THE BENEFITS OF EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING
Great reasons to breastfeed your child beyond infancy
WHO recommends mothers worldwide to breastfeed their infants for a minimum of two years to achieve optimal growth, development and health. To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for six months, WHO and UNICEF recommend initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of life. Exclusive breastfeeding is where the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink; breastfeeding on demand is nursing as often as the child wants to feed, be it day or night. Some mothers are generally under the notion that breastfeeding beyond infancy makes the weaning process difficult. This is not true. It is easiest to begin the weaning process when your baby initiates the process themselves — which might be sooner or later than you expect. After a period of six months, the frequency of breastfeeding reduces and continues to reduce. After a year, your baby may only breastfeed twice a day. By the age of one, some babies begin to naturally transition from breast milk and seek other forms of nutrition and comfort. Others might not initiate weaning until their toddler years, which is when they become less willing to sit still during
breastfeeding. Weaning your child when he’s ready feels more natural and less abrupt than picking a random date. Moreover, there are more than enough health benefits of breastfeeding beyond infancy for you to continue nursing your baby.
The benefits of breastfeeding beyond infancy for a baby include: 1. Balanced nutrition:
Breast milk is considered the ultimate standard for infant nutrition. With your baby getting older, the composition of your breast milk will continue to change to meet her nutritional needs.
2. Boosted immunity:
As long as you breastfeed, the cells, hormones and antibodies in your breast milk will continue to bolster your baby’s immune system. Studies show that breastfeeding toddlers are sick less often than children that are not breastfed. When a child gets sick, breast milk may be the only thing she’ll consume. Moreover, this also helps her stay hydrated and boosts her immune system.
3. Improved health:
Research suggests that the longer breastfeeding continues and the more breast milk a baby drinks, the better her health will be. There’s no particular age at which breast milk is considered nutritionally insignificant for a child.
4. Emotional bond:
As and when your child becomes more self-reliant, breastfeeding can be an important source of reassurance and emotional support. “Sometimes, people think weaning a child sooner helps her develop a strong sense of self-worth and independence,” says Kathleen Huggins, author of The Nursing Mother’s Companion. However, forcing a child to stop nursing before she’s developmentally ready, won’t necessarily create a more confident child; it could make her clingy.
5. Increased intelligence:
From the day your body produces milk specifically to meet the needs of your baby, it contains all the important nutrients your baby needs. However this doesn’t hold true for formula feeds. Since your baby grows at a rapid pace for the first five years, it is therefore important to make sure that she gets all the important nutrients in the initial stages. Research has also shown that breastfed babies are smarter than formula-fed babies.
The benefits of breastfeeding beyond infancy for mothers include: 1. Reduced risk of certain illnesses:
When compared to women who never breastfed, nursing women have lower rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
2. Improved health:
Research suggests that the longer breastfeeding continues and the more breast milk a baby drinks, the better a mother’s health might be. Continued breastfeeding may help to maintain your weight. Some research also suggests that breastfeeding, combined with a healthy diet and exercise, may keep you trimmer for years to come.