Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Nursing beyond 1 or 2 years is considered extended breastfeeding. It can offer significant benefits to both the mother and child. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) supports it, advising mothers to breastfeed “up to two years of age and beyond.”
Extended breastfeeding is meaningful and optimal nutrition for the child. It can benefit their physical health, mental well-being, and emotional bonding with the parent.
However, extended breastfeeding can also pose some challenges.
Read more to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of extended breastfeeding.
Benefits of extended breastfeeding
Extended breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, but researchers have documented numerous benefits associated with it. Breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding improves the growth, development, and survival of the infant.
From a health perspective, the evidence of the power of breastfeeding for lifelong health and prosperity is stronger than ever.
Some of these benefits include:
A longer duration of breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer in the mother.
Additionally, it reduces the risk of, hypertension, obesity, and heart attack in the nursing mother.
The health of the child
Babies’ immune systems may be strengthened by breast milk’s high antibody content. The prevalence of bacterial meningitis, diarrhoea, respiratory tract infections, asthma, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, and diabetes is reduced in breastfed babies.
Breastfeeding for more than 6 months can protect children from developing leukaemia and lymphoma, type 1 and 2 diabetes.
Babies who breastfeed have also been linked to lower infant mortality. Continued breastfeeding develops a strong immune system that goes beyond infancy.
According to certain research, the psychological effects of extended breastfeeding are very positive for mother and child.
It is an important source of reassurance and emotional support. It decreases physiological and subjective stress greatly, promotes happy emotions, and increases bonding between the infant and parent.
Formula-fed babies, on the other hand, are more likely to experience worry, stress, and sadness than breastfed babies.
Many babies and young children find nursing to be very calming. A breastfed baby may cry less, feel secure, be simpler to calm down and fall asleep easily.
This readily available source of comfort may reduce some of the stress associated with parenting and provide the child with a convenient means of coping.
Extending breastfeeding boosts the emotional well-being of toddlers.
Although extended breastfeeding does take some planning, it can also be much more convenient than formula. This is because it is easily accessible and practical.
Regardless of how old your baby is, he or she will continue to benefit from the nutritional composition of breast milk.
Breastmilk is a nourishing food source that is loaded with protein, minerals, proteins, calcium, fat, vitamin A, and other nutrients, that are available well beyond the first year of life.
Parents may take solace in the knowledge that breast milk can fill in nutritional shortfalls while their children try new foods. Picky eaters will especially benefit from this.
Disadvantages of extended breastfeeding
There are no medical drawbacks associated with breastfeeding beyond the age of 1 year, as long as a child eats sufficient supplementary foods.
However, individuals may encounter barriers to nursing, particularly if they lack family or social support.
Some potential disadvantages include:
Extended breastfeeding is not a cultural “standard” in the majority of Western countries, and there’s a stigma attached to doing so. The subject is often not talked about openly.
A person could experience censure and humiliation, feel isolated or judged by their friends, and not receive enough support from their partner or family.
Some people may experience pressure at work to stop nursing or they may need to fight for their right to take breaks to pump.
Psychological or developmental harm
Many critics claim that extended breastfeeding is bad for a child’s growth or psychological health.
They contend that it discourages independence, and causes separation anxiety in children. However, there is no evidence to support this claim.
It can be challenging to breastfeed when working outside the home, particularly if a person works long hours. Extended breastfeeding imposes limitations on a mother’s schedule and lifestyle.
Breastfeeding can prevent ovulation from happening, but this is less likely as the kid gets older.
People who wish to get pregnant but whose periods haven’t come back might need to cut back on breastfeeding.
The majority of significant health organisations advise breastfeeding your child for at least 12 months, although many medical experts advise nursing even longer.
The benefits of extended breastfeeding exceed the drawbacks. It’s a healthy and sustainable way to provide your child with the health advantages, emotional support, and love they require as they proceed through childhood.
Moreover, you should also frequently opt for health screening. It provides you with vital insights into your health, allowing you to take necessary measures to improve it.