Benefits of Nursing past the Age of 1

Updated on December 22, 2007
K.S. asks from Indianapolis, IN
16 answers

So I am a breastfeeding mom of a beautiful little girl and I plan on doing so for as long as she wants to. I believe strongly in letting her wean herself and that it is the best thing for her. Some of my family on the other hand does not think that nursing past one is necessary or appropriate. I would love to have some info to share with them about why it is good and the benefits of it. Anyone got any advice suggestions of info on this?!?!?

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answers from Chicago on

Well, first of all it's not like the benefits of breastfeeding stop happening when the child turns 1. Your milk doesn't turn into water on her 366th day of life:) The baby still receives immunities from the mother, proper and balanced nutrition for her age, hydration, fats, etc. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for one year as a MINUMUM and then as long after that as is mutually desired. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years at a minimum.

When you really think about it-it does not make sense to wean at 1. After all you will be weaning so that you can give your child the breastmilk of a cow! Cow's milk is made for cow babies and human milk is made for human babies- that alone is enough of a reason.

Congrats on breastfeeding this far and do not let anyone persuade you to stop nursing before you and baby are ready.

Have you attended any La Leche League meetings? I really recommend that becuase you will be exposed to other women who breastfeed and many women who are very knowledgable about the benefits of breastfeeding.

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answers from Chicago on

There are MANY benefits to nursing past age one. In fact, most cultures all around the world practice child-led weaning. Here are some references you give your family:
The World Health Organization recommends that babies be breastfed THROUGH THE SECOND YEAR (ie until age 2). The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends the same thing. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed "at least 1 year" - and as long as mom and baby both want to. As another poster said, it's not like your milk magically becomes useless when your baby turns 12 months old. Plus, when you abruptly wean you can have problems with engorgement and mastitis - not an issue when your child gradually decreases what she eats.

There are many health benefits - both physical and psychological - to extended nursing. It still has the same benefits for your baby's immune system even when she's a toddler. Plus, nursing is also about NURTURE - it's a special thing that only YOU get to do with her - it's wonderful bonding and suggle time. MANY moms that I know who weaned their child right at 12 months told me, when they saw me nursing my toddler, that they really had WANTED to nurse for longer but that they stopped because they felt pressured to do so.

Here's the other thing: it's hard for your family at this point to imagine nursing an older child because what they see NOW is you nursing your baby 8x/day. But your child will cut back substantially as she grows. I still nurse my 18-month old son 1-2 times per day - basically morning and night only. I quit pumping at work when he turned one and that made things MUCH easier. But if you're at home this is even simpler. It doesn't get in the way. We don't really need to do it in public anymore (not that I had a problem with that, but now he's old enough that I can say "we'll have good milk when we get home" and that's ok with him). My point is, this is not the obtrusive, all-consuming thing that it is for you right now.

And there is STILL no substitute for comfort like nursing - it's the magic trick that can fix ANYTHING. Believe me - when you're in a hotel room with your husband and daughter (or staying at your in-laws) and it's 2 AM and your daughter is having trouble sleeping in a strange place, EVERYONE will be glad that you can give her the magic boob and she'll go to sleep.

In short, stick to your guns on this one and nurse her as long as you want to. I occasionally get pressure from my husband to quit at this point, and my goal is to wean my son by March, but that's only because we're expecting another baby in June and I don't want him to feel like his milk has been usurped by the new baby.

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answers from Chicago on

I'm a little sensitive about this issue because I planned to breastfeed my son until he self weaned, but got pregnant with my daughter when he was about 18 mos old and had a really hard time with breastfeeding while I was pg (very uncomfortable, ran out of milk). Then once my daughter was born, I tried to tandum nurse but my son was such a breast hog (wanting to nurse for hours at a time, throwing a major tantrum when I nursed the baby) that I ended up weaning him and have been kind of sad about it.

That said....
I don't think you owe anyone an explanation. People who have already made up their minds about breastfeeding duration are very hard to convince otherwise. So, just give some kind of answer as others have suggested like "I'm doing what I feel is best for my child" or a smart alec answer like "I'll stop before she goes to college". Being an example that is contrary to their expectations may be enough to change some minds. As your daughter grows into a healthy, normal, well-adjusted child they will see the benefits for themselves.

