In some cultures, prolonged breastfeeding is normal and often lasts for several years. However, in Western countries, it is not so common, and sometimes it is even frowned upon.
On many occasions, the mother who decides to continue breastfeeding beyond the year faces rejection by society. She, too, must deal with comments from family, friends, and health personnel, which can be very painful.
Breastfeeding beyond the first year is known as “prolonged lactation.” The term “prolonged lactation” can lead to misunderstandings, as it suggests that breastfeeding beyond the first year is unnecessary. However, this is not the case, as extended breastfeeding has been shown to provide numerous health benefits.
You should know that breastfeeding is equally valid and beneficial both at three months and at three years, without distinction of any kind.
Discover the benefits of prolonged breastfeeding
The benefits that breastfeeding brings are innumerable, but the longer it lasts, the greater the benefits. However, these advantages are not only for the baby but also for the mother.
Benefits of prolonged breastfeeding for baby
Breast milk is more than just a source of nutrition. It’s a complex and dynamic fluid that changes to meet the needs of your child. Breast milk contains important nutrients, immune factors, and growth factors that can protect your child against infections, allergies, and chronic disorders later in life. Breastfeeding can also help with your baby’s brain development. It also encourage healthy weight gain, and lower the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The benefits of prolonged breastfeeding, however, do not end with infancy. Breastfeeding during the first year of life can provide your baby with several unique benefits that no other feeding method can provide. Furthermore, breast milk evolves and adapts to fulfill your child’s nutritional demands. While also providing many immune and growth factors that can promote your baby’s health and development.
Studies have proven that breastfeeding beyond the first year of life reduces the risk of ear infections, lung infections, and gastrointestinal diseases. It can also lower the risk of getting asthma, eczema, and other allergic diseases. Breastfeeding can also help your baby’s cognitive growth, language abilities, and social-emotional development. Also, improve the bond shared between you and your baby.
Related: Symptoms of Breast Milk Drying Up & What You Can Do
Benefits of prolonged breastfeeding for mothers
Breastfeeding can also have long-term benefits for your health. Breastfeeding can reduce your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight after pregnancy.
Breastfeeding can promote the release of hormones that can help you relax and bond with your baby. It can also reduce the risk of postpartum depression and anxiety.
However, beastfeeding beyond infancy is not for everyone, as it may present some unique challenges. However, with the right support and resources, many mothers successfully breastfeed their children for years. Extended breastfeeding is a personal choice that should be based on your values, beliefs, and circumstances.
When to wean baby from breastfeeding
Choosing when to wean your baby is a personal decision that can depend on many factors, including your baby’s age, development, and needs, as well as your feelings and circumstances. Weaning can be a gradual process that happens over several months or even years. It can also be a sudden decision that happens for a variety of reasons.
The duration of lactation is until the mother or the baby decides otherwise. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding, at least until the child is 2 years old. In addition, it must be exclusive for the first six months.
Natural weaning usually occurs between 2 and a half and 7 years of age, so the average is around 4. When we talk about older children, the affective bond provided by breastfeeding becomes much more important. This is because it gives the child the security and comfort that he needs.
However, there is no “right” or “wrong” time to wean your baby. Every mother and baby are unique and have different needs and preferences. Some mothers choose to wean their babies early, while others breastfeed for several years or even beyond. It’s important to remember that breastfeeding is a personal choice and that you should do what feels right for you and your baby.
Related: 30 Little But Effective Ways of Bonding with Your Baby
Prolonged breastfeeding myths
Breastfeeding is a natural and effective approach to nurturing and bonding with your baby.
Unfortunately, numerous myths and misconceptions about prolonged breastfeeding can discourage mothers from continuing to breastfeed their children after the first year. Let’s debunk some of these myths and set the record straight:
1. Breastfeeding beyond the first year of life is unnecessary and can be harmful.
- Fact: Breastfeeding beyond the first year of life can provide many unique and valuable benefits for your child’s health, development, and well-being. Breast milk contains essential nutrients, immune factors, and growth factors that can protect your child from infections, allergies, and chronic diseases later in life. Long-term breastfeeding of a baby can also deepen the bond between both of you. And it also encourages cognitive, language, and social-emotional development. There is no evidence that continued breastfeeding is harmful to your child’s development or health.
2. Continuing to breastfeed your child after the first year of life will pamper them and make them overly dependent on you.
- Fact: Breastfeeding offers much more to a child than just nutrients. It is a natural and normal aspect of their growth. Breastfeeding can give your child a sense of safety, comfort, and emotional support while also fostering their sense of trust and attachment to you. Breastfeeding does not make your child overly reliant on you. Rather, it fosters their sense of confidence and independence as they mature and learn about their environment.
3. Breastfeeding beyond the first year of life is socially unacceptable.
- Fact: Breastfeeding is a natural and normal part of life and should be supported and celebrated. Breastfeeding beyond the first year of life is a personal choice and should be respected and valued. While some people may have negative attitudes towards extended breastfeeding, it is important to remember that breastfeeding is a human right and that you have the right to breastfeed your child for as long as you both desire.
4. Breastfeeding beyond the first year of life will make your child too attached to you and unable to form relationships with others.
- Fact: Breastfeeding is just one of many ways that you can bond with your child and support their emotional development. Breastfeeding beyond the first year of life does not prevent your child from forming relationships with others or developing a sense of independence. Extended breastfeeding can provide your child with a sense of security and confidence that can help them form healthy relationships with others.
5. Breastfeeding beyond the first year of life will interfere with your child’s ability to eat solid foods and lead to nutritional deficiencies.
- Fact: Breastfeeding beyond the first year of life can provide essential nutrients and growth factors that are not found in other foods and can complement your child’s solid food intake. Breast milk is a dynamic fluid that adapts to your child’s changing nutritional needs and can provide them with a variety of immune and growth factors that can support their health and development. Breastfeeding beyond the first year of life does not cause nutritional deficiencies or interfere with your child’s ability to eat solid foods.
There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding long-term breastfeeding that can discourage mothers from breastfeeding beyond the first year of life. Breastfeeding beyond the first year of life is a personal choice and should be respected and valued.
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