10 Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding

breastfeedingExtended breastfeeding is one of those annoying parenting terms -- it's, like, who decided what constitutes extended breastfeeding? But nevertheless, it exists, and it refers to nursing a baby past the age of 12 months. I know. Fairly common.

Anyway, if you are in fact practicing extended breastfeeding with your little one, yay you! There are a whole mess of benefits that come with it.

Here are 10 benefits of extended breastfeeding.

1. Breastfed toddlers can be healthier overall. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children weaned before 2 years of age are at increased risk of illness. Human milk provides immunological advantages nothing else can.

2. Breastfed toddlers can be smarter. Research on the connection between cognitive achievement and breastfeeding has shown the greatest gains for the children who were breastfed the longest.

3. Breastfeeding is a good way to comfort children. When your toddler is upset, hurt, scared, or ill, nursing is an almost-guaranteed way to comfort him. Sick children will usually accept breast milk when refusing other foods.

4. It's almost an instant tantrum tamer. One of the easiest ways to calm a toddler who's freaking out is to offer him the boob.

5. Breastfed toddlers can have better mental and social development. Studies have shown a positive relationship between longer breastfeeding duration and social development. And conversely, another study showed that a "shorter duration of breastfeeding may be a predictor of adverse mental health outcomes throughout the developmental trajectory of childhood and early adolescence."

6. Extended breastfeeding is good for mama, too. Breastfeeding has shown to protect against a myriad of diseases, including ovarian cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and others.

7. Breastfed toddlers can be more independent. Studies show that children who are breastfed into toddlerhood are more independent, have better social skills, and have less "attachment issues" than those who were not.

8. Breastfed toddlers may be easier to discipline. According to Dr. Sears, "Breastfeeding is ... an exercise in baby reading, which enables a mother to more easily read her baby’s cues and intervene before a discipline situation gets out of hand."

9. Intestinal health may be improved. The proteins in breast milk are easier for a baby/toddler to digest than the proteins found in cow’s milk (which is what most pediatricians in the US recommend your baby starts drinking at 1 year of age).

10. Balanced nutrition. Breast milk is as good as it gets in terms of nutrition. As your baby gets older, the composition of your breast milk will continue to change to meet his or her nutritional needs.

Did you breastfeed? For how long? 

extended breastfeeding benefits

Image via Mothering Touch/Flickr and ©iStock.com/quintanilla