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answers from Chicago on

I feel for you, my MIL is appalled at my nursing my 20 month old and I happened to mention that I plan on tandem nursing (I'm due in 9 weeks). I should have not opened my mouth. NOt because I'm ashamed but because it's really none of her business. I won't lie to anyone, but I don't bring it up anymore. I feel like my daughter will start to pick up on other peoples vibes, she's almost 2, and I certainly don't want her to feel bad about nursing. On the other hand, it feels good to tell people how it is and why you do what you do with your kids. Especially the stuff you are proud of. I am proud that i've made it through almost the entire pregnancy nursing a very demanding toddler, and I should be b/c there are very few people I know that do, at least her in the US. We are the minority and if we don't stand up for our parenting styles, things will never change. I don't know where this concept of "it's not necessary after one" came from but it's completely unfounded. Good luck and stand your ground. Breastfeed yor daughter for as long as you both are happy doing so.

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answers from Muncie on

I personally don't think it's necessary to breastfeed beyond one year. I can only tell you what my plan was, feed her until she weans herself or until she started biting me. Fortunately, my little one was weaning herself around 5 months anyway so I never really had to worry about it. I do think the actual benefits of breastfeeding start to decrease once solid foods start, I'm not sure. I'm glad she weaned when she did, I would have liked to have had that connection a little longer, but now that she is one, there's no way she would hold still for a feeding. There's just so much more to do and see then mommy.

Breastfeed as long as you two are comfortable. Good luck

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answers from Chicago on

I personally plan to start weaning at about a year (It has nothing to do with laziness, thank you very much.). However, this is your decision, not anyone else's.

Here's the thing. People will always find things to be critical about. If it's not the nursing, it'll be something else. As long as you're child is physically and emotionally healthy, who CARES what anyone else thinks? Just because something is different, doesn't make it wrong or bad. I've nursed all 3 of my girls and so many people freaked out. To them, breasts were toys for men and they couldn't get past that concept. But I did the right thing. And if you believe that you're doing the right thing by your child, do it.

There will always be people who want to preach at you about your kids. My problem has been my in-laws always butting in. Everyone else tells me what wonderful children I have and to hear my in-laws talk, you'd think they're going to grow up to be ax murderers. Simply because my style of discipline is different (I don't feel the need to spank over every single little infraction.)

So keep doing what you're doing. You don't need to explain yourself to family. These decsions are between you, your husband and your child's pediatrition. Anyone else can just butt out.

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answers from Chicago on

Oh my goodness! I haven't read all the postings yet but there is absolutely no intelligently informed individual who can argue that what you are doing is even questionable. Milk evolves with the needs of the child, milk continues to provide antibodies and immunities to germs, illness, immune system deficiencies, allergy potentials, emotional and social stability and sooooo much more. There is NO reason why anyone should debate it with you nor make you feel uneasy about your choice! You are doing an awesome thing and I won't even go where I could about mothers who CHOOSE to discontinue nursing longer than a year. I think they are absolutely lazy often and just don't want to deal with the "hassle." Most justify themselves over and over again, make excuses that are lame, and convince themselves and others (sometimes) that they just "couldn't" or they "didn't have enough milk." Most of the time that is something that they have convinced themselves of and really not given it the effort it requires to succeed to nurse. I really could go on and on but I know others will curse me out so I'll stop. Live and let live...I won't tell them what to do and they don't need to defend themselves to me or to you or anyone else for all that matter. Just keep on doing what you are doing and when people hassle you just think, its their loss and they can continue on their own choice of parenting or rearing as they like but it does not have to effect you nor should it! The stats are all there, the info is all over, and available, and just ignore ignorant individuals. Good luck and sorry if I am coming across abrupt and harsh but I am tired of people being such morons and criticizing those who act intelligently. Good luck and know you are doing unquestionably the ultimate for your child. The longer you nurse, the better.

PS benefits do NOT decrease whatsoever once a child starts solids. This is unfounded and ridiculous. Research shows its based on NO facts at all.



answers from Chicago on

K., my son is almost 15 months and I'm still nursing twice sometimes four times in 24 hours. Weaning comes to my mind often, but I see how much he loves it and we both have this awesome bond! I'm not planning on nursing beyond the age of 2. Thus far I have seen many benefits, for instance he's been less sick, we've travelled oversees and that made it much easier on all of us. Good luck and I hope you can nurse for as long as you both enjoy it!



answers from Chicago on

Honestly, here's all you need to say:

"Our mutual decision to continue breastfeeding is in our family's best interest."

