The Incredible Benefits of Breastfeeding Past 6 Months

The benefits of breastfeeding past 6 months improve the health and cognitive abilities of mothers and babies, especially when nursing extends to one year of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends continuing to breastfeed for at least 9 months to provide infants with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients as well as protection from illnesses and infections. The benefits of breastfeeding past 6 months also boost the baby’s immune system and reduces the risk of developing allergies or asthma.

Studies have shown that extended breastfeeding is linked to a longer life expectancy, better cognitive development, and improved overall health. Of course, breastfeeding helps with infant development and strengthens the bond between mother and child, too.

The Incredible Benefits Of Breastfeeding After 6 Months

Long-term breastfeeding is not always perfect and easy for every Mom. Disadvantages of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months include the amount of time it takes to breastfeed, the potential embarrassment in public, and the physical toll it can take on the mother’s body. It is important to be aware of potential drawbacks and to understand that breastfeeding is not right for everyone.

Professor Rachel Borton, Ph.D., the director of Bradley University’s Family Nurse Practitioner Program, conducted extensive studies on the benefits of increasing the length of time women are advised to breastfeed. She works to educate doctors, mothers, and the community as to why extended breastfeeding is so important and to remove the social stigma against nursing, especially in public.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding Past 6 Months

The Incredible Benefits Of Breastfeeding After 6 Months

The first step in helping the public understand the importance of nursing beyond the nine-month mark is education. “The benefits of breastfeeding past 6 months for both mom and baby are so great, that increasing the recommendation of breastfeeding from 6 months to 12 months seems to be a natural consequence. While breastfeeding alone (without solid foods) is not an appropriate diet for an 8-month-old, breastfeeding AND solids are both natural and the most nutritious diet for an 8-month-old infant,” Borton says.

READ MORE: National Breastfeeding Month: 10 Items a Nursing Mother Needs

Not only does the baby reap the benefits of breastfeeding past 6 months, but the nursing mother enjoys benefits, too. Borton says the benefits of extended breastfeeding for Mom include decreased risk of maternal breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer. It decreases the risk of postpartum depression, too.

The benefits of breastfeeding past 6 months up to 1 year of age for a baby are similar to the infant benefits of breastfeeding at less than 6 months of age. Those benefits include an increased IQ and a decreased risk of developing minor acute illnesses such as ear infections, respiratory infections, and gastrointestinal illnesses. The benefits can carry over into adulthood decreasing the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, leukemia, and hypertension.

READ MORE: 7 Ways to Make Time For Yourself When Exclusively Breastfeeding

When breastfeeding past 6 months, the frequency depends on the growing nutritional demands of the baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends supplementing breastmilk with nutritious solid foods past age 6 months. Breastfeeding should continue for at least 1 year or even longer if mom and baby are in agreement.

For most Moms, milk supply remains strong with the baby’s demand. Frequent breastfeeding and/or pumping increases supply. The World Health Organization offers a variety of tips on how to increase breast milk past 6 months: eat a nutritious diet, drink lots of fluids, and practice relaxation techniques.

Education and acceptance play significant roles in encouraging formula-feeding moms to breastfeed. “Explaining exactly what the benefits of breastfeeding past 6 months to mom in a way that is easily understood and yet not condescending, is critical to success,” Borton says. It’s important to accept a Mom’s wishes to “try breastfeeding,” and provide support even if she decides that breastfeeding is not for her. Any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial – and should be encouraged as such!

“The negative stigma regarding breastfeeding in public needs to be removed, too. Our western society has sexualized breasts to such a degree that thinking of breastfeeding as a natural, bonding experience, visualized in public is challenging for some to understand or see,” she adds. “However, I do think we are slowly changing this stigma.”

From the Mouths of Babes (and their Mamas)

The Incredible Benefits Of Breastfeeding After 6 Months

Physicians and well-meaning members of the community sometimes pressure expectant and new moms into nursing, making them feel guilty if breastfeeding doesn’t work out. No one should be made to feel that way. Many mothers struggle with breastfeeding.

“Seek help. You are not alone and you are not the first! The first step is to identify what exactly is causing your breastfeeding problem and where you can go for help,” Borton says. “Lactation consultants and breastfeeding support groups are willing and able to help you through this struggle. If I could encourage breastfeeding mothers with one sentence, it would be, ‘It’s worth the struggle – for your baby and you!’”

READ MORE: Tips for the Shy Mom: Overcoming the Fear of Breastfeeding in Public

Of course, there are mothers who choose to nurse beyond a year, and despite the well-known benefits of breastfeeding after 6 months, some find extended breastfeeding (especially beyond 2 years) to be unnecessary. Jenn Moerman is a Mom who nursed her daughter for more than 3 years. “It was definitely up in the air as to whether or not I would nurse beyond a year. When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to nurse, and I wanted to try for a full year because I knew it was best for the baby,” Moerman says. “I did think, oh, formula, just in case. However, once I had my baby in my arms, I knew I wanted us to nurse exclusively.”

READ MORE: The Emotional Journal of Breastfeeding

“As we began to approach the 1-year mark, I found I couldn’t even consider weaning her. She was my baby and needed me and my Mama’s milk. It just wasn’t a question then. Then one year became two, then three,” she adds.

Moerman says she had observed her own mom nursing her younger siblings, but all less than a year. She did not receive much support or encouragement for extended breastfeeding even from her Mom. She attended her first La Leche League meeting when her daughter was 8 months old. “I’m fortunate, and possibly live in a bit of a bubble, in that I didn’t have a lot of noticeable backlash on nursing my child, especially in public,” she says. “The negative comments I did receive were from family, but I can’t think of any comments that were made to me by strangers.”

What are the benefits of breastfeeding for 6 months vs 1 year?

According to the World Health Organization, the benefits of breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life include improved nutrition, growth, and development, as well as providing immunity to diseases. After six months, these benefits continue but the importance of breastfeeding is even greater. With continued breastfeeding, babies receive more important nutrients such as calcium, iron, and zinc as well as additional antibodies from their mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding should continue until at least 12 months or more, as mutually desired by Mom and baby.

At what age is breastfeeding no longer beneficial?

The age at which breastfeeding is no longer beneficial varies from baby to baby. The amount of breast milk produced by a mother decreases gradually as her baby gets older. And, the baby’s need for milk decreases as he begins to eat solid foods. Typically, the baby nurses less as he begins to explore his environment.

How does breastfeeding change after 6 months?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed their infant exclusively until 6 months of age, and then continue breastfeeding with the introduction of other foods for at least 1 year. After 6 months, the mother’s milk continues to provide essential nutrients and immunity to the baby. Breastfeeding can also help reduce the risk of ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and allergies, as well as provide bonding benefits for the child and mother.

Breastfeeding after 6 months how often depends on the nutritional needs of baby and what additional foods he is eating. Other positive effects of breastfeeding even after 6 months include reduced risk of SIDS, obesity, diabetes, and celiac disease.

How much breastmilk at 9 months with solids should the baby be given?

The World Health Organization recommends continuing breastfeeding until the baby is at least 2 years old. When a baby starts eating solid foods around 9 months, the amount of breastmilk he consumes will naturally decrease. If possible, aim to give the baby at least 2-3 feedings of breastmilk a day even after starting solids.

The next step in helping society understand the importance of breastfeeding is by removing the stigma of breastfeeding in public and extended breastfeeding. With these combined efforts, it is possible to create waves of change. Breastfeeding is natural and nutritious for the baby at the start of life and continues to offer benefits well after 6 months of age.

Resources: Bradley University, American Academy of Pediatrics

Interested in learning more about the benefits of breastfeeding after 6 months? Check out The Surprising Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding



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Lauren is a mom of three girls and a proud USMC spouse. She is the managing editor of Daily Mom Military, one half of the YouTube military spouse channel, #TheDependas, and owner of Lauren Lomsdale Creative Studios. She loves to run, lift, and do yoga in her spare time. Lauren is currently in Camp Pendleton, CA with her family and loves to meet new and inspiring military spouses.