Breastfeeding Beyond 6 Months
Can you nurse for too long?
Some people falsely believe that breastfeeding is not good or may even be harmful for babies older than one year. Breastfeeding is a very healthy and normal way to feed your infant or toddler. There is no set age to wean your baby.
- Hormones are released that help you to relax.
- Breastfeeding allows mom to sit and connect with her baby in a busy day.
- Breastfeeding can help to naturally delay another pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast and some other cancers. The longer you breastfeed the better.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis and may protect against osteoporosis.
- Breastfeeding reduces insulin requirements of diabetic women.
- Breastfeeding may allow mothers to lose weight more easily.
- Breastfeeding saves money.
- Breastmilk changes to meet a baby’s needs as he grows and mature and provides antibodies to your baby that he cannot get anywhere else.
- Breastmilk makes immunizations more effective.
- It continues to help fight off illness as babies grow and is the perfect food if a child becomes ill.
- Breastmilk helps your baby accept a wider variety of tastes and foods.
- Breastmilk is the perfect way to be comforted through stress, illness and learning.
- It is a stable, safe food supply in case of emergency or natural disaster.
- The immune benefits of breastfeeding remain as effective at 2 years as they were at 2 months.
- As your baby starts solid food, his need for breastmilk may slowly decrease.
- Time spent at the breast may also decrease. Your breastmilk supply will adjust to this.
- As your baby matures they may become easily distracted; this is a normal developmental stage and you may find it easier to breastfeed in a quiet spot.
- Your baby may become more aware and effected by their environments. The hormones released in children during breastfeeding can help them to relax and help control anxious feelings.
- Breastfeeding until your child is ready to wean may help him to develop a secure independence.
Biting while breastfeeding can happen when your baby:
- Has new teeth coming in and his/her gums are sore
- Is learning how to use new teeth and is wanting to play or practice
- Feels that the flow of milk has slowed and is trying to get your milk to flow faster
- Has fallen asleep at the breast and the “bite” is a reflex
Continued breastfeeding is important
To prevent your baby from biting, you can try the following strategies:
- Pay attention to when your baby is biting during the feeding; it is hard for babies to bite when they are actively sucking and swallowing.
- Make sure that your baby is well latched to the breast. When the baby is latched well, the tongue is over the lower gum line and your baby is not able to bite.
- Discourage your baby from feeding with a lazy or shallow latch.
- Remove your baby from the breast when suckling slows, you no longer hear swallowing, or when you notice your baby is beginning to fall asleep.
- If your baby is biting when you are seeing a lot of suckling and hearing swallowing, remove your baby from the breast, firmly tell him “no” and then resume the feeding.
- If your baby bites, again, repeat “no” and end the feeding; your baby will learn that biting is unacceptable.
The weaning process begins when both you and your baby are ready. It is most successful when it is baby-led. Weaning is a process that usually takes place over several months.
When ready to wean, most babies tend to start showing a lack of interest that generally occurs between the ages of 2 and 4 years.
Many families think that they need to wean their baby when they return to work or school. This is not necessary. Your baby and your milk supply will adapt to your new routine and schedule. If you have decided to wean before your baby is showing signs of readiness, these tips may help:
- Remove feedings gradually. Eliminate one feeding every 5-7 days.
- Shorten the length of a feeding before eliminating it.
- Change your daily routines (e.g., sit in a different place where you would normally feed your baby before a nap.)
- Offer other foods or drink, or use distractions during the times when your baby would normally breastfeed. (e.g., reading, singing, or going to the park before the child has a chance to think about breastfeeding).
Your Rights When Returning to Work or School
In Ontario, the Human Rights Commission prohibits discrimination and protects the rights of pregnant and breastfeeding women. If you wish to breastfeed or express breastmilk for your child while at work or school, your employer or teacher should accommodate you.
You are legally allowed to have extra breaks to breastfeed your child or to pump while you are at work.
- You may miss less work or school because breastfed children may be sick less often.
- Your baby may be healthier in their body, mind and development.
- Your employee benefit plan may not have to pay for as many medications for a breastfed child.
- Continued breastfeeding can help you and your baby cope with the transition of returning to work or school.
- Breastfeeding before and after work/school is a nice way to connect with your baby after a busy day.
- You may be less likely to get osteoporosis, breast or ovarian cancer.
- Let your employer or teachers know that you want to continue to breastfeed when you return to work.
- Prepare your baby by practicing the new routine several times before you return to work or school.
- Allow time for your baby and your body adjust to the new routine.
- If you plan to pump at work or school, practice before you return. This milk can be stored for your baby to use when you actually are at work or school; talk to your baby’s caregiver about your plan to provide breast milk while you are at work or school.
- Try introducing your baby to a sippy cup or regular cup; sometimes babies accept this more readily if it is fed to them by someone else other than you.
Other helpful tips when returning to work or school include:
- Create a plan for how and when you might pump or feed your baby while you are at work or school. For example: can someone bring the baby to you to feed? Can you pump and store your milk? When and where will you pump? Is there a fridge or will you store milk in a cooler bag?
- Keep in mind that you may need to pump at least once or twice in an 8 hour day if you are returning to work or school after one year (more if you are returning sooner).
- You may want to wear clothes that are easier for pumping or breastfeeding your baby while you are at work or school.
- Consider taking an extra shirt in case your milk leaks.
- Try and use a pump that makes pumping easier and more efficient.
- Consider talking to other moms who have breastfed after returning to work or school.
- Remember that your baby may want to breastfeed more frequently when you return home; your milk supply will adjust to this new routine.
- Consider speaking to a Public Health Nurse for ways to make this transition easier.