Most parents know how beneficial breastfeeding can be to their young infant, but there is increasing research and information from pediatricians that tout the benefits to breastfeeding longer than the first year. Today, more mothers are breastfeeding their infants during those first few months of rapid brain development. As their baby gets older, the number of breastfeeding mothers decreases due to societal pressure, work commitments and solid foods.
While the decision to breastfeed longer should be up to the mother, here are seven benefits you and your baby get from extended breastfeeding.
1. Immunity Boost
One of the top benefits to babies is a boost in immunity. Newborns are often too young to get some vaccinations, and their mother’s milk can provide some protection against disease. Pediatricians and researchers are also finding out more about how extended breastfeeding can offer additional immunity beyond the first year. Breastmilk is packed with powerful antibodies that are passed to your child. Some studies have shown these antibodies increase during extended breastfeeding.
2. Protection Against Obesity
Breastfeeding also offers some protection against childhood obesity. Research has shown that babies who are breastfed have a better ability to regulate their food and avoid overeating. Breastmilk is also nutritionally balanced for developing babies and toddlers, preventing them from getting food that is too sugary or too high in calories. Toddlers are often vulnerable to overeating once they are weaned with the addition of cow’s milk and sugary snacks to their diets. With extended breastfeeding, toddlers can continue to get added protection from obesity.
3. Bonding Benefits
The bond between a new mother and her baby is often strongest during the first few months when breastfeeding typically occurs. Babies who are breastfed are often comforted by their mother’s milk, and the extended time they get with their mothers can have lasting effects on their relationship.
4. Higher IQ
Research shows a link to extended breastfeeding and higher intelligence. Babies who were breastfed longer scored higher on intelligence tests and had more career success as adults. As the children grew up, they took advantage of more educational opportunities and earned higher incomes than other children who had not been breastfed as long. Scientists believe this was caused by the extended exposure to fatty acid DHA, which is found in breastmilk and supports brain development.
5. Helpful to Social Development
Social and emotional development are essential parts of a baby and
6. Support Healthy Postpartum Weight Loss
Breastfeeding for a longer period of time is not just beneficial to your baby. It can also provide mothers with some healthy bonuses. One of the biggest struggles of being a new mom is getting back in shape after pregnancy. To be clear, it’s not a miracle weight loss cure. While you do burn 300 to 500 calories per day and some mothers do lose weight as a result, different body types, sleep, stress, eating habits, physical activity, and hormone changes do play a role. But WebMD does verify that breastfeeding, “releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth.”
7. Better Maternal Health
Mothers can benefit from other health boosts by continuing to nurse past the infant stage of life. Some studies have shown breastfeeding helps lower your risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and it may lower your risk of osteoporosis. Breastfeeding may also help improve cardiovascular health and bone health.
Extended breastfeeding is becoming more common and accepted as more parents realize how beneficial it can be to both mother and baby. In many societies around the world, it’s normal to see toddlers breastfeeding. If you want to give your baby the strongest boost in her first years, extended breastfeeding may be the best way to do it.