People think that you are weird for breastfeeding a toddler because it is not the norm.
You have to get used to remarks like “oh he’s still breastfeeding?” or “He’s too big to breastfeed”.
Breastfeeding an older child in public is never going to be an easy thing to do so you have to get used to it very quickly.
3. IT CAN HURT
Sometimes you get bitten. I can’t tell you how much that hurts!
Although as your child gets older they know not to bite but sometimes it happens by accident, especially when they are asleep.
Sometimes it is just unavoidable.
Can anyone relate?
4. YOU MISS OUT
Sometimes for me, it means missing out on things such as going out with friends in the evenings because my son likes to breastfeed during the night.
He’s not keen on taking a bottle which means that I have to physically be there to feed him.
5. YOU WAIVE YOUR RIGHT TO EATING IN PEACE
You will probably never be able to eat another meal in peace again because you have to breastfeed at the same time.
If you are lucky your child will eat either before you eat or wait until afterward but in my experience it hasn’t always worked out that way.
If you are nursing past one year this might not be as big a deal once your child is eating solids as well.
6. RISK OF OVERATTACHMENT
There is a risk of over attachment but again personally I think this is more down to your child’s personality, rather than the fact that they breastfeed past age 1.
7. LESS SLEEP
It means continued broken sleep as you breastfeed during the night. Your child can easily become accustomed to night time nursing which is tough on mom if you like to sleep.
8. IT CAN GET EMBARRASSING
The most embarrassing thing?
If your child is old enough to speak they might ask for it in public so just be ready to respond. Haha!.
HOW LONG IS TOO LONG FO EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING?
Well, that is entirely on you and what you can handle. I think my cut off time will be around the 2 year mark but we’ll see.
My other children, I cut off at 1 year but I would like my son to self-wean if possible.
If you would like to read more on breastfeeding and the pros and cons of extended breastfeeding you can do so by reading more on Breastfeeding Benefits.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE PROS AND CONS OF EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING
Overall I think after weighing up the pros and cons of extended breastfeeding, for me there is more value in long term breastfeeding than there is not.
Yes, you might get the odd side eye every now and again but essentially you will be setting up your child with a great immune system for life.
I know not every woman can breastfeed but if you have the opportunity too then I think you should go for it for as long as you can.
FINAL TIP: It’s not a good idea to give your baby drinking water to supplement their diet until they are at least 6 months old.
How long would you do long-term breastfeeding for? Have I missed any other pros and cons of extended breastfeeding?
I would love to know. Drop me a comment below.