We made it. 1 year of breastfeeding my little girl. If you had told me a year okay I would get this far, I’d of shrugged it off as not a big deal. But when you consider that in the UK only 0.5% of women breastfeed for a year, despite a recommendation by the World Health Organisation that a child is breastfed for a minimum of two years I have a great accomplishment to proud of.
In a society where breastfeeding can be a taboo subject, feeding a child of 1 or older (because shock horror people do feed their children until they would like to stop, it is called Natural Term Weaning) can often be looked down on as abnormal. The only differences in feeding now as opposed to when Aoife was a newborn is the fact she can pull my top down in public, shout “googee” (translate: boobie) and has a few teeth! No big deal really when you consider the massive health benefits to both Aoife and myself of nursing for a year!
In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL 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
— Dewey 2001
Breastfeeding past a year doesn’t just benefit the baby as found on the kellymom website it also has massive health benefits for mothers!
- Extended nursing delays the return of fertility in some women by suppressing ovulation (References).
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer (References). Studies have found a significant inverse association between duration of lactation and breast cancer risk.
- Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of ovarian cancer (References), uterine cancer(References), and endometrial cancer (References).
- Breastfeeding protects against osteoporosis. During lactation a mother may experience decreases of bone mineral. A nursing mom’s bone mineral density may be reduced in the whole body by 1 to 2 percent while she is still nursing. This is gained back, and bone mineral density may actually increase, when the baby is weaned from the breast. This is not dependent on additional calcium supplementation in the mother’s diet. (References).
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (References).
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease (References).
- Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease insulin requirements in diabetic women. There is also a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes mellitus in mothers who do not have a history of gestational diabetes (References).
- Breastfeeding moms may lose weight easier (References).
Unfortunately, by still nursing my daughter at 12 months old I am in a massive minority of women. Which is why some of you may be pulling a face right now at the fact I still happily and openly nurse my daughter! According to the most recent Lancet study (Jan 2016) the UK came out as the worst country in terms of breastfeeding rates with only 0.5% or 1 in every 200 babies receiving breast milk by 12 months! Shocking really when not only the health implications but the cost implications are considered! But lets not skim over the positive as a vast majority of British babies are breastfed at birth, 81% and 34% at 6 months (although not exclusively as recommended by the WHO) but none the less still impressive figures! For further reading on this, and also where I sourced my information I recommend reading here.
To finish I will simplify a list found on the La Leche League International site found here in full! If you wish to breastfeed for a year it is recommended to….
- Find support! A very valid point if it wasn’t for the full support of Luke (my partner), friends who were peer supporters (in the early days!) and the friends I have bonded with over breastfeeding our babies I would of struggled in the first four months of breastfeeding! I also recommend the facebook groups “Breastfeeding Yummy Mummys”, “Breastfeeding Younger Babies and Beyond”, Breastfeeding Older Babies and Beyond” and “UK Breastfeeding and Parenting Support” for those that prefer online support!
- Learn to breastfeed in public. Now this is an important one! I have rarely shied away from feeding in public and honestly I have all positive comments and no negative (so far!).
- Limit the use of bottles and pacifiers. It is recommended to at least establish feeding before introducing a bottle or dummy, I believe 6 weeks!
- Find ways to involve dad. There are so many ways to involve dad’s other than feeding! Including, but not limited to, skin-to-skin, bathing, pushing the pushchair, babywearing… the list goes on!
- Create a daily rhythm. Follow the lead of your baby! It’s the easiest way! Routines are not designed for breastfeeding mothers… put down that Gina Ford book! (Routines such a feeding three hourly on schedule can be damaging to a feeding relationship!)
- Breastfeed for comfort. Breastfeeding is about so much more than just food!
- Recognise the signs of a nursing strike. An important one! It is highly unlikely a child will self-wean before the age of 2.
- Handle one day at a time. Certainly agree with this one… When you are holding that tiny newborn squish the idea of feeding a walking, talking, 1 year old with teeth can be rather daunting but honestly I still view Aoife as my little squish!
- Don’t view breastfeeding as a “all-or-nothing” proposition. Not 100% I agree with this point personally (blame the lactivist in me!) but I get what it is getting at. I would also like to add that donor milk is an option!
- Enjoy the moment! Definitely make the most of those milky cuddles whilst it lasts!