Some mothers make the choice to breastfeed their babies for six months to one year. Something that is fairly standard and considered “normal” by societal norms. Other mothers, however, make the decision to let their babies choose when the right time to stop breastfeeding is. And that can be years of extended breastfeeding depending upon the needs of the child. It is during this time that mothers need to determine what the pros and cons of extended breastfeeding are and what is right for them and their babies.
There is no disputing the fact that breastfeeding, for any period, is beneficial for babies. This is because, according to the New York State Department of Health, breastfeeding protects babies against allergies, illnesses, constipation, obesity, cancer, and more. It is also a personal decision to breastfeed. And any amount of time that women want to commit to doing so is amazing for their babies, regardless of how short or long the breastfeeding season is.
Here are the pros and cons of extended breastfeeding.
What Is Extended Breastfeeding?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of babies’ lives if possible. At that point, continued breastfeeding with an introduction of solids is the recommendation of the organization until babies are one year old.
Women who choose to breastfeed past one year of age, according to WebMD, are considered to be extended breastfeeding. This may come as a surprise to some, as the idea of extended breastfeeding conjures up images of pre-school-age children breastfeeding on demand. And while this is part of the group that makes up extended breastfeeders, those with babies 13 months and older do as well.
Pros Associated With Choosing Extended Breastfeeding
For those mothers who choose to breastfeed after one year, the benefits do not suddenly stop for their little ones. Instead, for the duration of time that babies and toddlers choose to breastfeed, there are benefits of continuing to consume breast milk.
Decreased Risk for Obesity: A 2004 study that looked at babies from around the world and their duration of breastfeeding found that babies that were breastfed for greater than seven months were found to be at a decreased risk for obesity into childhood. Therefore, the longer that babies are exposed to breast milk, the better their chances are of fighting off obesity and diabetes into childhood and beyond.
High-Quality Nutrition from Breast Milk: According to the Mayo Clinic, as long as babies continued to breastfeed, they were receiving high-quality nutrition from the milk. The nutritional value does not change if mothers decide to extend breastfeeding beyond one year. The nutrients that were there when babies were infants continue to be there into the toddler years and beyond.
Finding Comfort at the Breast: When toddlers are learning more about how the world works, it can be a bit overwhelming, according to What To Expect. As such, having the opportunity to come to the breast for comfort makes toddlers feel at ease and may even make them more independent as a result.
Bonding With Child: According to ABC News, when women choose to breastfeed their babies past one year old, they build up an incredible bond with them. This connection, according to the publication, makes mothers very responsive to their babies’ needs.
May Reduce Risk of Cancer: Breastfeeding for two or more years dramatically decreases the risk of breast cancer in women, according to Yale News. In fact, those who breastfed beyond the recommended breastfeeding schedule decreased their chances of contracting breast cancer by 50 percent.
Cons Associated With Extended Breastfeeding
While there are many positives that come with breastfeeding beyond one year of age, there are some negatives as well. And it is up to breastfeeding mothers to determine if the pros or cons are greater when it comes to determining whether to extend their breastfeeding time or not.
Can Lead to Dental Problems: Just like with babies drinking milk at bedtime when they have teeth, according to the University of Michigan School of Public Health, when toddlers breastfeed, they are at risk for tooth decay. As such, when toddlers are breastfeeding, it is necessary to brush their teeth to ensure that they have the best oral health possible.
Being Judged by Others: An issue that women face when they choose extended breastfeeding for their babies and toddlers is that they are judged by others. As much as people would like to believe that society is accepting of others’ lifestyles when something seems out of the norm, there will be judgment.
Because of this, it is up to mothers if they can handle the judgment or if it will prove to be too much if the decision is made to extend breastfeeding beyond the one-year mark or not.
Source: New York State Department of Health, American Academy of Pediatrics, WebMD, ABC News, BMC Public Health, Mayo Clinic, What To Expect, Yale News, University of Michigan School of Public Health
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