Quite honestly, arguing your point regarding basically any parenting philosophy is a moot point, a potential source of stress for you, and completely unnecessary.



answers from Chicago on

I am also planning to let my 9 1/2 month old self wean. I love our breastfeeding time together and so does he. My mother breastfed me until I was 2 and I rarely get sick and am emotionally healthy.
If anyone questions my decision I tell them, "I am being the mother I always wanted to be and doing what I feel is best for MY baby."
Good Luck!



answers from Fort Wayne on

Things get so much easier with the second child. I've noticed that almost all of the unsolicited advice has stopped. I guess they figure that if I didn't listen to the stupid comments the first time, I won't listen this time!
Just letting you know that you only face this once (at least that's my experience).



answers from Chicago on

Good for you for wanting the best nutrition for your little girl.

I am in the same boat as a lot of moms who responded . . .I have an almost 15 month old and still nursing. I too have had comments, but its such a personal decision that I don't feel the need to explain myself.

Its a personal choice. I will allow him to self-wean. He has gone through spurts in the last month where he wants to nurse less, but in a few days he's back to his old self.

Check out and WHO. Your milk changes to meet your baby's needs, so she is getting all sorts of great benefits. These winter months with all the germs . . .breast feeding is helping her fight them!

Don't let people make you feel bad about your personal decision. Who cares what everyone else thinks!

Good for you,



answers from Chicago on

I really would like to breast feed until my son is 1. He is currently 7 months and I have been fighting with my supply the entire time. Currently, I have been back from vacation (2 weeks ago) when I only breast fed. He was content and I had extra. Now I am back to work and when I used to get about 16 ounces a day, I am now down to 9-10 (in 12 hours). It is really frustrating. I have not supplemented, and I do not want to. I have literally pumped as much as possible and I have some in the freezer. I am back on the supplements and I am hoping my supply comes back. When we came back from vacation, I stopped letting him sleep with me. When he would sleep with me, I ended up being a human pacifier. I am sure this helped my supply. I am a single Mom, and I am trying to raise my son the best way possible. His doctor said at his 6 month appointment that we needed to handle his sleep issue. At the time he was up between 6-8 times a night. He is not "light". He is in the 50%, so I was told to stop feeding on demand and to let him cry it out.

And supply is really low. I am debating on bringing him back to bed, but I don't want to harbor bad habits..I do still wake up around 3-5 AM (about 8 to 10 hours after his last feeding) to feed him if he wants it.

All of that being said, my son has only had a cold and no other illnesses. I should knock on wood.

It breaks my heart, that he prefers the bottle over the breast, but I think the bottle is easier.



answers from Chicago on


I think Courtney did an excellent job of explaining... a book you might consider reading.. mothering your nursing toddler by norma bungarner.

Parenting Coach and Board Certified Lactation Consultant



answers from Chicago on

I nursed all of my children past the age of one. I always believed they should wean themselves, although I was not going to nurse past two! Some of my family members did not think it was appropiate to nurse a toddler, and would ask everytime they saw me nurse when I would wean them. I pretty much ingnored their coments and continued doing what I felt was best for my baby!! Their are so many benefits of nursing past one. Besides the health benefits, many emotional ones as well. Whenever my toddlers were hurt or upset, nursing always calmed them down. Sometimes they only needed me for a minute or two, but it just felt right. I can remember several times they were sick and breastmilk was all they would eat!

Do not let other people stop you from nursing past one, if that is what you choose! Just ignore others comments and do what feels right for you and your baby.

Good luck!



answers from Austin on

Good for you! Sometimes it is hard to stick to your guns and not doubt yourself when so many around you seem to have the opposite opinion...but you are doing what is best for your baby. Some many people, esp older people who are not as "up" on baby nutrition, seem to think there is something wrong with nursing past one. Nothing magical happens on that day that makes your milk any less beneficial to your child. And personally I found that nursing got much easier and enjoyable when my son was over the age of one as he became more active, it was his and my down time, a moment to relax and center yourself around what is truly important.

There is TONS of info here.

And, just for those folks you can always say the aap recommends exclusive breastfeeding till 6 months and nursing until 12 months MINIMUM, AND continuing as long as the Mom and baby are comfortable.....the WHO goes even further recommending nursing to a minimum of 2 years.

Society needs to get over it's phobia of the breast and realize what they are truly for...feeding children.

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