Henry will be 14 months old in three days time and we're still continuing with our breastfeeding journey. Some people may query whether you should continue to breastfeed after a baby turns one, or even when the right age to stop breastfeeding is.
For us, this is still something I am unsure on. To me, Henry doesn't appear to be ready to stop at 14 months. He feeds pretty much just at night now and we're comfortable continuing with this. We haven't substituted any of his feeds with formula or cows milk, as we really don't see the need. He's happy and content and even if I am longing for a full nights sleep and struggle with acrobatic feeding that usually entails, we're still happy breastfeeding.
So are there any benefits to breastfeeding beyond a year?
Well quite simply, breast is best. Yup, that old chestnut. You will all know if you're a longtime reader, my experience with Darcie (my first child) was very different and she was formula fed from six weeks. I don't have anything against formula feeding mums, nor would I ever want any mum to ever feel inferior just because of the way they choose to feed their child. That's not my thing and I don't get off on making mums feel shit. However, I do think it is worth exploring the benefits of extended breastfeeding if there are any mums approaching this point and wondering whether to continue or not, just like me.
It's full of immunities
From most of the research I have done, babies/toddlers continue to benefit from breastmilk after 12 months. At one year's of age, a baby's immune system is functioning at only 60% of adult level and as formula or cow's milk has no live antibodies, breastmilk is therefore, a good choice to help protect your little one.
Full of nutrition
Did You Know: In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:
29% of energy requirements
43% of protein requirements
36% of calcium requirements
75% of vitamin A requirements
76% of folate requirements
94% of vitamin B12 requirements
60% of vitamin C requirements– Dewey 2001
Breastmilk is full of the good stuff, we all know that and that doesn't change past the one year mark either.
Whilst some believe that we should rush into making our children independent, the more likely way a child will become truly independent is when they reach their milestones on their own and when they're ready. This is true of weaning too.
Humans are supposed to nurse beyond a year
Something that truly surprised me was that of the work of Kathy Dettwyler, she compares human growth to that of non-human primates. She reviews growth, birth weight, and dental growth with all cases showing that biologically humans should be nursing much past the age of one year."Based on these comparisons, an estimated natural age at weaning for humans would be a minimum of six times gestational length, or four-and-a-half years".
It's good for your health too
I remember reading about the health benefits of breastfeeding, like that of reducing the risk of breast cancer. Studies show that the longer you breastfeed the more your risk of getting cancer decreases.
"Compared to parous women who had no history of lactation, a period of lactation of 13-24 months decreased the risk of breast cancer (RR, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.5-1.1), and this risk was decreased even further for those who breastfed for more than 24 months (RR, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.3-1.0). There was a clear trend of decreasing breast cancer risk with the duration of lactation (p for trend <0.001)." Effect of Lifetime Lactation on Breast Cancer Risk - incredible!
What does the World Health Organisation say?
Both The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF recommend that women should breastfeed their children until they are at least two years old and that there are many health benefits in doing so.
The way you choose to feed your child is entirely YOUR choice. Breastfeeding is bloody hard work in the beginning and if you've made it past that and you and your baby are still enjoying it then continue! That being said, if you feel that you're kind of over breastfeeding, but your older babies are still going strong, negative feeling from mum can only hurt the breastfeeding relationship so if you've tried your best and just don't have positive feelings about nursing anymore then you have arrived at the perfect time to wean. More often than not, your little one will let you know when they're ready.
Have you breastfed beyond a year? Any words of wisdom for me?
Mummy B xoxox