Extended Breastfeeding – Debunking Myths

We all know this image don’t we? A woman – who looks like she’s extended breastfeeding! In western society extended breastfeeding simply means feeding a child past the age of 12 months. My son is nearly 18 months old and I often get asked if I am ‘still’ feeding him. Yes, I am and no, I don’t plan to stop until both he and I are ready.The reaction is a mixed one. Some people go quite and quickly change the subject. Others have gone on to tell me stories about their own breastfeeding journey past infancy. Only once has someone asked me “should you really be doing that?”  My answer was “My Body, my baby, my business”. I have to admit, I hate the term extended breastfeeding. There is nothing extended about it at all. It is actually more accurate to say feeding to natural term or natural term weaning.  The world wide natural age of weaning is actually 4.2 years and the WHO and NHS recommend feeding until the age of 2.

A huge issue that I come across time and time again are myths around breastfeeding and breastmilk. In this new world dominated by social media, it is a worry! It is so hard to know what to believe. I hear and read about myths time and time again. On blogs, vlogs, forums, parenting facebook chats and more. While most of the information shared is informative and helpful advice, some of what I have read/watched is in fact not true and could seriously impact a mothers breastfeeding journey. Here’s a few myths that I believe have prevented mothers from feeding longer than 12 months.

Myth 1: Babies should be breastfeed for 6 months then its recommended to move to formula.
This is an older myth, one which my mothers generation believed but never the less completely false. The recommendation is that babies should be exclusively breastfeed until 6 months then once weaning to food starts, breastmilk should go along side that.

Myth 2: There is no nutritional benefit to the baby after 12 months.
This is simply not the true either. In fact the year after your baby turns one, the nutritional value is much higher.

“Human milk in the second year postpartum contained significantly higher concentrations of total protein, lactoferrin, lysozyme and Immunoglobulin A, than milk bank samples, and significantly lower concentrations of zinc, calcium, iron and oligosaccharides.”
— Perrin 2016

Kellysmom.com is an amazing place to go for information and support and has a good fact sheet section on breastmilk past infancy. Tests have been done on breastmilk past infancy and the results are really quite amazing. 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


Myth 3: It’s been a year and I would really like a drink!
The myth is that it will harm your baby or make them drunk if you drink alcohol. This is not true. Though newborns are very sensitive to alcohol being so young so it is worth being mindful in the first 4 weeks.

However according to Breastfeeding expert, Carlos Gonzales States:
“Alcohol passes easily and quickly from the mother’s blood into her milk, and vice versa, so that the concentration in both liquids is the same. The legal driving limit in the UK is 0.08 per cent. If your alcohol level is higher than 0.15 per cent you are unmistakably drunk. If it goes above 0.55 per cent you simply drop dead. Therefore, it’s absolutely impossible for breastmilk to contain more than 0.55 per cent alcohol. The mother would have to be suffering from Alcohol poisoning and in hospital ”

He sums up that at its worse, breastmilk would be mildly alcoholic and that it would be impossible for alcohol consumed whilst breastfeeding to harm your baby. The real danger with drinking alcohol is the ability to take care of the baby and also it is INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS to co sleep under the influence of any alcohol or smoking.

Myth 4: I can’t keep breastfeeding…I am going back to work!
This, along with myth 5  are very individual to the child. But generally there is no need to stop even at 6 months if you are going back to work. Yes some babies won’t take a bottle but around 6 months a doidy cup or beaker can be introduced instead. In fact most babies once fully weaned on food will only require a morning and evening feed. They may request it more if mother is around but usually they will not require a feed. My son has been at a childminder 2 days a week from 6 months. We have increased that now and he is far too busy playing and enjoying himself to wonder where I am!

Myth 5: I want a weekend away alone with my husband
Some babies will just not settle unless mum is there. But I know many babies including my own who will settle without me. I breastfeed him at night and usually put him down awake. But he will also feed himself using his sippy cup in his bed while his dad strokes his hair. He has been left with him though the night on two occasions now. Once at my mother in laws and once at home. There have been no issues what so ever. I of course got a bit engorged but I only feed him twice a da so it was nothing like the early days and nothing a hand pump can’t handle! and finally..

Myth 6: I am pregnant again so I HAVE to stop
No you don’t. Not if you don’t want to that is. Tandem breastfeeding is a normal and natural thing. Its hard, and brings challenges but millions of women do it. Feeding during pregnancy can be hard as the body is sensitive and also naturally milk production slows down. A lot of women dry feed during this time, which seems odd but some little ones may not be ready to wean yet and just like the comfort of suckling. A lot of mothers do find that their child will naturally wean at this time. Milk often changes taste and with it reducing, they are simply not interested.

I just have to add one more in there and that is that you do not need to sterilise any of your breastfeeding paraphernalia!! Non of your bottles or pumps. Just wash in good hot soapy water! How fab is that! Far less work for you. So there you go. Remember, no matter how far you got into your journey, every day you fed your baby was an important one. Even if it was just one day or 2 years or more. Every day is a day to be proud of.

What’s your experience of breastfeeding? How long did you do it? Would you have liked to have continued?

P.S. 3 Ingredient Oat Milk and How To Wean With Zero Fuss 

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Thanks so much, Yammy! Yammy is mum to two beautiful little boys. They were a military family until her husband Chris was diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancer. She’s a blogger and vlogger and makes wonderful content, so go check her out.

