"Extended" breastfeeding has lots of benefits for parent and child!
While this info isn’t directly PT related, it is very much health related. Breastfeeding has incredible health benefits for both baby and parent. So much so, that the World Health Organization (WHO) states that “infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.”
Here are the main benefits of breastfeeding into the “beyond”:
Nutritional benefits: Breastmilk provides up to half to an infant’s energ\y needs from 6-12 months, and about a third beyond the first year. Breastmilk is also a great fallback for those toddlers who are learning new foods. It’s always a ‘safe’ food at mealtime when the new ones they’re trying out aren’t appealing on a particular day. Parents can know that their kiddo is still getting a nutritionally whole complement to some foods that kiddo might prefer, but aren’t necessarily meeting all of their nutritional needs (looking at you, dino chicken nuggets!).
Immunological benefits and protections against GI infections: Breastmilk contains antibodies that protect against many common childhood illnesses. Plus it has tons of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to maintain good health. About 15 oz of breastmilk for a kiddo between 12 and 23 months contains a majority of their daily needs for Vitamins A, C, B12, and folate. The micronutrients carefully balance, adjusting to meet the needs of the developing microbiome.
Parental benefits: Breastfeeding beyond infancy, especially if cumulatively breastfeeding 12+ months in life, brings with it some protection against several types of cancers, as well as reduced risk of hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and type II diabetes. Plus, if you’re not sick of me talking about skin to skin and oxytocin then you aren’t spending enough time on my page! Oxytocin has the effect of boosting mood and mental wellbeing, increasing stress resilience and promoting ongoing bonding. It’s a feel good hormone for everyone!
Have you breastfed past a year? How was the experience for you? Let me know in comments!
Check out my other posts on oxytocin, bonding, and skin to skin!