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?


Image via Mothering Touch/Flickr



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Torra... TorranceMom

My son self-weaned at 3+.  My daughter will be 3 in March and is still nursing.

lalab... lalaboosh

I prefer to say full term breast feeding, as it's not actually extended past anything but an antiquated American ideal. My oldest turns 3 in a month and my youngest is 9 months today. Both are still on the boob.

nonmember avatar FarmersWife

2 years and counting here. No plans on mother led weaning, so time will tell.

Erinly Erinly

I don't have kids, so I've never dealt with it firsthand, but the friends of mine who have toddlers who breastfeed seem to be the least indepent kids I've ever seen and also not disciplined at all. I'm not saying that's how it is with all kids, but what I've seen. If the kids are acting up at all, instead of going to time out or whatever, they're nursed. And they are 2 and 3 years old and want nothing to do with any other adult besides their moms (one of them doesn't even like her dad or let him hold her hardly because she's so used to constantly being worn by her mom.) I'm sure it's not like that with all kids but I definitely haven't seen it turn out like this list claims it does.

lalab... lalaboosh

Erinly, your friends sound like lazy parents. That's a parenting problem, not breastfeeding. My daughter gets time outs and natural consequences, as will my son in a few months.

lalab... lalaboosh

I also have facilitated bonding time with daddy and family from birth, so it helps.

nonmember avatar Amy

My daughter will be three in March and we are still breast feeding... Gotta say, I am glad I am not the only one with a toddler still attached to the boob.

nonmember avatar Harp

Those of you still nursing--how does the nursing relationship evolve over time? I am nursing my 9 month old, and plan to continue as long as it is still working for both of us. But when they get older what happens? How often do they nurse? If you work, are you still pumping? There is so much info about what to do at first, but I haven't seen anything about what happens over time.

Dagny Fitzwater

Nursed my older 2 for 2+ years each.  My youngest son is almost a year and still going strong.  He has chewing/swallowing solid food issues so I think he will be nursing for longer as real food is an issue if it isn't pureed.

Donnelley Trudeau

Ahh, lovely mama's. So glad to read all your comments. I nurse my daughter still, shes 3 yr 7mo, and strongly believe in baby led weaning. Around here, no one really breastfeeds, and i get weird comments all the time, "you;re still breastfeeding?" "when are you gonna cut her off?" "dont you want your life back" "its weird and perverted to nurse this long" and when i point out benefits of "extended breastfeeding" i tend to get the reactions of "yea, but that's like, over a year exteneded, not over 3 years, thats beyond extended, you're insane, "

Again, SOOOO glad to hear im not the only one nursing a toddler/preschooler

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