Everyone agrees about exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby. There is no doubt about the nutritional benefits it could provide a baby. But, what if you want to breastfeed your baby for a long time? Experienced moms who have breastfed their babies for a long-term know that it invites curious stares from strangers, even from their relatives!
Nursing your baby beyond his/her first year is known as extended breastfeeding. Many moms around the world opt extended breastfeeding, discarding criticisms. If you are not able to make a decision, know everything about extended breastfeeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after birth, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age. According to AAP, breastfeeding can be continued as long as mutually desired by mother and baby. Thus, extended breastfeeding should depend on the comfort of the baby and mother.
Benefits Of Extended Breastfeeding
Nutrition: Breastfeeding guarantees healthiest start for your baby. And it has the right balance of nutrients to keep your toddler strong. As your baby grows, your breast milk undergoes changes so that it is able to meet your baby’s changing nutritional needs.
Bonding: The emotional connection between you and your little one is strengthened as you breastfeed him/her for a long time. It gives a strong emotional support for your toddler, especially when you travel to a new, unfamiliar place. It can soothe your baby in stressful situations.
Immunity: The protective effect against certain disease is enhanced with long-term breastfeeding. The hormones, antibodies, and cells in your breast milk continue to protect the baby from childhood illness and infections. Allergies, diarrhea, and respiratory illness could be avoided by breastfeeding your baby. Thus, a better immune system is guaranteed with extended breastfeeding.
Comfort: Extended breastfeeding will come in handy if your child is sick. Kids hesitate to eat food when they don’t feel good. In such cases, breast milk will be the only option for him/her. This helps the baby to stay hydrated.
Does It Benefit Moms?
Yes, of course. Extended breastfeeding is found to be helpful for moms too. The long-term breastfeeding, in fact, keeps you healthy. It may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis. Certain types of cancer such as ovarian cancer and breast cancer occur less often in mothers who have breastfed their babies. Sometimes it may delay your period. If you wish to conceive again quickly, breastfeeding may not be a good option. However, keep in mind that nursing is not an effective form of birth control, especially after you introduce solids. Breastfeeding may also help you reduce weight. Moreover, those moments with your baby helps you calm down. Giving the baby your undivided attention, you will also able to relax well.
Challenges Of Extended Breastfeeding
Be prepared to face rude comments from those people who don’t believe in extended breastfeeding. Sometimes, you may not feel comfortable in feeding your baby in public places. But, understand that you have all the right to feed your baby in public places.
Your child may develop a habit to rely on your breastmilk whenever he/she is bored. When you are in a public place he/she may lift up your top, demanding his/her favorite snack. Well, that could embarrass you.
Some people believe that long-term breastfeeding may make weaning difficult. However, this may not be the case with every child. Distracting your child with other foods or activities will be helpful to wean your child.
Cracked nipples, thrush, or other breastfeeding problems may develop with long-term breastfeeding. And your toddler’s teeth may turn the breastfeeding experience into an unpleasant one.
Extended Breastfeeding When You Are Pregnant
It is possible to breastfeed when you are pregnant. But, it might be difficult for you. You need to stay healthy by adopting a nutritious meal. Most probably your kid may develop a dislike toward breast milk as its taste or the quantity changes during pregnancy. Eventually, it is your personal decision whether to carry on feeding your baby or not.
Tips For Extended Breastfeeding
- If you have plans to feed your baby for a long time, take care of your health. Eat a healthy diet.
- Stay hydrated. Drink lots of fluids. Drink a glass of water every time you breastfeed.
- Make sure that your baby gets nutrients from other food sources too. A well-balanced meal is a must for your baby.
- Do not encourage nursing out of boredom. Distract him/her.
Choosing to breastfeed is your right. Given its benefits, breastfeeding will be a great investment for the wellbeing of your baby.