Here’s all you need to know about extended breastfeeding

By , K24 Digital
On Mon, 11 Jul, 2022 07:00 | 4 mins read

Extended breastfeeding is when a mother continues to breastfeed the baby beyond his or her first year. 

This activity is considered beneficial for nursing mothers' health as in the past women used to have an average of five to six children, therefore the breastfeeding span had been longer as well.

But in today's world due to many factors, the average childbirth is two and most women are breastfeeding only for six months.

Woman breastfeeding her baby
PHOTO/Courtesy

As a mother, if you decide this is right for you and your baby, you're in good company with other mothers around the world. Breastmilk is healthy and beneficial for all ages and in current times, the only limitation would be putting up with unwanted comments and stares from friends, family, and strangers.

It is advisable for women to breastfeed for two years according to the World Health Organization. But despite this advice, as a mother, you may feel uncomfortable extending feeding to your toddler or preschooler.

Even with the pressure from other mothers, do not stop extending your breastfeeding because there are plenty of good reasons, emotional and physical, for continuing to breastfeed your child. In the end, you get to decide what is right.

Why is breastfeeding my toddler a good idea?

Except for the fact that breastfeeding provides most of the baby’s nutrition, it still provides valuable immunities, vitamins, and enzymes. Breastfed toddlers get sick less frequently than their peers do. Sometimes when a child falls ill, breast milk may be the only thing that can keep the child down. You'll feel better too, knowing that you're helping him or her fight off the illness right?

Photo: Courtesy

Another advantage of breastfeeding is that you will not need to budget or worry about baby formula at all. As your child matures, a strong attachment with your child is created while feeding making you feel that you are helping the child become more independent than clingy.

When you force a child to stop breastfeeding before he or she is ready, it will not necessarily create a more confident child. Knowing that toddlers are always on the move, breastfeeding gives both you and the child time out, by this, you can relax and give them the attention they need.

Photo: Courtesy

If you travel a lot, breastfeeding is a lot easier than carrying around milk or worrying about having to buy supplies at your destination. And when you're staying overnight in a foreign place, the comfort of your breast may be the best way to soothe your child's fears.

What are the challenges of extended breastfeeding?

Negative comments and criticisms will come flowing especially from people who think breastfeeding an older child is strange. For example, it can be difficult if your toddler lifts up your shirt in the supermarket and demands a quick snack especially here in Kenya, people will definitely give you a strange look, no doubt.

PHOTO/Courtesy

Your child may start to rely on your breast whenever he or she is bored or when they need attention. This would therefore mean you have to navigate a way to have the child distracted. 

Another challenge would be breastfeeding a toddler and you’ve got another baby on the way.           Yes, it is possible, but you may find it physically demanding. How will you juggle between the two? This could only mean that you start weaning the toddler before the birth of the new one. Do not be surprised if they prefer weaning themselves.

How can you make extended breastfeeding work for you?

If you can, find a community of like-minded moms. Then you'll have a support network of extended breastfeeding friends around you. 

Many times you may feel more comfortable breastfeeding your child only while you're in your own home. If that's the case, then feed your child before heading out. Let’s say you breastfeed once in the morning and once at night and teach your toddler to drink from a cup during the day.

PHOTO/Courtesy

If you don't care what people think or say, they have some responses ready, and when someone asks you the inevitable question: "Is he still feeding?" Sometimes a simple "yes" is the best answer.

Or, the next time you're feeding in public and someone asks, "Are you ever going to stop breastfeeding?" just say, "Yes, in about 10 minutes."

If a time comes and you are under pressure about extended breastfeeding, remind yourself and others of what a wonderful job you are doing, helping your child to grow.

With the right support and a certain amount of determination, you and your baby can look forward to many more months, and possibly years, of happy feeding.

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