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F. In what ways do you feel that you and/or your child have benefitted from long-term breastfeeding? Why would you encourage someone to continue past the first year?


This article is from the Breastfeeding Past the First Year FAQ, by Kim Smith with numerous contributions by others.

F. In what ways do you feel that you and/or your child have benefitted from long-term breastfeeding? Why would you encourage someone to continue past the first year?

2. Well, to start with, Morganne gets the usual number of colds, but she's
never had a secondary infection (in her ears, in her eyes, in her sinuses or
in her chest). I'm convinced that nursing for longer than 18 months really
helps prevent chronic ear infections. Also, when Morganne did get sick, she
would often refuse all food and drink other than the breast. If she'd been
weaned, that would have been very worrying for me.
Breastfeeding also made the toddler year easier. When we were both
cross, tired and hungry, we could sit down for a snuggle together. When she
was done, the world would seem like a calmer, friendlier place for both of
us. This is kind of a tough question for me because I can't imagine what
would have happened if I'd weaned her before age 1. I'd always planned on
nursing her for the first two years. I did go through some anxiety around
age 1 where I thought "Maybe I should wean her". I think this is because
people started rolling their eyes and asking "Are you still nursing that
child?" around age 1. Reading _Mothering the Nursing Toddler_ helped me get
through my doubts.
I really enjoyed the 3.5 years of breastfeeding Morganne. It felt
right, in keeping with my parenting style and very in tune with her needs. I
think if I'd weaned her we would have been less close, rather than the bosom
buddies we were. I also think we would have had more clashes; that she'd
have been fussier and I'd have been less patient.

3. Physically, my son benefitted from the antibodies that he still got from
me, though I'm not sure how much I can credit breastfeeding for the
incredibly healthy kid I've got (only minor colds, no ear infections yet).
Emotionally, the benefits have been tremendous: he was used to being held by
me and he still enjoys being cuddled and hugged. We are very close
emotionally and while I am not sure that BF can again be credited with this,
since I believe I would have made every effort to encourage closeness/bonding
even without BF, it certainly contributed to the ease of bonding. Finally, I
think that by BF beyond the first year, there is a greater likelihood that my
son will remember the experience, and thus encourage it in his own circle of
friends later in life. I tend not to proselytize, but if someone asked me if
she *should* continue BF past the first year, I would certainly give her all
the encouragement I could. I guess I would point to the above benefits of
long-term BF in my conversation in order to encourage continued BF.

4. I don't have a real good answer for this. Breastfeeding the children
as long as I did just seemed like the right thing to do. I wasn't
particularly influenced by "society's" opinions - I never felt like people
expected me to give it up. It seemed as though the children continued to need
it - there wasn't an "off" switch that triggered at one year. Based on *my*
experience with *my* children (ie, Your Mileage May Vary), I was always
slightly stunned when told that an 8 or 9 month old child had voluntarily or
happily quit nursing.

5. My daughter does not use bottles or pacifiers. I don't see why 1 yo is
seen as a reasonable cut off point because they still need the sucking
comfort. I feel the bonding whenever I breastfeed. It is a special
relationship that I am in no hurry to sever. Benefits for me: special
relaxing, private time together; mental comfort in knowing that I'm providing
her some good nutrition since she doesn't like cow milk or formula; I also
work full time, so this closeness is a way of assuaging the guilt of not
being with her all the time... Benefits for child: special comfort when all
else fails....

