December 1, 2023
Pinterest Hidden Image

Whereas breastfeeding typically has many advantages, an rising variety of analysis research additionally discover advantages associated explicitly to extended or prolonged breastfeeding, each for the newborn and the mother. There are additionally a couple of dangers, however nowhere close to as many or as vital because the constructive results.

Right here, we dig into what science says concerning the execs and cons of prolonged breastfeeding.

extended breastfeeding pros and cons

The Definition of “Prolonged”

In the event you haven’t heard or thought a lot concerning the time period “prolonged breastfeeding” earlier than, you could marvel what we are literally speaking about. Prolonged how? And past what?

These are good and related questions; the reply will depend on who you ask. In the US and lots of different Western international locations in the present day, it’s thought-about regular and an amazing factor if a mother breastfeeds her child for as much as one yr of age after which wean the kid. After that, it begins to slowly turn into extra controversial, and the mother can also be mentioned to be doing prolonged breastfeeding.

In lots of different elements of the world, breastfeeding a one-year-old or older little one is solely to breastfeed—no want for fancy phrases. Breastfeeding in some elements of the world continues till a baby is 2, 3, or typically 4 years of age.

Merely put, prolonged breastfeeding means breastfeeding a toddler (i.e., older than one yr).

One can, in fact, query why anybody outdoors a child’s speedy household would care in any respect for the way lengthy a child is breastfed. It’s not just like the mother is feeding her child wine – breast milk could be very wholesome; at the least, that must be one thing we will all agree on!

Nevertheless, discussing this cultural stigma is just not the article’s objective (even whether it is undoubtedly vital). As an alternative, I wish to share with you the advantages of prolonged breastfeeding, in addition to the dangers (sure, they do exist).
A rising physique of analysis is discovering new well being advantages of breastfeeding past the primary yr of life. Thrilling, certainly! (Yow will discover hyperlinks to all of the analysis research beneath the article.)

Prolonged Breastfeeding Advantages For The Youngster

child benefits of extended breastfeeding


Breastmilk comprises protein, fats, and different nutritionally important components irrespective of how lengthy you breastfeed or how previous your little one is. Due to this fact, it isn’t true that breastmilk loses its dietary high quality after a sure interval of breastfeeding. Past the primary yr, it could nonetheless present a good portion of a kid’s day by day necessities for a lot of important vitamins, akin to nutritional vitamins A and B12.

In a single longitudinal research that targeted on the composition of human milk within the second yr postpartum, contributors who have been nonetheless breastfeeding or expressing milk at the least three to 4 occasions a day supplied milk samples from 11 to 17 months postpartum. The outcomes confirmed that concentrations of complete protein, lactoferrin, lysozyme, IgA, sodium, and oligosaccharides elevated over time whereas zinc and calcium concentrations decreased. There was no noticed change in lactose focus.

General, the research’s findings recommend that the macronutrient worth of human milk is steady or rising in the course of the second yr postpartum.

Boosted Immunity

Breast milk has many properties that shield towards sure infections. For instance, the milk comprises antibodies to microbes the mother has been uncovered to, antibacterial and antiviral brokers like lactoferrin, lysozyme, and fatty acids.

Additionally, breastfed infants have extra wholesome intestine micro organism than formula-fed infants.

Based on analysis, infants that proceed to breastfeed past one yr appear to profit from these immune-boosting properties at the least till 18 months of age, as breastfed infants have fewer infections and colds than infants who don’t breastfeed or are fully weaned earlier.

Based on some sources, some immune components present in breastmilk that shield the newborn towards infections are current in larger quantities within the little one’s second yr of life than within the first.

Safety towards Crohn’s illness and Ulcerative colitis

Research point out a sharply lowered threat (80% decrease) of Crohn’s illness and ulcerative colitis when breastfeeding for 12 months or extra in comparison with solely breastfeeding for 3-6 months.

Diminished threat of Kind 1 Diabetes

Kind 1 Diabetes threat could lower by as a lot as 50% if breastfeeding for at the least 12 months in comparison with not breastfeeding in any respect.

Improved Cognitive Improvement

Prolonged breastfeeding has been linked to improved cognitive outcomes, probably because of the presence of particular fatty acids in breast milk which might be important for mind growth. A Brazilian research of virtually 4,000 kids discovered that infants who breastfed for 12 months or extra had greater IQ scores, an extended schooling, and better month-to-month incomes at 30 years of age than those that breastfed for lower than one month.

Diminished threat of misaligned tooth

The pure sucking motion required throughout breastfeeding could promote a cut back the danger of malocclusions (misaligned tooth). This contrasts bottle feeding, which might typically result in dental points if sure habits, like extended bottle use, are continued past infancy. The identical goes for pacifier use.

A number of research have concluded this hyperlink between breastfeeding and tooth alignment. A research from 2018 checked out prolonged breastfeeding and located that breastfeeding for 12 months or longer was related to decrease odds of overjet, open chunk, and posterior crossbite.

