Extended breastfeeding means continued breastfeeding after the child is one year. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to six months; this doesn’t mean after the six months the mother stops breastfeeding……remember breast milk is the best food for your baby and can never be substituted by any type of food and is essential to meet the nutritional needs of children in the first years of life. Thereafter, infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
According to UNICEF statistics (2003), 92% of Kenyan mothers continue breastfeeding till 12-15 months while 57% will continue till 20-23 months. These statistics are encouraging and every mother should strive to breastfeed their infant up to 2 years if possible.
The baby continues to enjoy the breast milk and gets nutrients in correct proportions thus the baby’s body has a better immunity system compared to those who are not nursing.
Your toddler has reduced allergies; this is due to the antibodies in breast milk that boost immunity.
Breast milk works best for babies who cannot take a lot of solid food.
Breast feeding also helps to stop tantrums and calms the baby immediately, he forgets he was frustrated and becomes happy.
Breastfeeding comforts a child when he is sick or unwell.
Research has also revealed that babies who are breastfed after one year have a very high IQ and are good performers in school.
The baby also continues to bond with the mother; he is so affectionate and knows his mother is the best because she provides what no one else could.
Breast milk helps protects the baby from intestinal lining inflammation; formula milk could affect the baby’s intestinal walls because they contain iron that disrupt the balance.
Extended breastfeeding also has some advantages to the mother;
- The mother is at a lower chance of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer.
- Risk of getting osteoporosis is also very low.
- Breastfeeding also helps the mother to gain back her shape, it helps her cut weight as a lot of calories and fats are used in the production of milk.
- As you continue breastfeeding, you delay the onset of your periods …..Most women consider this something to smile about!
Although extended breastfeeding is quite normal in Kenya, some family members and friends will discourage you and will find it weird especially after 2 years, they disapprove it and some even get so irritated. Mothers should ignore such comments and continue to breastfeed as long as she and the baby are comfortable.
There is lots of pressure for the mothers not to breastfeed a toddler in public; some toddlers are also very stubborn…. he knows what he wants and goes ahead to get it, sometimes he starts pulling you to sit so that you can breastfeed! Some toddlers will even open your blouse! If your toddler has a tendency of such behavior, it is better to plan your breastfeeding before you go out of the house or retreat to a corner away from the rest of the crowd and nurse him.
Breastfeeding prevents menstruation and you could continue to breastfeed bearing in mind you cannot be pregnant only to wake up one day and realize you conceived. Therefore never use it as a family planning method.
So if you choose to continue breastfeeding, make sure you and your baby are happy about it and that you are gaining directly or indirectly from it, ignore people’s comments and breastfeed as long as you feel like, after all, extended breastfeeding does have major benefits!