6. I think it has a lot of emotional benefits. It gives the child a feeling
of security. It's so nice to see your child relaxing on the breast and it
makes it very easy to get him to sleep in the evening. (Now just mentioning
the word 'Bed' will get an immediate reaction of Cees: 'Bed! Breast!') Not
only convenient in the evening, but also when I was pregnant I could easily
get my much needed rest by lying down and nursing. Sometimes we both fell
asleep like this in the middle of the day.
It's very cute when they are more conscious about nursing and they can
'tell' you that they want to nurse (first by pulling your shirt, later they
can even really tell you with words) And now he is more verbal it's so cute
when he talks about nursing. (When we are switching breasts, he is saying:
'Empty breast' (pointing to the one he already drank), 'More breast!'
(pointing to the next one.)) I'm already longing for the time he will be able
to tell why he likes nursing so much. (I don't think he will wean soon :-)
It's good to know they have something to rely on when they become sick.
When Cees is really sick, he sometimes gots back to fulltime nursing and
refuses everything else. It's very convenient to be able to nurse after a
temper tantrum. It helps both of us to get back to normal. When Cees is
having a difficult time, nursing also will help him. I think he feels a
lot better after a nursing session.
I really didn't plan nursing as long as I am doing now. It just
happened. When Cees was born I just tried to work out nursing and this is the
result. I sometimes think I'm still nursing because I'm just too lazy to go
for a parent led weaning :-)

7. It has definitely kept the kids healthier. They seem to get less ill from
colds and flus they catch, and each has only had one ear infection in their
lives! I think it also is good for their jaws, and because I have terribly
crowded teeth, that is an important consideration for me.
The psychological effects are less tangible, but I feel that continued
breastfeeding has helped my kids feel more secure and confident.

11. My sons both seemed like such babies at 1 year that I could not imagine
weaning them then. They were very emotionally dependent on nursing for
comfort and got quite a lot of thier nutrition from it also. Nick, in
particular, ate very little until he was over 2. I guess if I had withheld
the breast he might have started eating and using a cup in desperation, but
that seemed cruel and unneccessary. Now, at 32 months, he eats fairly well,
but nursing is still his favorite source of comfort and a surefire way to
end a tantrum. Which is great when it is convenient, but awful if we are,
for example, driving somewhere in a strange area where it would not be
practical to stop. Allowing Ben to continue to nurse after Nick was born
gave him a way to get his babying needs met without regressing in other areas
like toiletting or development of outside social relationships.
We used the 'don't offer, don't refuse (or at least not very often)'
approach starting at around 18 months for them both, and the continued
nursing was thier choice, indicating to me a real need to cling to babyhood
in this area while they made progress in others.

14. I think that Emily has benefitted by having a constant source of
affection and love from me. She can count on me. I know that if she were to
wean I would still give her love and affection, but this way I am almost
forced to (and I like to).

16. I think that breastfeeding has enabled my son and me to have a very close
and warm relationship, even though I work full time. Especially when he was
younger (but still older than a year), it provided a form of nurturing and
comfort that seems important to him, especially when he was feeling out of
sorts in one way or another. For example, he had some relatively minor
surgery just before his third birthday (for an undescended testicle), and
being able to nurse him after he woke from the anesthesia was a blessing.
Cuddling would not have had quite the same effect.

17. Health benefits are the main thing. (No way can you convince someone
of the emotional benefits, if they haven't felt them by 1 year.) Researchers
are still discovering new health benefits for both mother and baby. It's

