Extended Breastfeeding: Is it for you and your toddler?
If you’re planning to breastfeed beyond the first year, here are some tips that you should know about extended breastfeeding into your child’s toddler years.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that newborns are breastfed within their first hour into the world and exclusively for the first six months of life. WHO also recommends introducing solids at around six months while continuing breastfeeding for up to when the child is two years of age or beyond.
Nursing beyond the first year is termed as “extended breastfeeding.” This may continue for as long as the mother or child wishes, until the child is weaned naturally, or when the mother prefers to stop.
Keep reading to find out how you can embark on a successful extended breastfeeding journey and what the benefits are for you and your tot by doing so.
Reasons for extended breastfeeding
Mothers breastfeed beyond the first year due to several reasons:
- Mother-and-child bonding time
- Emotional confidence for both mother and child
- Personal preference to breastfeed child for a certain period
- To provide the best source of milk for the child
- Child has low immunity
- Child is not ready to wean
Benefits of extended breastfeeding
- Reduces the risks of breast and ovarian cancer, type II diabetes, and postpartum depression
- Helps to keep weight in check, together with a balanced diet and exercise
- Provides a natural method of birth control (98% protection in the first six months after birth), although it’s still possible to get pregnant
- A way to reinforce the bond with their baby
- Mothers who breastfed beyond one year were less likely to develop hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, or cardiovascular diseases (CVD) when post-menopausal
- Second-year breastmilk continues to provide an excellent source of nutrients including protein, fat, calcium and vitamins, in addition to calories, natural antibodies, and enzymes, which cannot be replicated by science and technology
- Enhances their immunity so toddlers get sick less often and recover faster if they do fall ill
- Provides a familiar sense of comfort and security when the child is unwell
- Toddlers tend to develop fewer behavioural problems, including restlessness, anxiousness and clinginess; where the latter is often associated with extended breastfeeding
Continue reading on the duration and frequency of breastfeeding sessions for toddlers
Duration of breastfeeding sessions for toddlers
Breastfeeding mothers would know that these sessions vary with individual children. The flow of the breastmilk and the child’s personality (whether he’s a fast chomper or one who likes to take it slow and easy) contribute to the duration of nursing sessions.
As they reach toddlerhood, children tend to be more active and distracted during the day, so mothers should expect shorter sessions as compared to when they were younger. At times, the toddler might just want a quick “drive through” – goes to the mother for a quick suckle and runs back to what he was doing.
Frequency of breastfeeding for toddlers
Breastfeeding frequency tends to become lesser for a toddler as compared to a newborn. For a toddler, breastfeeding is more a source of comfort, warmth and security than a source of sustenance.
Some toddlers may nurse erratically throughout the day – once in the morning when they wake, a quick nurse during mid-day and, perhaps, nursing to sleep. Some toddlers may go through frequent night wakings to nurse, not because they are really hungry, but more for assurance that mama is around.
If your toddler has started childcare (18 months onwards), you may discover that he might want to nurse right after coming home. This is a normal sign, and your child simply wants to “connect” with you after being away for some time.
When your toddler is unwell, angry, frustrated or scared, it is completely normal that he comes looking for you to nurse for that extra emotional comfort.
Continue reading for a nutrition guide for mother and toddler while extended breastfeeding
Breastfeeding and a toddler’s diet
Contrary to belief, breastmilk after the first year continues to provide a wealth of nutrients such as proteins, fats, vitamins and natural antibodies that are unable to be replicated via other sources.
While breastfeeding should be complementary to a toddler’s diet, a mother should also note the amount of solids the toddler is consuming and ensure that the bulk of his diet is primarily solids.
During a child’s second year (12-23 months), 448ml of breastmilk provides:
- 29% of energy requirements
- 43% of protein requirements
- 36% of calcium requirements
- 75% of vitamin A requirements
- 76% of folate requirements
- 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
- 60% of vitamin C requirements
Breastfeeding and a mother’s diet
The components of breastmilk change and transition to accommodate a toddler’s needs, so a mother should not neglect her own health.
Breastfeeding burns 300-500 calories a day, so nursing mothers need to ensure a healthy and balanced diet and keep themselves in the pink of health, too!
Here’s an overview of what a breastfeeding mum should be eating these to support her breastfeeding needs:
- Iron-rich foods like dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, red meat, iron-fortified cereals, breads and pasta
- Calcium rich-foods like milk, tofu, cheese, yogurt, soybeans, sardines, turnips and enriched breads and grains
- Protein-rich foods like lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils and seafood (if your child is not allergic to them)
- Omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, fish supplements, nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables
There are also certain foods to avoid during nursing especially if your toddler reacts to them, including alcohol and seafood.
If your concern is to boost breastmilk supply, breastfeeding mums look to these nutrient-rich foods to help increase milk production. For example, fennel tea, fenugreek, alfafa, which are available at our local supermarkets too.
Breastfeeding mums can also consider supplements to support your diet and nutritional needs. These are readily available at our local pharmacies and drugstores. However, do look out for product advice which states that they are suitable for breastfeeding and lactating mothers.
Some supplementary options available include maternal milk from Dumex Mamil Mama, S26 Mama, Similac Mum, Friso Gold Stage 0, Enfamama A+, Anmum Lacta, Nestle Mom & Me Maternal Supplement and Blackmores Pregnancy & Breast-Feeding Advanced supplements.
Is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) safe during breastfeeding?
As advised by the Health Science Authority (HSA), breastfeeding mums are advised to use caution when it comes to TCM.
