BF myth: Breastfeeding past a year – what’s in it for bub?

[deleted account] ( 268 moms have responded )

This is a subject on which there are vastly differing opinions, some mothers very much against the concept, some very enthusiastic.. I want to make it clear that I’m not talking about when to wean your child – that is completely up to the mother. I’m talking about the benefits provided by breastmilk should the mother decide to breastfeed into toddlerhood.

I think we’re all in agreement about the benefits of breastmilk. But do all these benefits just stop at 12 months (or whatever age?) According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother, especially in delaying return of fertility (thereby promoting optimal intervals between births).

In Australia, 21% of children are still being breastfed at 12 months. (Donath and Amir, 2000, quoted in an article published by the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

This same article also provides the following information:

Breastfeeding your toddler can provide:

31% of his daily energy needs,

38% of protein requirements,

45% of Vitamin A requirements, and

95% of Vitamin C needs.

Source: WHO/CDR/93.4

What the research says –

The Australian Breastfeeding Association has provided some more detailed information, discussing the benefits if extended breastfeeding in terms of:

Immunological effects

Goldman and Goldblum (1983) showed that immunologic components of breastmilk are maintained into the second year of lactation and are still providing protection to the infant. The data showed that the production of IgA antibodies operates throughout lactation

Cognitive development

Enhanced cognitive development has been shown to be positively associated with duration of breastfeeding

Obesity and nutrition

Kries (1999) in a cross-sectional study found a clear, inverse, dose-response relationship between the duration of breastfeeding and incidence of obesity and overweight. Longer breastfeeding duration was a significant protective factor, attributed to the composition of breastmilk rather than other lifestyle factors which were adjusted for. In a study of affluent United States infants, those who stopped breastfeeding before 18 months gained more weight from 12 to 24 months, but were the same in length, in comparison with the infants who breastfed for longer than 18 months (Dewey et al 1995).

An interesting fact is that another study of mothers who breastfed for 12 months or more showed a more relaxed attitude to feeding their toddlers and they were less likely to exhibit high levels of control over when and what their toddlers ate and drank. The increased intake by toddlers of a variety of foods as well as the fact that these toddlers were leaner but taller was attributed to the maternal style of feeding which accompanied longer-term breastfeeding (Fisher et al 2000).

Bone density

Researchers have found that the greater the amount of breastmilk infants receive, the greater bone mineral acquisition in the long term.


The research in this area is incomplete and contradictory, and is ongoing. . Nevertheless bottle-fed babies are significantly more likely to develop caries. Further research is required into all the risk factors for dental caries.

Effects on the mother

Sustained breastfeeding also provides many benefits to the mother including lower risk of anaemia, longer periods of lactational amenorrhea, reduced risk of osteoporosis and breast cancer, promotion of postpartum weight loss and sense of personal achievement

This is a very rough summary of some of this research.. You can read more at

What’s in it for mum?

I’ve mentioned the health benefits, but some things are hard to quantify. Norma Jane Baumgarner, author of “Mothering your nursing toddler” writes: “Nursing is not only a pleasure, but also quite a convenience. A major task in mothering is helping your child several times daily to overcome fears or hurts or exhaustion. There are various ways to comfort a crying child - walking, rocking, singing - but none is easier or more efficient than nursing. It has been described as a little bit of magic on your side: presto, a fussy child is happy again.” and “Being very close to a warm, cuddly child is the advantage mothers like best about extended nursing. “

Breastmilk is best for your child, but it doesn’t have to stop until you and your child are ready.

As well as the Australian Breastfeeding Association site I’ve used, Kellymom also has some great information and links on this topic:


View replies by

Aizah - posted on 11/02/2010




my daughter is exactly 1 year now and i decided to stop her from breastfeeding, but i cant, whenever she smile when i pull my shirt up, when she's fuzzy because of teething and bf is the only ways she's fed. and now reading this... thats it i would stop to bf her whenever she wants to...

Celeste - posted on 11/02/2010




Great post, Kathy! It is hard when you get pressure from people to stop weaning. I had been getting pressure with my twin boys since they were just over a year.

But the way I looked at it, I have medical fact behind me and they just have their opinion of "eww gross" behind them LOL One of my twin boys weaned at a little over 3 1/2 and my other one just weaned at 4 (by my encouragement)

Elaine - posted on 11/02/2010




Thank you for this post. Really encouraged me a lot! My son is now going 14 months and we still breastfeed all the time. Just had a rough weekend as my in laws were commenting that my son is too skinny and i should give him formula instead. MIL had been questioning my milk supply for the past 2 weeks and even called my husband privately to tell him that i should stop breastfeeding. Was really sad when i found out about it.

