The benefits of breastfeeding are beyond numerous! It's helpful to mom and baby's health, to their relationship, to the family, to the pocketbook and much more! The longer you do it, the more it affects both you and your baby for good.
I had a bit of a rough start breastfeeding my first baby (and only baby so far).
We did it at the hospital somewhat successfully right after she was born, got a little instruction from the midwife and went on our merry way home.
It was a long night but I thought it was going alright. The midwife did a checkup the next day and sent us to the hospital immediately. From her testing, she knew baby wasn't getting enough nourishment, and she needed some quick attention.
We were there for 8 hours (the day after giving birth, ladies!) and tried nursing while there, but the doctor had us feed her formula as well, just to start getting some nutrients in her. When she was stable, we went home and the doctor recommended for us to continue to formula feed and work on breastfeeding at the same time.
I was so worried because I'd heard about nipple confusion and was concerned that she'd never breastfeed if we gave her bottles, but I had no choice. She had to get nourishment one way or another!
I knew the health benefits and other numerous benefits of breastfeeding, especially during the first months of life, so I wasn't about to give up on it!
We immediately found a lactation consultant and made an appointment. She was so helpful! She discovered our baby had a tongue and lip tie which was likely impeding her ability to nurse properly. I was given a nipple shield (a true Godsend!) and made an appointment to have the tongue and lip tie corrected.
We got used to the nipple shield and tried to wean off it after the surgery but never could. We still use it today and my daughter is almost two! Miraculously, I've maintained a good milk supply, which is rare with prolonged use of a nipple shield.
My breastfeeding journey didn't go as I planned, but I'm glad I did what I could to continue nursing past 6 months, because I know it's benefited us in the present and will for years to come.
What Are the Benefits of Breastfeeding Past 6 Months?
The benefits that occur from breastfeeding after 6 months of age are really the same benefits of breastfeeding before 6 months, just multiplied! Most of them continue up until you are done breastfeeding and many of them affect you and your baby for years to come. The longer you breastfeed, the more the benefits.
Benefits of Breastfeeding For Baby
- Human milk provides the ideal nutrition for your child and is easily digested by them.
- Breastmilk contains antibodies that help prevent your baby from getting sick. It really helps create a strong immune system!
- Breastmilk contains enzymes that improve the health of the digestive system and prevent gastrointestinal infections.
- Reduces the risk of many diseases (sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, diabetes, leukemia, to name just a few).
- Aids in maintaining a child's healthy weight.
- Has significant impact on baby's brain development, both now and for years to come!
- Breastfed babies are less likely to need orthodontic treatment and speech therapy because of how nursing affects oral development.
- Skin contact during breastfeeding (and at other times) calms and relaxes baby. It's one of the best ways to comfort and soothe.
Benefits of Breastfeeding For Mom
- Breastfeeding may help mom lose weight postpartum.
- Increased oxytocin when breastfeeding helps the uterus to contract and return to it's original size. This also generally means less blood loss after the delivery.
- Moms who breastfeed are less likely to be affected by post partum depression.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of disease to mom, including ovarian, breast and uterine cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Menstruation is often paused for many months while mom is continually breastfeeding.
- It's convenient! No brain power required. You've got what you need!
- It's time saving! No need to pack bottles and formula for outtings, to clean and sanitize bottles or to warm and prepare formula.
- Special bond with baby, thanks to the oxytocin! It's probably the best thing about breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding forces mom to take a break, which she otherwise wouldn't do. Moms are so busy and these nursing sessions are just the thing to help her calm down a bit and focus on her baby.
Benefits of Breastfeeding For Your Husband
- Having a healthy and happy partner and child will improve his quality of life, as well as theirs!
- Breastfeeding provides another opportunity for a man to support his wife by contributing more in the home in different ways, since he doesn't directly contribute to feeding the baby. This could be in the form of back rubs, cooking supper, cleaning the dishes, changing baby's diaper, etc. Yes, it is a benefit for him to serve his home and family!
Benefits of Breastfeeding to the Family
- It's cheap! The family budget will thank you. There may be a necessity for purchasing pumping equipment or seeing a lactation consultant a time or two, but these are not recurring purchases like formula is.
- Because breastfeeding is so convenient, it provides flexibility so the whole family can go on outtings together.
- Breastfed babies cry less. This is a blessing to all family members, but especially to mom!
- Siblings see first hand that breastfeeding is normal and is the natural way to feed babies. Otherwise, the message they will get from the media is that bottle-feeding is the only way!
Benefits of Breastfeeding to Society
- The nutrition babies receive in the first year of life can really shape their life's trajectory. When more babies have the best start to life, as far as optimal growth, development and health, society will benefit as a whole. After all, society is made of individuals!
- Healthier babies = less illness (now and in the future!). That means less strain on your country's healthcare system and decreased health care costs.
Benefits of Breastfeeding to the Environment
- Breastfeeding generates no waste and is a renewable resource, whereas infant formula has to be produced, along with bottles, nipples, labels and packaging. Single use bottles are often used in hospital nurseries as well.
How Long Do the Benefits of Breastfeeding Last?
Many of the benefits last until you finish breastfeeding, but there are a ton of benefits that reach far beyond weaning!
Proper nutrition from the start gives the baby the best chance at living a healthy life, free of disease. This benefit will continue for that child's whole life!
The longer you nurse, the more you decrease your chances of developing ovarian cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease in the future.
At What Age is Breastfeeding No Longer Beneficial?
It's really up to your and your baby when you want to stop, but the benefits will continue and often multiply as you keep nursing.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding until at least 1 year old, with the introduction of nutritious complementary foods coming in after 6 months.
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least 2 years of age. Did you know the average age for weaning worldwide is 4?!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with continuing as long as it's going well for both mom and baby. It can only benefit you!
What Are the Negative Sides of Breastfeeding
- It can be difficult to start. For some, breastfeeding comes very naturally and easy, but for others it can be quite a learning curve for both mom and baby. It's worth all the effort, though!
- You may experience pain as you and baby learn what you're doing! Consult a lactation consultant if you're experiencing pain while breastfeeding.
- If your positioning and posture are incorrect, you can cause strain on your body. Using pillows and learning proper positioning can prevent many health problems. A lactation consultant can help a lot with this too!
- More likely to be affected by carpal tunnel syndrome. When the carpal tunnel, a passageway in the wrist, is put under pressure, this can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, causing numbness, tingling and weakness. If you experience this, try some home remedies and see a physiotherapist if symptoms continue!
- It can be difficult to tell if your baby is consuming an adequate amount of breast milk. I trusted that if I nursed on demand, and my baby was happy and growing at a normal pace, baby's needs were all being met!
- You need to be aware of what you're consuming, since much of it passes through your milk to baby. You may need to make adjustments based on food allergies.
- Only you can feed the baby. (Unless you pump and use bottles on occasion!)
- All your clothes must be nursing friendly. This isn't actually hard at all. See my post about it here.
- It can be an adjustment learning how to nurse in public. Using a nursing cover or certain types of shirts makes it much more comfortable.
I know that exclusive breastfeeding is ideal, but it doesn't work for everyone and that's fine. My only encouragement would be to give breastfeeding a fighting chance. Work at it and get help if needed. It will be worth it, and if it doesn't work out, you'll know you tried your best. There are so many different circumstances and factors involved, and it's a personal decision. Only you know what will work for you and your situation. Get educated and make informed decisions and you'll have no regrets.
Was this helpful? I'd love to hear about your experience with breastfeeding and the benefits you saw from continuing after 6 months!