Celebrating your baby’s first birthday is an enormous and exciting milestone.
If you have been breastfeeding 1 year, you have another reason to celebrate. Breastfeeding for 1 year is also an important milestone and an achievement you should be proud of, as a parent and mother.
You don’t have to stop breastfeeding now, just because your baby no longer relies on it as the main source of nutrition.
You can continue breastfeeding for as long as you and your child want to. The significant health benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond your baby’s first year of life and your breast milk changes constantly to meet the needs of your growing child.
Benefits of breastfeeding 1 year
By breastfeeding your baby for 1 year of life, you have:
- Influenced the normal oral development of your baby, reducing the likelihood of needing orthodontia or speech therapy in later stages of childhood
- Provided antibodies, through your breast milk, to build your baby’s immune system
- Helped prevent and reduce the severity of common childhood illnesses, such as ear infections and gastroenteritis
- Lowered your baby’s risk of leukemia and other childhood cancers
- Lowered your child’s risk of diabetes and other metabolic diseases later in life
- According to research, improved your baby’s cognitive achievement
- Reduced your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer
- Reduced your risk of rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
By breastfeeding for one year you have also saved a significant amount of money on infant formula, had you been bottle feeding.
The estimated cost of formula feeding for one year is between $1,500 and $3,000.
How often should a 1 year old breastfeed?
After babies have celebrated their first birthday, they might continue to breastfeed a couple of times a day.
Each breastfed infant is unique, however. Many babies around this age will breastfeed first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Babies who are still having a nap during the day might also breastfeed to sleep at that time.
Some babies continue feeding several times each day or more, as well as breastfeeding overnight. It’s normal if your one year old still breastfeeds overnight; in fact, it’s a great tool to help both you and your baby to get back to sleep quickly.
At this stage of breastfeeding, breast milk production works on the principle of supply and demand. This means that whatever amount of breast milk your baby drinks, your body will replace. By breastfeeding ‘on demand’, your body will continue to make the right amount of milk for the duration of your breastfeeding journey.
For more information, you can read BellyBelly’s article How Does Breastfeeding Work? An Explanation.
Is breastfeeding still beneficial after 1 year?
Breastfeeding continues to offer both health and developmental benefits beyond the first year of your baby’s life.
In addition to complementary foods, your breast milk continues to provide nutritional value to your baby’s diet. Along with a wide variety of solid foods, breast milk remains an important part of your child’s nutrition.
There is no need to wean your child from breastfeeding to another type of milk.
Human milk is perfectly designed for human babies and children. Infant formula or cow’s milk are not superior to breast milk in nutritional quality; neither are they an essential part of a child’s diet.
Follow on formulas, or ‘toddler milks’, are entirely unnecessary. They are marketed to raise product awareness for infant formula, as infant formula on the market is heavily regulated.
For more information on this topic, you can read BellyBelly’s article Baby Formula | What Formula Companies Won’t Tell You.
Why breastfeed until 2 years?
The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, then breastfeeding alongside complementary foods for up to two years and beyond, or as long as a mother and her child wish to continue.
Breastfeeding a toddler has many advantages. Aside from the health benefits of continued breastfeeding, nursing older children is a fantastic tool to help them through many of life’s little challenges.
Once infants start to walk they will also start to fall down, potentially hurting themselves. If a cuddle and kiss aren’t enough to comfort them, a quick breastfeed is always helpful to calm them down.
Breast milk is even great on minor wounds. The antibacterial components and healing properties make it a great topical ointment for scuffed knees.
Around this time, your family might start to grow. Breastfeeding your older child throughout the pregnancy and birth of another baby helps the young child to adapt to the evolving family dynamic.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article Tandem Feeding – 6 Important Facts About Breastfeeding Siblings.
What is the upper age limit to breastfeed?
You might be surprised to learn that the natural weaning age is somewhere between two and four years of age.
In Australia, breastfeeding rates steeply decline in the first 6 months of a baby’s life, so seeing an older child continue nursing is not the cultural norm.
In other parts of the world, however, it is completely normal to continue nursing into the third year of life and beyond.
There is no upper limit on the duration of breastfeeding. There is no evidence to suggest that breastfeeding past infancy is the cause of any type of developmental harm. All children eventually wean from breastfeeding and, until then, breastfeeding plays a role in the continuing development of the immune system and adds nutritional value to a child’s diet.
For more information, you can ready BellyBelly’s article Extended Breastfeeding – What You Need To Know.
Weaning from breastfeeding at 1 year
Reaching one year of breastfeeding is no easy feat. If you and your baby are enjoying it, keep going! Babies tend to self wean at their own pace.
If you have decided to encourage weaning, here is an article that can help: Weaning From Breastfeeding – A Gentle Approach.