Breastfeeding is one of the most important aspects for a growing baby. Breastmilk is loaded with the apt nutrients to help your baby grow healthier.
But of course whether you breastfeed or not totally depends on you and as a mother you have all the right in the world to make that decision.
For some mothers, it could be that they have to return to a full time job. This will make breastfeeding challenging.
Of course you can pump, but it all depends on how flexible your work schedule is and what your work environment is.
For some other mothers, there could be a health condition that stops them from breastfeeding for long times.
In any case though, if you really put in some effort, you can do it.
Trust me, I have felt a million times that I should stop breastfeeding right then and just feed something else to my baby.
But somehow I held on and the longer I held on to it, the easier it becomes.
In the earlier days, immediately after childbirth, breastfeeding may not be a pleasant thing for you.
The sleepless nights, general discomfort in the body as a whole, the inexperienced child-mom duo – all these can lead to even painful breasts.
Mastitis can also be another problem during the earlier days.
But once the baby and the mother get in the hang of it, breastfeeding is a breeze. There are a lot of benefits to breastfeeding a baby.
For one, it is highly recommended that you breastfeed the baby at least for the first 6 months since this is the most crucial stage of your baby’s life.
Your baby needs all the important nutrients for coping the outside world and to keep up with the growth.
And your breast milk is perfectly tailored to serve this purpose.
Second, it is free of cost. I am sure how you can easily burn a hole in your pocket if you are offering your baby formula milk.
Formula milk is the same formula (even though there are stages) and it is not perfectly tailored to suit your baby’s needs. On the other hand breast milk is so perfectly tailored.
When you baby catches cold, your breast milk helps your baby develop the antibodies.
If your baby suffers digestion issues, your breast milk will provide the necessary support.
And depending upon the age of your baby, your breastmilk evolves to provide the necessary vitamins, minerals, nutrients and so on.
All these, free of cost.
Now, I know most women who choose to breastfeed easily do it for the first year.
If you have the guts to go beyond the first year, I call it extended breastfeeding.
And in this post I am going to talk about the very specific benefits of extended breastfeeding, apart from breastfeeding in general.
Negligible hospital visits
I breastfed my son (the elder one) for just 6 months because I was on a full time job.
I had to travel a long distance to my office and meeting him in between is impossible.
So naturally I had to give up breastfeeding after 6 months.
Looking back now, I remember how many hospital visits I had with him.
He would often get upset stomach – puking and diarrhoea with fever were somewhat frequent.
But with my daughter (the younger), I’ve visited the hospital JUST TWO TIMES till now reporting fever (she is 1.5 years old at the time of writing this post) – apart from visits for vaccination, of course.
Even if she catches cold, she would recover in a day or two quite swiftly. She would reduce food intake and increase breastmilk intake when she feels sick.
And boom, in a day or two she would be back to normal.
A well behaved baby
Crankiness is usually a rare thing with a baby whom you breastfeed over a year. When babies get to crawl and walk around, they get attracted by a lot of shiny stuff.
Curiosity is at its peak. And they might be either distracted all the time, and/or prone to infections.
This is when you have a cranky baby. And a baby who demands to be allowed to wander off without being interrupted.
During these times, you easily get to soothe and calm a baby when you breastfeed him/her.
No matter how adamant the child is, it is easier to tame him/her with breastfeeding – I don’t mean to say that there aren’t any other methods. But breastfeeding works a lot better.
Milestones reached well ahead of time
Compared to other babies of the same age, sans extended breastfeeding, I found babies who are breastfed over a year did remarkably well in terms of growth and development.
My daughter displayed skills and reached milestones a lot earlier than the expected time.
Be it pronouncing words, walking, running around, picking stuff, identifying colours and shapes – her development was remarkable. It actually got many wondering.
Lost weight and kept at it
Coming to the mommy side of it – yes I was able to lose a lot of pre-preggo weight right after delivery mainly because of breastfeeding.
But unlike I expected, the weight didn’t come back. That’s totally because of extended breastfeeding.
I mostly try to eat healthy and have portion control. But I am not as actively exercising as I used to pre-pregnancy.
So I expected some gain in weight after a while – but to my surprise, I continued to lose some more a year after.
And now I weigh a lot lesser than my pre-pregnancy weight without me taking any special efforts for the same.
The long term benefits…
I know about the long term benefits of breastfeeding both for the mom and baby.
With extended breast-feeding you just have even more of those benefits.
It is well known that breastfeeding reduces your risk of getting breast cancer. The longer you breastfeed, the lesser are your chances of getting breast cancer.
As I said in the previous point, the longer you breastfeed, the longer you can stay in shape and in good health without taking tedious efforts.
The longer you breastfeed, the longer you can enjoy the mother-baby bonding – those are some of the greatest moments for you to relish and before you know it the phase will pass!
The first few years of are very crucial in your baby’s life. So you give him/her the best chance of healthy survival by breastfeeding over a year.
You help their immune system grow stronger, and supply the most needed nutrients for longer periods. The more you do, the stronger will be the impact of the same in your baby’s life.
The cons of extended breastfeeding…
Alright – well, well, it all sounds too good, right.
But I will also share some of the cons of extended breastfeeding here so you won’t say I didn’t warn you 🙂
Slower weight gain of the baby
Some breastfed babies might gain lesser weight compared to babies who have been weaned off the breast (over one year).
This is because, your breast milk becomes more fattier and is a lot tastier too to the baby, after one year.
So after a year, if you continue to breastfeed, some babies might prefer breastmilk a lot and might not show interest in solid foods.
Or the baby might eat solids a lot lesser than babies who are weaned.
This might lead to slower weight gain. BUT unless your baby is seriously underweight and unless your paediatrician is concerned, you should not worry about this.
Weaning off might be hard
It might be hard for you to wean your baby – this is not a generic statement. Most mommies will be just fine to stop breastfeeding any time over a year.
But some babies might get so addicted to breastmilk. Also after a year, babies might start to feed a lot for comfort.
This will cause behavioural disturbance when you try to wean, given that babies over a year are growing too fast and are able to emote well.
Crying, shouting, behaving adamantly, losing sleep, falling sick etc. are certain things you can expect when you try to wean.
You could feel drained
Depending on how many times you breastfeed in a day, you could feel exhausted. It has happened to me a lot of times leading to a thought if that’s the right time to simply stop breastfeeding.
But I held on.
Given that you are already coping with sleepless nights, and physical exertion while taking care of the baby, breastfeeding could rob you off some more energy.
Eating a well-balanced diet and taking rest as much as you can really helps with this.
You could feel that the phase is going on and on….
Sleepless nights, having to soothe a crying baby all the time, having to look for breastfeeding tops whenever you go out – all these can be hard to cope.
Especially when you have to hold on to these little disturbances for a long, long while – over a year!
You might end up longing to live a life where you have more freedom and a bit detached from the “being always wanted” feeling.
Having said that, I totally enjoy the benefits of extended breastfeeding and my daughter is enjoying the same too.
Seriously though, I neglected the cons for good.
There had been moments when I wanted to quit, but the longer it went on, the easier and more comfortable it got.
Try it out!