Breastfeeding After The First Year – 5 Things You Need To Know

Breastfeeding After The First Year - 5 Things You Need To Know

Most mothers start out by breastfeeding.

In Australia, 96% of mothers start breastfeeding. In the US, 81% of babies are breastfed from birth.

Some mothers have an idea about how long they wish to breastfeed, while others take the ‘We’ll see how things go’ approach.

There are others who reach their initial breastfeeding goals and then decide they would like to continue.

Unfortunately, some mothers don’t reach their breastfeeding goals at all – often because of a lack of knowledgeable support.

Breastfeeding After The First Year – 5 Things You Need To Know

So, what if you’re a mother who started out with a goal to breastfeed for one year and now you find yourself in a position where you and your child are enjoying breastfeeding and don’t want to stop? What now?

Here are 5 things you need to know about breastfeeding after the first year:

#1: Breastmilk Continues To Provide A Valuable Source Of Immune Protection

Regardless of how long you breastfeed your child, your breastmilk continues to provide a valuable source of immune protection and nutrition.

The concentration of immune protective factors in breastmilk (e.g. antibodies) increases as your child grows and breastfeeds less. So, even if the amount of breastmilk your child consumes gradually reduces, breastfeeding ensures your child receives an extra boost of immune protection during this time. This is important, given toddlers are increasingly on the move and are more likely to be exposed to pathogens.

In a child’s second year of life, research has demonstrated that the breastmilk a child consumes can provide him with:

  • About 30% of energy needs
  • Almost half of protein needs
  • Almost all vitamin B12 needs
  • More than 75% of folate needs
  • Over half of vitamin C needs
  • Almost 75% of iodine needs.

#2: The ‘Right’ Time To Wean Is An Individual Choice

Even though almost everyone you know will provide you with authoritative advice about when you should wean, the ‘right’ time to wean is up to you and your child.

Those who give you the most advice about when you should wean are usually those who know the least about breastfeeding.

#3: Breastfeeding Can Be A Useful Parenting Strategy

Parenting a toddler sure is a challenge. Breastfeeding can make the job a little easier by bringing an end to a tantrum, or by helping an overtired toddler go off to sleep.

Breastfeeding can also provide toddlers with closeness and a sense of security at a time when they’re developing and growing rapidly.

It is reassuring to know if your toddler gets sick, it’s likely he’ll still breastfeed even if he refuses other food and drink.

#4: Breastfeeding Well Beyond The First Year Is The Norm In Parts Of the World

In Western societies, breastfeeding after the first year is definitely not a cultural norm. In Australia fewer than 20% of children are breastfed beyond their first birthday.

However, in other parts of the world, people would be dumbfounded at the idea of weaning a toddler, let alone a baby.

#5: Breastfeeding After One Year Is Important For Your Child’s Health, And Yours

Breastfeeding is important for many reasons. There’s a dose-response relationship between many of the health outcomes associated with breastfeeding. This means the longer breastfeeding occurs, the greater the protective effects.

For example, research has demonstrated the relative risk of breast cancer is reduced by 4.3% for every 12 months of breastfeeding, when compared with the risk in women who have never breastfed, or breastfed for a short time.

Also, research has found breastfeeding for longer means children have fewer episodes of sickness.

So, if your baby has just turned one and you’re enjoying breastfeeding, keep going – there are many good reasons to do so!

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.

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