Well, i must say a big thanks you to all mothers here who are always an encouragement to fellow breastfeeding mothers like me. I will go on till my son decides that it's time to stop. Meanwhile i will just have to try to ignore all those comments. Great job to all of you!

Nicole - posted on 11/01/2010




That is an awesome article! And one HOT momma! Mostly because she is breastfeeding well into toddlerhood on top of the fact that she is just plain hot. LOL What a role model to young mothers!

And GREAT POST Kathy! Kudos!

Merry - posted on 11/01/2010




What to expect the first year is a REALLY common book here in USA and it gives about ten reason why you should NOT breastfeed past a year.
Lots of myths, wives tales, and out right LIES!
I am disgusted and I don't read the book anymore but I'm sad to say it is like the bible of mothering here and I don't know how it gets by lying like that!
Please don't buy it and don't promote it if you are asked.

Cinda - posted on 11/01/2010




My son will be 2 Dec 10 & we still nurse as often as he wants & even every 3 hours during the night still (we co-sleep so it's no real hassle). I LOVE it. The bond that my son & I have is very strong. Nursing is a VERY calming event for BOTH of us, especially at the end of a long day apart. My son doesn't always want to eat a lot of table food or enough the the RIGHT foods. Continuing to nurse helps me feel confident that he's still getting good nutrition even on days that he doesn't feel like eating all his veggies or chicken. It makes me feel a little less guilty about having to work & not be with him all day.
I DO get a lot grief from SOME about still nursing but I don't really CARE. I'm doing what I feel is best for myself and my son both for our physical and mental health and well-being.
Thank you for posting this showing all the pros for nursing past the age of 12 months. I've heard of so many moms being told by their pediatrician that they NEED to stop nursing by their child's 1st B-day b/c there's no benefit for it after that. Many mommies simply buy into it & stop nursing!! just b/c 1 doctor told them so!....but that's another topic.

Merry - posted on 11/01/2010




I definately agree with the relaxed moms about toddler eating, I see my friends who have weaned worrying about nutrition and they seem to actually discourage their child from eating because they are so intent on ensuring they eat enough!

I feel so relaxed about erics eating, I know he eats enough because he is in charge of what he eats and when. He is so smart and he knows what he wants and right now most of he wants is good stuff!

So I think he is about 50-50 food-breast milk now at 1 1/2 and I'm happy with that, I think it's normal and healthy!

Kendra - posted on 11/01/2010




This is why I am still BFing my 3 1/2 yr old AND my 13 month old!

Kirsten Veronica - posted on 10/31/2010




My daughter is also 14 months old (almost 15) and we have no interest in reducing our breastfeeding sessions or weaning any time soon.

[deleted account]

My daughter is 14 months old and I can't see us stopping to breastfeed any time soon. Neither do I see any reason to stop! I always really enjoy reading about all the benefits, I guess it's a little boost of confidence when you don't know many moms feeding past six months or at all. Thanks Kathy!

Mel - posted on 10/31/2010




My son is 2 on 18 November, he still breast feeds and has a tantrum if he doesn't get his milk. I have only recently stopped feeding him on public transport, only because of the looks I get from other people when they realise what he is doing. He still goes to sleep with breast milk both mid morning and night time. I think I will know when the time is right to stop and I think it will be Charlie letting me know and not me saying No. If he stops enjoying it then thats different. I am doing what is best for my child and never regret breastfeeding after having 2 bottle fed children. The proof is there, my son has only ever been poorly once and that was only a cold. He never needs the doctor, he is on the 97th centile with both his height and weight. If I have another child I will most definately breastfeed again.

Minnie - posted on 10/31/2010




And in addition to optimal health for the baby, breastfeeding is the culmination of the normal reproductive cycle of a woman. Fewer periods = lower estrogen levels and fewer hormone fluctuations and a lowered risk of developing breast, cervical and ovarian cancer.

Suzin - posted on 10/30/2010




Thank you so much. When I first had my daughter I wanted to keep breastfeeding her for a year atleast but now i am determined to do it until she tells me she does not want to do it anymore.. Thanks for showing me all the research.

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms