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Should I Extend Chest or Breastfeeding Beyond The First Year?

While many agree that human milk is ideal for babies, there are some that think there is a specific time, duration and place for it to be appropriate. We are here to say, whatever works for you is the right thing! 

The early days after having a baby are often a blur as you and baby are learning together. When you emerge from the haze of the early days and challenges and finally get the hang of chest or breastfeeding, some people may start to ask when you will wean. You may get frustrated or even shamed into thinking that you should stop, which can be even more frustrating especially if you have gotten the hang of it and it has started to become easier. 

Then, the first birthday comes and the questioning becomes more intense about weaning. The simple fact is that sometimes breastfeeding is deemed “fine” or “acceptable” by someone until it becomes inconvenient to them. The answer has always been that you decide what is right for you and your family. The naysayers will always find something to say to the contrary and there are myths and misconceptions about chest or breastfeeding beyond a year. However, there is no magic date at which human milk lessens in importance especially for a baby and lactating parent’s health and long-term benefits that far outlast the infancy stage. 

It is completely normal to breastfeed beyond one year and even to 2 years old and beyond.

Leading medical organizations agree. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just updated their Breastfeeding Guidelines extending their recommendation to 2 years or beyond: “The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for approximately 6 months after birth. Furthermore, the AAP supports continued breastfeeding, along with appropriate complementary foods introduced at about 6 months, as long as mutually desired by mother and child for 2 years or beyond. These recommendations are consistent with those of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Human milk really is quite magical as it continues to provide essential nutrition after infancy

It adapts and changes to the child’s nutritional needs and nursing patterns. Your body will adjust the amount of milk it is making to respond to the amount of milk that your baby is consuming. This is the same concept of “supply and demand” that aids the body into regulating the amount of milk the body makes (supply) and corresponding to the amount a child consumes (demand). What goes out through feeding gets replenished. A one year old baby, for instance, is not chest or breastfeeding as frequently as they did during their first few days, weeks, and months of life. 

However, even if these feeding times become less frequent, the body will continue to make milk and as long as chest or breastfeeding continues, it will provide protection against illnesses and medical conditions and reduce risks for moms and babies the longer it continues. It positively impacts health, wellness, social and mental development, the immune system, as well as providing positive impacts on a baby’s physiological and intellectual development. Human milk and chest or breastfeeding continues to reduce the risk for certain childhood cancers, diabetes, obesity and overweight, hospitalizations due to RSV as well as reducing the risk for asthma and allergies. For mom, it reduces the risk for breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers as well as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, among other benefits.  

Breastfeeding is natural but does not always come naturally.

Some choose not to do it but for those who do, it is a labor of love. It takes days, weeks, and sometimes months to get into the hang of it and it can be frustrating to hear negatives about your decision. Any amount of breastfeeding is great but the longer you do it, the more benefits there are for you and your baby. We know that the support and assistance a parent receives when they are chest or breastfeeding is so important and this is especially crucial when a parent decides to keep chest or breastfeeding beyond a year. 

We applaud the work you do every day to provide the best for your babies as we know it is not always easy. We are here with you on your journey and will continue our mission to support even more babies and parents. 

Do you have questions about chest or breastfeeding and/or pumping beyond a year?

Click here to book a consultation with one of our IBCLCs or sign up for one of our classes.

Need to know the best breast pumps, why rent a hospital grade breast pump, or more information on specific brands? Healthy Horizons has got you covered in our online retail store, newsletter with helpful new parent tips, and educational YouTube channel where we answer all kinds of lactation questions for new parents, and review new products for you, like the Elvie Stride hands free breast pump video review or Medela Symphony video review by our very own CEO, Sheila Janakos, MPH, IBCLC.

Breastfeeding Tips

on the Healthy Horizons Blog

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