If you continue breastfeeding past the first year of your baby’s life, it is considered extended breastfeeding. That’s not to say there is anything unusual or even that different about continuing after your baby’s first birthday! Many, many women continue to feed. It’s the norm in other countries to continue until your child is 4 or 5. It is up to you how long you breastfeed your child; only you know what’s best for yourself and your little one.
While some women continue to feed until their baby weans naturally, some women are daunted by the idea of continuing to feed. Some Mothers worry about the reaction of others. Others are concerned about introducing solids to a baby who is still breastfeeding. For others, those new teeth are a concern! Whatever your concerns, your doctor or other health professional will be able to give you good advice on the benefits to you and your child when you choose to extend the length of time you breastfeed for. Be led by your baby and yourself. Try not to let the opinions of others to influence something so important. Many people simply do not understand the benefits of extended breastfeeding. Being able to explain these will usually be enough to satisfy the curiosity of those around you.
The benefits of extended breastfeeding are the same as the benefits of breastfeeding in general in that your baby is receiving the best food, tailor made for him. Your milk is always there, at the right temperature, when it is needed. Your breast milk will continue to provide your child with better immunity and nutrition. As your baby grows, your milk supplies what your child needs.
There is research that shows extended breastfeeding also benefits the Mother. Your risk of certain cancers including ovarian and breast cancer, as well as your risk of heart disease, hypertension (raised blood pressure) and diabetes are all reduced. So as well as providing a boost to your baby’s long-term and short-term health, the health of the Mother is also improved in a very real way.
Many women feel daunted by the idea of breastfeeding a baby with teeth. Your baby may have some or all of his teeth before you are ready to stop breastfeeding, and it is natural to worry. If your latch is correct, your baby’s teeth will be tucked away. So while they are feeding, you wont be in contact with them. The only time you need to be concerned about them is when your baby is latching on and when they leave the breast. From the very beginning you need to teach your baby not to use their teeth on the breast. To do this, simply use your finger to break contact and remove your baby from the breast any time they bite. They will soon learn that biting = no milk, and this will stop.
You can introduce your baby to solids and still offer them breast milk. Combining the two is a great way to ensure your baby’s nutritional needs are being met. Your baby may decide they are no longer interested in breastfeeding when they have solids, or they may embrace this combination. It is important that you are led by your baby. If they no longer seem interested in breast milk then they are naturally weaning away from the breast. Otherwise, it is entirely up to you when you want to stop breastfeeding your child.
For further information, visit breastfeeding.ie