Extended Breastfeeding: How Long Should I Nurse My Child For?

The World Health Organisation recommends that mothers start breastfeeding within the first hour of an infant’s life. They recommend that mothers continue to exclusively breastfeed until six months of age. Beyond six months, they recommended that mothers continue breastfeeding for at least two years, supplementing your breastmilk by feeding your baby a wide range of nutritious foods.  


We understand that not all women can breastfeed for this long, for many different reasons. And we don’t want any women to feel pressure to breastfeed for longer than possible or appropriate for them. But there are a lot of health benefits associated with extended breastfeeding, and that’s what we’re going to discuss in this blog.


Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to all women. For many, there are sore nipples, latching issues and just pain in general. So, how long you breastfeed comes down to many factors, some you have control over and some you don't have control over. Many women find that they give themselves a goal of six months, but by the time they hit this milestone, breastfeeding is so natural that they don’t even contemplate stopping.


As time ticks along to 12 months, or even 24 months, women start to wonder when they are supposed to stop. Well, it’s entirely up to you and your little one. The Academy of American Paediatrics suggests that women continue breastfeeding for as long ‘as mutually desired by mother and infant’. So, for example, if the mother finds she’s up multiple times a night feeding and is exhausted, weaning might be a good idea. Alternatively, babies can self-wean, which is a term used to describe when a baby is over one year old and gradually reduces her breastmilk intake. This usually happens when the baby gets adequate nutrition and satisfaction from food.


You’re probably full of questions about the benefits of extended breastfeeding. Well, we give you the answer below.


Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding


Nutrition

The power of breastmilk is genuinely outstanding. As your baby grows and goes through its first illnesses, your breastmilk composition changes to accommodate the needs of your little one. For example, when your baby has a cold, as soon as their saliva makes contact with your nipples, signals are sent to the mother, informing her to produce antibodies to help fight the cold off. These antibodies are then passed to the baby through breastmilk.


Another example is the fat and water content of your breastmilk. On a really hot day, breastmilk will change composition to have a higher water content to help hydrate your little one. Alternatively, If bub is going through a growth spurt and feeding lots, your milk will change to be higher in fat.


Previously, people used to believe that breastmilk lost its nutritional value at around six months when food is introduced. But more recent research shows that your breastmilk retains its nutrition quality and this amazing ability to change for the entire duration of breastfeeding. That’s right, even after two years, you can still create antibodies for bub when they’re sick.

Bonding


There are so many ways to bond with your baby, and finding closeness with bub is different for all parents. But many women say that the bond created while breastfeeding is something extra special. The quiet nights spent feeding, just the two of you, or the afternoon cuddle on the couch while you both take a moment to relax. Knowing that you’re their source of comfort can be addictive.


Breastfeeding can sometimes feel like a superpower; it’s often a way to settle a baby instantly. And women often report that they feel anxious about weaning as they will no longer have a sure-fire way to get their little one back to sleep or comfort them when they need it. But, if you wean gradually, you will find other methods that work to settle bub.


Health Benefits for Mum and Bub

So we’ve spoken about the health benefits when it comes to protecting your little ones from illnesses like colds and flu. But the power of breastmilk doesn’t stop there; it gets even more fascinating. For example, research shows that breastfeeding a baby for six months or longer reduces a babies risk of developing Leukemia by 19%. In addition to this, breastfed babies have a reduced risk of a long list of diseases and illnesses, including asthma, Type 1 diabetes, obesity, and gastrointestinal infections.


And the benefits don’t just relate to bub; there are also advantages for the mother. In the beginning, the release of Oxytocin that occurs during feeding helps the uterus to contract and return to its original size. This explains why some women feel contractions while feeding for the first few weeks. Breastfeeding also burns extra calories, so it’s associated with quicker weight loss in women.


And breastfeeding is also associated with a reduced risk for developing ovarian cancer, breast cancer and osteoporosis in women.



Concerns about extended breastfeeding?

Social acceptance is one of the leading worries families have regarding extended breastfeeding. We’ve all heard people make insulting comments about a child being too old for breastmilk. However, nursing your toddler or child is a beautiful and normal behaviour and the more we bring awareness to the benefits, the more accepted it will become.  


The emotional development of the child is another common concern. Some people believe that extended breastfeeding can cause heightened attachment from the child. However, research shows this isn’t the case, and that in fact, it is linked to positive emotional effects in both the mother and the child.


How Can In Shape Mummy Help Me to Breastfeed For Longer?

The In Shape Mummy Health Shake is a breastfeeding specific health shake designed to support lactating women. The galactagogues present in each serve work to increase milk production, allowing women to breastfeed for longer. The In Shape Mummy Health Shake also contains over 12g of protein to keep you feeling full, plus 25 essential vitamins and minerals to boost your energy and health while you get in shape.   


Click here for more ways to boost your milk supply naturally.



Extra Support 

For extra support, join the In Shape Mummy Breastfeeding Support Group on Facebook.

Shevi is a qualified nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food sciences. As a new mum herself, she is passionate about postnatal-related nutrition. Shevi has worked alongside some of the most famous leaders and celebrities in the fitness industry throughout Australia and the UK.

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