18. Well, to paraphrase our pediatrician, I could tell you about all the
scientific reasons why breastfeeding is good (immunities and nutrition for
baby, health benefits to mother, etc.), but the real reason why I breastfeed
is because we were *meant* to breastfeed, this is God's plan for nourishing
babies and their mothers, physically and emotionally. (Seriously, he really
did say this - on our first consult when I asked him what he thought about
breastfeeding!) I think toddlers get many of the same benefits that infants
get from nursing - immunities, nutrition, comfort, closeness with their
mother, security - and I don't think they suddenly lose their needs for all
of this when they reach some magical age of maturity. Long-term
breastfeeding is really long-term weaning--it's simply a way of allowing our
young children to move from dependence to independence at their own pace,
rather than imposing an arbitrary cutoff. I think my 2 y.o. daughter is able
to be very independent and happy in the world at large because she feels very
secure in her bond to me (and her father), and part of that bond comes from
nursing. I decided to keep nursing past the first year when I looked at her
and saw how much she enjoyed it, looked at myself and saw how much I enjoyed
it, and couldn't figure out why on earth we should stop.
You also asked about the benefits to me, and I want to add something
about this. I work full-time outside of the home. Nursing my daughter is
something only I can do, not her father nor her daycare providers, and she
loves it. Nursing her really helps me to *feel* like a "good mother" (please
don't get me wrong - I really don't mean that nursing is an objective measure
of competent motherhood, I'm just talking about how it makes me feel). *I*
love the special closeness we share when we nurse and that closeness helps
*me* to deal with the time away from her. Right up until she was about 18
months old, nursing was the first thing we did when I walked in the door from
work, it was the way I transitioned from my work mode to home mode and it was
the way we reconnected after the day's separation. I'd particularly
encourage working mothers to consider extended nursing from this perspective
and note that, unlike nursing an infant, on a practical basis it's easy to
combine work and nursing a toddler.

20. Nolan has just turned one today, and I've been thinking a lot about
our wonderful year and the very special bond we have because of our
continued nursing. He's a big, strong, healthy child--warm and loving,
affectionate and self-confident. I can't help but credit breastfeeding for
some of that! I think it's part of a very physical and loving relationship my
husband and I have with him. Nursing provides nutrition, health benefits, and
most importantly, emotional comfort and a sense of physical love and warmth
and attachment. As he explores his world and it gets wider and wider, he
knows he always has a safe base to return to.

22. I would hugely encourage anyone to continue past the first year. (i)
Nursing teaches babies that happiness comes from _people_, not objects. I
believe it has helped me to be as close as I am to my kids. (ii) I don't
know how I ever would have survived toddlerhood without nursing -- it was
like having two magic wands for calming my babies down when they got
overexcited or overtired. (iii) As a full-time working-outside-the-house
Mommy, long-term nursing was something I could do that my babysitter
couldn't. I believe this special bond was something very important for my
kids and me -- that 'welcome home' nursing after a long day's work was the
ultimate reward. Most of the other long-term nursing mothers I know also
worked outside the home. (iv) Though this hasn't been scientifically studied
(are you listening, NIH?), long-term breastfeeding is supposed to reduce your
risk for breast cancer. (v) Breastfeeding is so _easy_! I can't imagine
attempting a plane trip with bottles, for crying out loud...

23. We both still like the special quiet, relaxing, tranquil time we
spend together when he is nursing.

24. I have just started my 2nd year of nursing, so I'm not sure of
the benefits yet. I do notice that he tries to lift my shirt up, and
suddendly knows where his meals are coming from! Another thing is
that he absoluetly hates cow's milk and spits it out. So at least I
know he's getting milk from me.

25. I enjoy breastfeeding. It seems so easy to comfort a toddler. It
means so much to the baby, that I couldn't take it away. We are both happy.

26. First of all, I don't worry too much about his picky eating habits, because
I know he's still getting nutrition from me. Emotionally, it's a way for us
to connect. It calms both of us down. It makes me stop when I get home and
spend time with him. I know eventually I have to do other things, but this
is the natural way!! He was recently ill with diarrhea and vomiting, and
breast milk (as long as I wasn't overly full and restricted my dairy intake)
was tolerated by him. In fact, it's really all he would take, except water
and the forced syringe of pedialyte.
I would encourage someone to continue past the first year because in my
experience, Jeff wasn't ready to wean. He's still getting antibodies and
the nurturing. He's got so many other things to frustrate him with
development, this is a stable part of his life.


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previous page: E. About breastfeeding moms: When did your period return? How long were you able to go without feeding (eg on a trip away from the baby) without problems?
page up: Breastfeeding Past the First Year FAQ
next page: G. How has breastfeeding affected you (the mother) physically? (eg, side effects, weight gain or loss, increased or decreased appetite, energy level, sex drive, etc.)