Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding

Pediatricians recommend breastfeeding until baby is at least a year old -- but many moms keep going beyond that. Discover the pluses of extended breastfeeding.

1. It provides nutrition for the baby

"A lot of people think there is no nutritive value after a year, and that is just simply not true. Regardless of how old your baby is, he or she will continue to benefit from the protein, calcium, fat, vitamin A, and other nutrients in breast milk. Weiss compares the nutrition benefits to a vegetable, like spinach. The amount of spinach you eat doesn't take away from its nutritional value. Spinach, whether it's your first serving or your 1,000th, is still good for you.

2. It boosts the immune system

Babies who breastfeed have decreased incidences of illness and lower mortality rates. The immunity benefits improve the longer a baby breastfeeds. "The longer you breastfeed, the less likely your baby is to have some of the illnesses that we associate with not breastfeeding, like ear infections and upper respiratory infections.

3. It makes moms healthier

Moms who breastfeed are less likely to have breast cancer. There's also a reduced risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. The benefits are cumulative, meaning that if a mom breastfeeds two babies for two years each, the benefit is equal to that of a mom who breastfeeds four babies each for a year.

4. It boosts brain development

Studies have shown that breastfeeding helps boost brain development in babies. And it's not just from the nutrients: Weiss says that babies who nurse off of both breasts are put into different positions, and have the chance to look and reach in different directions. When moms bottle-feed babies, the instinct is to use the dominant hand and put the baby in the same position at every feeding. Weiss encourages moms who use bottles to switch things up, changing the position of the baby and the bottle, to help exercise the baby's reach and mind.

5. It's soothing to the baby

Breastfeeding is a chance for Mom and baby to connect, but it's also a way of calming a baby in a stressful situation. Weiss says she'd rely on breastfeeding when her children fell down and hurt themselves. It gave her a way to distract and soothe the child, while also checking him or her out for cuts and bruises.




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