Advantages and disadvantages of extended breastfeeding

Contribution: Rachna Arya

Introduction

Nursing for more than 1 or 2 years is considered extended breastfeeding. It can offer significant benefits to both mother and baby. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) supports this, recommending that mothers breastfeed for “two years and beyond”.

Extended breastfeeding is meaningful and optimal nutrition for the baby. It can benefit their physical health, emotional well-being and emotional bond with parents.

However, extended breastfeeding can also pose some challenges.

Read more about the pros and cons 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 infant growth, development and survival.

From a health perspective, the evidence for the power of breastfeeding for lifelong health and prosperity is stronger than ever.

Some of these benefits include:

maternal health

A longer period of breastfeeding is associated with a reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer in the mother.

Additionally, it reduces the risk of high blood pressure, obesity and heart attack in nursing mothers.

Child health

Infants’ immunity may be strengthened by the high antibody content of mother’s milk. Breastfed babies have a reduced incidence of bacterial meningitis, diarrhea, respiratory infections, asthma, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, and diabetes.

Breastfeeding for more than 6 months can protect babies from leukemia and lymphoma, type 1 and 2 diabetes.

Infants who are breastfed are also associated with lower infant mortality. Continued breastfeeding develops a strong immune system that extends beyond infancy.

mental health

According to specific studies, the psychological effects of extended breastfeeding are very positive for both mother and child.

It is an important source of reassurance and emotional support. It greatly reduces physiological and subjective stress, promotes happy emotions and enhances bonding between child and parent.

Formula-fed babies, on the other hand, are more likely to experience anxiety, stress and sadness than breast-fed babies.

simple calm

Many babies and young children find nursing very calming. Breastfed babies may cry less, feel safer, be easier to soothe, and fall asleep more easily.

This readily available source of comfort can alleviate some of the stress associated with parenting and provide the child with a convenient way to cope.

Breastfeeding improves the emotional well-being of children.

Accessibility

Although extended breastfeeding takes some planning, it can be much more convenient than formula. Because it is accessible and practical.

nutrition

No matter how old your baby is, he will continue to benefit from the nutritional composition of breast milk.

Breast milk is a nutritious food source rich in protein, minerals, protein, calcium, fat, vitamin A and other nutrients, which are available even after the first year of life.

Parents can take comfort in the knowledge that breast milk can fill nutritional gaps when their babies try new foods. Picky eaters will especially benefit from this.

Increased breastfeeding difficulty

There are no medical drawbacks associated with breastfeeding after 1 year of age, as long as a child receives adequate complementary foods.

However, individuals may face barriers to nursing, particularly if they lack family or social support.

Some potential pitfalls include:

Social stigma

Extended breastfeeding is not a cultural “norm” in most Western countries and there is a stigma attached to doing so. The subject is not often discussed openly.

A person may feel condemned and humiliated, feel isolated or judged by their friends, and not get enough support from their partner or family.

Some people may feel pressured to stop nursing or may have to fight for their right to take breaks at the pump.

Psychological or developmental harm

Many critics claim that extended breastfeeding is bad for the child’s growth or mental health.

They claim it discourages independence and causes separation anxiety in children. However, there is no evidence to support this claim.

Problems at work

Breastfeeding can be challenging while working outside the home, especially if a person works long hours. Extended breastfeeding imposes constraints on the mother’s schedule and lifestyle.

Fertility

Breastfeeding can prevent ovulation, but this is less likely as the baby gets older.

Women who want to become pregnant but whose periods have not returned may need to stop breastfeeding.

Last thought

Most major health organizations recommend breastfeeding your baby for at least 12 months, although many medical experts recommend nursing for longer.

The benefits of extended breastfeeding outweigh the drawbacks. It’s a healthy and sustainable way to provide your child with the health benefits, emotional support and love they need as they move through childhood.

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