Emotional and Psychological Advantages

Breastfeeding is commonly a supply of consolation and safety for toddlers. The closeness and bodily contact throughout breastfeeding might help toddlers navigate annoying occasions and foster a stronger emotional connection between the mom and little one. Some research additionally point out a constructive correlation between breastfeeding period and the bond between the mom and little one that’s nonetheless measurable when the kid has turn into an adolescent.


Advantages for the Mother

mom benefits of extended breastfeeding

Breastfeeding lowers the dangers and protects the mom from sure illnesses, each whereas breastfeeding and typically in a longer-term perspective.

Breast Most cancers Discount

Extended and prolonged breastfeeding is related to a lowered threat of breast most cancers. Based on the collaborative reanalysis research, for each 12 months of breastfeeding (both with a single little one or mixed throughout a number of kids), the danger of breast most cancers is lowered by about 4.3%. This can be resulting from breast tissue adjustments or decreased lifetime publicity to sure hormones associated to most cancers. One other research discovered a 26% decrease threat of breast most cancers amongst mothers who breastfed for at the least 12 months than those that didn’t breastfeed.

Ovarian Most cancers Discount

The precise mechanism isn’t totally understood, however it’s believed that the lowered ovulation that always happens with extended breastfeeding might be an element. Much less ovulation means fewer possibilities for cell mutation in the course of the egg-releasing course of, which could contribute to lowered most cancers threat. One research discovered that breastfeeding >12 months is related to a 37% lowered threat of ovarian most cancers.

Diminished Threat of Diabetes mellitus

Prolonged breastfeeding could cut back the danger of diabetes mellitus (sort 2) by as a lot as 30% in comparison with breastfeeding for a shorter interval.

Rameez RM, Sadana D ,Kaur S, et al. Affiliation of maternal lactation with diabetes and hypertension: a scientific overview and meta-analysis JAMA Netw Open 2019;2(10):e1913401

Diminished threat of Hypertension

Hypertension threat (i.e., the danger of hypertension) can also be lowered by breastfeeding for greater than 12 months. The chance then falls by 12-13%.

Decrease threat of rheumatoid arthritis

Yet one more potential advantage of prolonged breastfeeding pertains to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Analysis has proven that girls who breastfed their kids have been round half as more likely to have RA in comparison with those that have by no means breastfed. Moreover, the danger of RA decreased with rising breastfeeding period. That is according to an earlier Swedish research that discovered ladies who breastfed for at the least 13 months to have a 50% decrease threat of RA than those that didn’t breastfeed.

Diminished threat of heart problems

Ladies who breastfeed for 12 months or longer throughout life appear to be much less more likely to develop heart problems than those that don’t breastfeed.

Cognitive advantages after the age of fifty

A current research discovered that discovered that longer time spent breastfeeding is related to higher cognitive efficiency later in life. Considering on a regular basis the ladies had spent breastfeeding in life, they discovered that those that had not breastfed in any respect scored considerably decrease in three out of 4 examined cognitive areas (studying, delayed recall, government functioning, and processing velocity) in comparison with ladies who had breastfed for 1-12 months. The outcomes have been even stronger when evaluating no breastfeeding with prolonged breastfeeding; these not breastfeeding had decrease scores in all 4 examined areas on this case. General, ladies who had breastfed the longest had the best cognitive check scores.

Emotional Well being​

The shut bond fashioned throughout breastfeeding can launch hormones like oxytocin, which promote maternal emotions of affection and attachment. Moreover, breastfeeding would possibly cut back the danger of postpartum melancholy, additionally throughout extended durations, though the connection is complicated, and different components additionally play a task.

Extra tuned in Parenting

There are additionally research that present that the longer a mother breastfeeds, the extra in tune along with her child’s wants she turns into, above and past household and maternal background traits. Moreover, the advantages of breastfeeding on maternal sensitivity prolong past simply the toddler or toddler years. Mothers who breastfeed for prolonged durations appear to naturally turn into extra attuned to their little one’s wants, implying that breastfeeding may provoke a collection of advantageous results on her parenting behaviors.


Drawbacks and Dangers for the Youngster

child extended breastfeeding risks

Prolonged breastfeeding, whereas providing many advantages, additionally has some potential dangers and downsides. In an earlier model of its place assertion, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said that “there isn’t a proof that breastfeeding into the third yr of life or longer results in psychological or developmental hurt for the newborn.” Within the revised place paper, this sentence is just not included, however AAP nonetheless helps prolonged breastfeeding as much as 2 years of age and primarily emphasizes the constructive associated well being results for the breastfeeding mother. Whereas the confirmed advantages of prolonged breastfeeding are substantial and considerable, there are a couple of damaging facets to contemplate for each the toddler and the mother.