Seek advice from TCM physicians on recommended herbs that are safe for breastfeeding, as well as on TCM health supplements that are meant to replenish your qi-blood. Soups such as Eight Treasures Soup (Ba Zhen), All Nourishing Decoction (Shi Quan), and Mutton Soup with Angelica Roots are all good for replenishing qi-blood.
Continue reading to find out what the common issues are concerning extended breastfeeding
Common concerns about extended breastfeeding
Will breastfeeding past a year make it harder to wean my child?
Many mothers hear that breastfeeding becomes a habit when it is prolonged, and thus makes it even harder to stop when the mother wants to.
Like any other stage of breastfeeding, weaning can be child-led or mother-led. The former allows the child to be developmentally ready and goes off the breast on his own, while the latter has the mother take the lead to initiate weaning.
Some researchers feel that letting your child take the lead is more natural and it allows the child to be ready with the change. At the end of the day, the decision belongs to both mother and toddler.
Continue reading to find out how to wrangle an active toddler while breastfeeding
How do I tackle an active toddler during breastfeeding?
If your child is capable of all sorts of nursing acrobatics, rejoice that you are not alone!
Here are some simple tips to help keep breastfeeding a less frantic one with an active toddler:
- Set rules such as nurse at home only or in the nursing room if your child loves flashing you in public or the sessions get too much attention when outside.
- Use a nursing cover to help protect your modesty and choose a quiet corner (if no nursing rooms are around) in the restaurant or cafe.
- Some mothers set a routine or designated times for nursing to help manage things.
- Teach your toddler a code word, which he could use should he wish to nurse when you are out. For example, he may say “neh neh” or “milk milk,” so you can anticipate his needs instead of him clawing at your blouse when he wants to be nursed.
- Take along your child’s fave toy or wear a nursing necklace to distract him during nursing.
- Babywear your toddler and nurse-on-the-go, if your child dislikes sitting still when outside.
- Express your breastmilk and offer your child the bottle when you are out, and keep direct latching at home or indoors only.
My relatives tell me that prolonging breastfeeding for my son would pervert him, is this true?
This is a myth. There is absolutely nothing sexual about breastfeeding. Our breasts are biologically designed to feed our offspring.The average age for child-led weaning is 2 to 7 years old. If a child needs to be fed, then they do, irregardless of their gender. Kids of both sexes have the same need for milk. Should a boy be denied the health benefits of breastmilk because society has deemed it ‘inappropriate’? To help, it would be good to teach kids from both genders to ask for milk in an appropriate way when they are older.
What if a breastfeeding mother is pregnant? Continue reading to find out if it’s possible to breastfeed during pregnancy
Is it possible to breastfeed my toddler while I’m pregnant?
Be prepared for your milk supply to dip due to hormonal changes. Milk supply is affected as your body starts redirecting resources toward the growing foetus, and pregnancy may also affect the taste of your breastmilk.
However, do alert your gynaecologist about your extended breastfeeding journey with the elder child. Should the pregnancy be unstable, the gynaecologist may advise you to wean your toddler off breastfeeding, as a form of foetal and maternal health protection. Always check with your gynaecologist in the event of pregnancy.
For healthy pregnancies, many local mums have managed to continue breastfeeding throughout their pregnancy, and sometimes even in tandem after the baby is out. This depends on several factors including your health, your foetus’ condition and how your body is adjusting to the changes.
Breastfeeding mums who are pregnant should also ensure that their health takes priority by maintaining a healthy diet and taking prenatal supplements as advised by their gynaecologist.
Many pregnant mums experience an aversion to breastfeeding, and this is entirely normal. Sore nipples and pain during nursing are common occurrences, too, making breastfeeding during pregnancy a whole set of challenge once again.
It is also during pregnancy that the toddler may wean himself, due to several reasons including change of taste in breastmilk and knowing that mummy is in pain during nursing.
How can extended breastfeeding mums make weaning less stressful? Read on to find out more!
When you do decide to wean your toddler
Singapore lactation nurse Jophia Bok advises that gentle and gradual weaning is the way to go. She suggests these steps to make weaning your toddler less stressful for both mum and child:
- Limit breastfeeding to once a day.
- Reduce the breastfeeding time, e.g., from 25 minutes to ten minutes.
- Delay the breastfeeding time. For example, Jophia’s kids only breastfeed for about five to ten minutes before they sleep at night. Some nights when she knows that they are tired or in good spirits to sleep, she delays going into their bedroom while they are winding down on their bed. After a while when the room is quiet, she peeps in and finds them sleeping on their own.
Remember: patience is key when it comes to weaning. If your child starts reacting negatively with tantrums or meltdowns, do tell yourself to remain calm. Do not blow your top, as your child is also trying to understand and transition with the change.
Wondering where you can go for breastfeeding support? Continue reading…
Breastfeeding support networks in Singapore
- Breastfeeding Mums Support Group Facebook Page. This Facebook page provides an amazing source of information and support for breastfeeding mums in Singapore. Please note that it is a closed group for mothers only, so do ask the friendly admin if you’d like to be added to the community.
- Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group, Singapore (BMSG). Here, mums share their experiences on breastfeeding, including extended breastfeeding and tandem nursing. According to Jophia, there are extended breastfeeding mums who meet up regularly at the Yew Tee area or Choa Chu Kang Community Centres.
Are you breastfeeding your toddler, too? Do share with us what your experience has been like in the Comment Box below!