12 Comments

  1. Yammy
    Author
    April 22, 2018 / 7:34 pm

    Well done on the pumping wow! And you are doing so well. You should certainly be proud especially after that trip! Yes it does have many including the prevention or helping reduce ovarian and breast cancer risk

  2. Becky
    April 22, 2018 / 10:55 am

    I didn’t manage to breastfeed my first so I’m beyond delighted to be able to breastfeed my 2nd child. I’m going back to work end of June (babe will be 9 months) so far she won’t take a bottle (will try doidy cup) has yet to actually swallow any solids (only sucks and mouths food) and omg pumping is soooo hard, I can hardly produce any milk via my pump.

    I’m starting to panic! Does anyone have advice?

  3. Sarah
    April 20, 2018 / 8:53 pm

    Thank you for this post!
    I am still breastfeeding my 18 month old, some people do get awkward about it and I end up ‘blaming’ it on him having a cows milk allergy (no dairy for me) but I know I should really say mind your own business!
    I have returned part time to work and he gets on fine. I haven’t left him over night as yet but am doing so next week go hiking with my hubby (I must be mad – not for leaving him but for not taking the chance to rest! Ha)
    I breastfed my first for 6 weeks, I was ALOT younger and it wasn’t going well, I sometimes feel a bit of a failure for that so I guess that’s why I have persevered with my boy. I can feel it’s coming to an end though and it’s kinda sad.

  4. Shiv
    April 20, 2018 / 8:08 am

    Love this post. My daughter is 10 months and I currently have no intention to stop breastfeeding (unless/until she wants to). I’ll second that it’s not just a choice for mums at home; I returned to work full time three months ago and have had two overseas work trips in that time, one of two weeks long. Joining the mile high pumping club was hard work, but we both got through the separation with minimal tears (mainly mine). @Dace – I actually believe breastfeeding has health benefits to the mother in helping prevent certain cancers?

  5. Lauren
    April 20, 2018 / 12:54 am

    Thank you for this post! My daughter is 18 months old and I get so many negative comments about still feeding her!
    It makes me sad that people think that once the baby turns one, boom, they won’t be interested in boob anymore!
    It was never my plan to feed this long (my son stopped at 13m when I was 5 months pregnant), but it works for us.

    • Yammy
      Author
      April 22, 2018 / 7:32 pm

      Well done. As I said it’s your body, baby and boobs. No one else business! Keep going as long as you want mama x

  6. Dace
    April 19, 2018 / 9:47 pm

    Still breastfeeding at least twice a day and in the night( whenever he wakes up) Robert is 18 months (soon 19) and I am 8 weeks pregnant. I am very attached to breastfeeding myself it just makes me incredibly sad knowing I will have to stop eventually. I am feeling a bit like weirdo. I was just thinking anyone who read this will probably think that. Something like that one is a super crazy attachment parenting mum…😄
    People have been telling me that breastfeeding is draining and that too much will impact on your health. Like makes you look older and bones get weaker… I have no idea how much of that is truth. But to be honest I do look older since having Robert. Sleepless nights?

    • Yammy
      Author
      April 22, 2018 / 7:31 pm

      Firstly you are defo not weird! It’s auch a bonding thing and I always say that the days are long and years are short. All this will actually go so fast. People have said that to me also. But its silly as surely we are the judges of that and will say if we are drained?!for your body, it does not impact bones as such. It isnt a myth but a theory based on the lack of estrogen and absent periods when breastfeeding. I didn’t have periods for 10 years due to my weight a long time ago and I did develop osteoporosis. However it took 5 years to get to the point. So breastfeeding will hardly make a difference. And as you can see in the photo, I defo don’t think I look nearly 35!xx

  7. Ashley
    April 19, 2018 / 8:53 pm

    I breastfed my oldest until 2.5 years (stopped when I was pregnant due to complications) and still nursing my second at 2 years with no plans to stop. I think the biggest myth with extended breastfeeding for me is that you have to continue nursing on demand as they get older. When they were 18 months and under, I mainly nursed anytime they wanted. I very rarely said no. As they got older, I set more boundaries so it would continue to be a good experience for both of us (mostly me!) I nightweaned at 20 months so I could get better sleep. I do a better job of saying “not right now” or “just a few sips and then no more milk until nap” or “mommy doesn’t want to nurse more but we can cuddle”. It’s been really valuable for me to acknowledge that it’s a relationship that goes both ways and it has stayed much more manageable by allowing myself to have some limited as they’ve grown 🙂

    • Yammy
      Author
      April 22, 2018 / 7:27 pm

      Well done:) yes it’s important to put boundries in place I feel to help you carry on in an enjoyable way. We have also started teaching nursing manners so Bertie doesnt go ripping my top up in public!

  8. Ruth
    April 19, 2018 / 8:46 pm

    I breastfed my youngest until just after her second birthday. I enjoyed many nights out, nights in, nights away from my baby, a week long holiday to New York with my husband just before her first birthday when she was still taking more milk than solid food and I had absolutely no problems. I went back to work. My life carried on, my baby grew into a (very loud and eloquent) toddler who would ask for milk in public (never failed to turn me scarlet). I never, ever found breast feeding restricting. In fact, it was really very straight forward – on hand whenever required without the need for hot water or sterile bottles. Don’t get me wrong, the first few months of constant feeding were tiring and I had many horrid bouts of mastitis so it wasn’t all sunshine. But I loved it and i’m proud that my body could provide so successfully for my child. I fed my elder child until his first birthday and really felt that stopping at 1 was the right thing to do at that point as he had lost interest and was only taking a forced breast for a few moments in the evening. Two different children, two different feeding journeys. Do what is right for you and your child. Take advice, listen carefully but do ‘t feel the need to do what society tells you to do. Your life, your child. They are little for such a short time. Love them. x

    • Yammy
      Author
      April 22, 2018 / 7:25 pm

      Very well said. I feel the exact same. Unsure how long I will feed for but going with the flow. Thanks for reading x

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