Dietary Imbalances​

If breast milk stays the first supply of diet nicely into toddlerhood with out enough complementary meals, there’s a possible threat for dietary imbalances. Youngsters could miss out on iron, zinc, and different important vitamins. You will need to observe that prolonged breastfeeding doesn’t imply {that a} toddler must be completely or predominately breastfed, as this will trigger deficiencies. Unique breastfeeding is advisable for the primary six months, after which a baby must be step by step launched to quite a lot of nutritious meals to get sufficient of all of the vitamins their physique wants to realize optimum well being and progress.

In case your toddler is consuming nutritious, wholesome, and balanced meals, together with iron-rich meals, alongside breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding gained’t enhance the probability of iron deficiency.

Dental Caries​

Dental caries (tooth decay) are potential if a baby ceaselessly breastfeeds at night time after tooth eruption, particularly with out dental hygiene practices. It’s important to take care of oral hygiene in breastfed toddlers.

Drawbacks and Dangers for the Mom

mom extended breastfeeding risks

Breast Well being​

Whereas breastfeeding, there may be an elevated threat of growing mastitis, breast abscesses, or different infections if there are latch points or the breast isn’t emptied often. This threat is extra pronounced originally of breastfeeding however continues till the newborn is totally weaned.

Bone Well being short- and long-term​

Whereas lactating, there’s a short lived lower in bone mineral density within the mom. The density normally rebounds after weaning, however the interim decline can concern some ladies, particularly these in danger for osteoporosis. As well as, comparatively new analysis has discovered a damaging correlation between the period of breastfeeding and bone density after menopause. Prolonged breastfeeding could thus enhance the danger of osteoporosis each in a short-term and long-term perspective.

Fertility and Contraception

Prolonged breastfeeding can delay the return of fertility, which could be a drawback for moms eager to conceive once more. It additionally makes pure household planning strategies much less predictable. It ought to, nevertheless, be famous that though breastfeeding could impression fertility, it’s a fable that it’s unimaginable to get pregnant whereas breastfeeding. A number of components, akin to maternal age and the period and frequency of breastfeeding, affect the return of the interval after supply.

Modifications in breastfeeding patterns typically end in interval return. Due to this fact, for a lot of ladies, the flexibility to get pregnant once more returns once they now not breastfeed completely or when their child begins to sleep longer in the course of the night time.

As soon as the newborn begins consuming stable meals, the frequency of breastfeeding and the milk provide will possible lower, rising fertility hormones and the probability of ovulation and being pregnant. Some moms will discover that their interval returned when their infants began sleeping longer stretches at night time. In these circumstances, even that small change in breastfeeding frequency was sufficient to cut back the impact of breastfeeding on estrogen ranges.

Nevertheless, as talked about, it’s arduous to say precisely when the interval will return as that is very totally different for each lady.

​Bodily and Emotional Toll

Prolonged breastfeeding could be bodily demanding. Moms could expertise fatigue, significantly if nighttime feedings proceed. There’s additionally the emotional side: societal stress, criticism, or the necessity for private area can affect a mom’s emotions.

​Social Stigma and Public Criticism​

Public criticism could be a problem moms face when deciding that prolonged nursing is correct for his or her kids and themselves. It’s possible you’ll obtain odd appears, impolite feedback, and even outright criticism from relations, mates, and full strangers who consider early weaning is finest for a kid. This may be robust to deal with and end in emotions of isolation and being judged.


​All this mentioned, breastfeeding will at all times be a private alternative.

So, how lengthy do you have to breastfeed?

There are circumstances the place toddler components firms and even some docs have inspired moms to cease breastfeeding at six months to a yr, telling them breastfeeding previous this level has no actual advantages in your little one. As seen on this article, they’re incorrect.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends unique breastfeeding for the primary six months and continued breastfeeding till the newborn is at the least a yr previous with the addition of nutritious complementary meals. Additionally they emphasize continued advantages from breastfeeding for the mom when breastfeeding goes past one yr and as much as two years.

World Well being Group (WHO) additionally recommends unique breastfeeding for the primary six months of life. After six months, stable meals must be launched, however breastfeeding ought to proceed for the subsequent two years and past.

​All this mentioned, breastfeeding will at all times be a private alternative. Many advantages are achieved by breastfeeding for round 4 months.


Breastfeeding has many vital advantages for each the newborn and mother and in lots of circumstances, these advantages begin kicking in instantly or after just a few months of breastfeeding. As well as, analysis has discovered a number of advantages primarily associated to an extended period of breastfeeding, which has been the main focus of this text. Some recognized advantages, akin to maternal weight reduction or a lowered threat of sudden toddler loss of life syndrome (SIDS) for the newborn, are subsequently not talked about. These advantages don’t require prolonged breastfeeding.

Prolonged breastfeeding additionally comes with some dangers and downsides. These are vital to know and mitigate.

The principle execs and cons of prolonged breastfeeding relate to lowered dangers of a number of sicknesses for each child and mother, whereas on the identical time resulting in a threat of tooth misalignment for the kid and bone density loss for the mother.

Mothers, what are your views or experiences of breastfeeding a toddler? Do you do it? Why, why not? Let’s share our experiences, however no judgements, please!

Learn Subsequent


Analysis references