Breast Milk Doesn't Expire After the First Birthday
By Jessica Dimas on August 05, 2014
First off, is this not the most stunning nursing photo you've ever seen? I'm absolutely in love with it! Photo is courtesy of Perched Owl Photography, who is located in the Long Island area if you're looking for an amazing and breastfeeding friendly photographer! And you can follow this breastfeeding mama and her gorgeous kids on Instagram here. Her son is only a week older than Dacky (and I can still remember vividly when she told me her water broke and I was sooooo jealous; it felt like I waited an eternity for my turn!)
It's World Breastfeeding Week and breastfeeding is very near and dear to my heart, so I'm taking the week to write solely about my experiences and tips I've picked up along the way. Yesterday I shared the 9 steps I took to ensure a successful breastfeeding relationship, and today I'm going to write on another topic that I get questioned about frequently: Are you still nursing your toddler?
Yes I am! I think the thing that frustrates me the most is when people say things to me like breast milk doesn't have any purpose after a certain point. I've heard three months (which is absurd), six months, and then it seems to be general consensus that a year is the cut off point.
I believe that every breastfeeding relationship should continue for as long as both mother and child want to, and on that note, I'm going to talk about why I choose to breastfeed past the first year mark.
Here are some reasons why it is very normal and recommended even, to breastfeed toddlers:
Their body still needs the nutrients. In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:
29% of energy requirements
43% of protein requirements
36% of calcium requirements
75% of vitamin A requirements
76% of folate requirements
94% of vitamin B12 requirements
60% of vitamin C requirements
– Dewey 2001
And "they" said breast milk offers nothing after a certain point, HA! I wish somebody would attempt to scientifically explain to me how the breast milk of an animal or a plant or a freakin almond is somehow more beneficial for my child than the milk my body makes for him. Nature is not dumb, if it stopped being beneficial after a certain point, my body would stop making it.
It helps them fight off illnesses. Toddlers are crazy; they run around everywhere and touch everything. They pick up the sickies easier in the second year because they're mobile and around other children more. For as long as a woman is lactating, her milk is producing antibodies. Given the fact that a child's immune system is not fully developed until six years of age, it's easy to see that toddlers greatly benefit healthwise by receiving their mother's milk, which is perfectly tailored just for them.
Because they need it emotionally and mentally. Toddlers are dipping their toes in the great lake of independence, and it's scary for them. They swim out a little bit and then come rushing back to mom for that security and comfort. Breastfeeding supports this emotional security, which in turn builds a solid foundation that fosters greater independence.
Because they can ask for it. Especially because they can ask for it. So many people have said "They're too old when they can ask for it." Really? So it's okay to ask for cow's breast milk but not for the mother's milk? Hmmm...
Toddlers also ask for kisses, hugs, apples, and cookies amongst many other things. All this means is they're able to express what they need and want.
It's the best weapon against tantrums and owies. Toddlers have all kinds of big emotions that they don't know how to deal with yet and they're also constantly exploring and taking risks, which means they're scraping knees and getting banged up. The quickest way to soothe a toddler is to nurse them; they instantly are in their "safe place" and can calm down much easier.
Because it's medically recommended. The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend breastfeeding for at least two years. Also, the US Surgeon General stated "It is the lucky baby who continues to nurse until age 2." (Novello, 1990). Spankyouverymuch.
It's good for the mother's health. Breastfeeding, especially for long durations, reduces the risk of several kinds of cancers, including breast, ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancer for the nursing mother. They have specifically found that the longer a woman breastfeeds, the less likely she is to develop breast cancer. It also reduces the risk of several other serious diseases, which you can read about here. It's a win-win all the way around.
I hope you found this information helpful or useful! Keep calm and breastfeed on, mamas, no matterwhat anyone says to you! (The science and statistics are on your side!)
Other breastfeeding posts I've written:
Breastfeeding: Don't Assume It Was Easy For Me
I Weaned My Baby
Tandem Breastfeeding: My Experience & Tips
Breastfeeding Through Pregnancy: My Experience & Tips
The Many Benefits of Breastfeeding
5 Reasons Why I Chose Extended Breastfeeding
The Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding