Health Topics

Breastfeeding Beyond Six Months

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.

Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding

For Mom:

  • 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.

For Baby:

  • 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.

How will breastfeeding change as my baby grows?

  • 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.

Weaning Your Baby

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).