Extended Breastfeeding: Nursing your baby past the first birthday
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Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

Extended Breastfeeding: Nursing your baby past the first birthday

breastfeedingcafecarnivalWelcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival! This post was written as part of the Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about the long-term benefits of breastfeeding. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th-31st!
Today's prompt:
What’s your favorite long-term breastfeeding benefit? We all know that breastfeeding has a whole host of long-term benefits for both baby and mom, which one is your favorite?

I want to start this topic with a nod to The Alpha Parent, who created this infographic about the benefits of long-term breastfeeding for the toddler:
Extended breastfeeding - toddler breastfeeding - biological breastfeeding
Extended breastfeeding in our family:
One of our Sweet Peas (I call him “Charger” on the blog) has nursed for four years and ten months…with an occasional session since then.  We asked him to be finished nursing by the time he was five years old, and he decided on his own that he was ready to wean a couple of months ago.  Since then, as he realizes that his fifth birthday is fast approaching, he has asked to nurse with the caveat, “I can nurse until I’m five.”  Most times, he is happy to trade nursing for a book read aloud to him, and other times he asks again.  How can I say no?
As far as the other children in our family, they have weaned at 22 months and 18 months (emergency weaning to preserve a pregnancy before I “knew better”.)  Our youngest (“Otter”) is still nursing.  She is now two years and nine months old.  She is going strong and shows no signs of being ready to wean soon.
A fact about breastmilk that I learned at a seminar is that it has more immunity-boosting properties when you are breastfeeding a toddler than it does when you are feeding a newborn.  It makes sense: the bio-feedback from a newborn’s saliva lets the mother know what anti-bodies need to be in the milk to keep an infant healthy.  As toddlers, they are moving, touching, and tasting EVERYTHING.  When toddler gives bio-feedback via their saliva to the mother’s body, she makes milk that is appropriately "boosted" to help them conquer whatever little organism(s) they might be doing battle with thanks to all of their toddler exploration.
That little tidbit explains why my favorite benefit of extended breastfeeding for the child is the boost to the immune system.  I can definitely attest to the fact that our children that have been breastfed past two years of age have incredibly strong immune systems.  If there is a “bug” that we catch as we are out and about living life, Charger and Otter are barely affected, if at all.  We have chosen to delay vaccinations, and on the occasions that they have been vaccinated, their immune systems bounce back after a fever that lasts about a day.
I love seeing how strong they are, and I give all the credit to the fact that they have been breastfed for an extended period of time since we all eat the same whole food diet.  I am excited for all the possibilities that are available to them since their immune system isn’t fighting their body.
My favorite benefit for the breastfeeding mother is the lower risk of breast cancer.  HERE is an article from the American Cancer Society that takes an objective look at the data - excerpt below:
In December 2012, the National Cancer Institute sponsored a workshop on the breast changes that occur as part of pregnancy and breastfeeding, and any associated risk of breast cancer. The goal of the workshop was to summarize what is known in this area and to make recommendations for future research.

Workshop participants concluded that overall, research suggests that breastfeeding has only a slight effect on breast cancer risk and that effect is only among women who have breastfed for a long time. They also concluded that breastfeeding seems to be more protective against the most aggressive types of breast cancer, including tumors in women with mutations in the BRCA1 gene, basal-like cancers, hormone-receptor negative, and possibly triple negative tumors.
I’ll take that as a positive since I have breastfed four children for a total of 100 months, or 8.33 years.  I trust that qualifies me in the “women who have breastfed a long time” category.  Two of my aunts are breast cancer survivors.  I am grateful that the act of breastfeeding our children and practicing attachment parenting, which encourages parents to follow their children’s weaning cues, has offered built-in protection against a disease that has so personally affected our family.
According to an article on the Mayo Clinic site, extended breastfeeding, “has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.”  The health benefits of extended breastfeeding far outweigh the discomfort of cultural prejudice in my book.
Extended breastfeeding - toddler breastfeeding - biological breastfeeding
I’ll close with this wonderful advice from that same article on the Mayo Clinic website.  I don’t think I could say it better, so here it is:

How should I handle negative reactions to extended breast-feeding?
Worldwide, babies are weaned on average between ages 2 and 4. In some cultures, breast-feeding continues until children are age 6 or 7. In other parts of the world, however, extended breast-feeding is less common and can sometimes provoke uninformed, negative reactions.

How long you breast-feed is up to you and your baby. If loved ones — and even strangers — share their opinions about when to wean, remind them that the decision is yours. Try not to worry about what other people think. Instead, trust your instincts.

Extended breast-feeding can be an intimate way to continue nurturing your baby. If you're considering extended breast-feeding, think about what's best for both you and your baby — and enjoy this special time together.

Read the whole article HERE 

I have definitely enjoyed the special time together with our children, all of who have been breastfed past 12 months.  I will always treasure this time together, especially now that I sense I am in the final chapters of my “season” as a breastfeeding mother.  I remember the pride of seeing our exclusively breastfed infants thriving before they started solids.  I have an even greater sense of pride when I see how independent all our children are, and I credit that to the fact that their needs were met as children, including the need to breastfeed long past the time frame our culture in the USA is comfortable with a breastfeeding MotherBaby pair.
Want to read more about the benefits of extended breastfeeding?  Check out the comprehensive fact sheet on KellyMom.com HERE 
Do you have a favorite benefit to extended breastfeeding – what is yours?
Please leave us a comment - it will be moderated and posted. 
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The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
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Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

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