The Benefits of Breastfeeding Past Six Months
If you’re expecting a baby and you’ve decided to breastfeed, you should feel good about your decision. To be sure, breast milk is best and women who breastfeed usually aim to do so for a certain length of time in order to provide their babies with the best start in life. Nothing can replace breast milk when it comes to vitamins, other nutrients, and its immune-building capabilities, which nature itself created.
Many women try to breastfeed for a minimum of three months, six months, or even a year, but are there any real benefits of breastfeeding past six months of age? Once a baby reaches six months, they need more than just breast milk to survive, but this doesn’t mean that breast milk is unnecessary or doesn’t provide any real advantages. In fact, there are numerous reasons to breastfeed once the baby reaches six months, and below are some of them.
1. The Baby Continues to Get the Nutrients Needed to Grow and Thrive
Just because your baby needs solid foods at around six months doesn’t mean that they stop benefitting from your breast milk. Breast milk continues to be rich in nutrients and in antibodies that build up the child’s immune system, and that doesn’t stop just because the child reaches a certain age. Even the best formula on the market doesn’t provide the same nutritional benefits as breast milk does, so the longer you nurse, the longer your child will reap the benefits of your breast milk.
This enriched immune system that they get from breast milk is especially important because as babies get older, they are exposed to more germs and more chances to get infections and illnesses. If you’re still nursing them after six months, they’ll be more ready to get this exposure without them being affected by it in the end. They’ll have a super-strong immune system if you keep nursing them!
2. The Baby Has a Reduced Risk of Several Illnesses
Studies have proven time and again that babies who are breastfed, especially past six months of age, have a reduced risk of experiencing diarrhea, tummy problems, ear infections, respiratory problems, and asthma. Does this mean that they’ll never get these problems? Not necessarily, but it does mean that they are much less likely to experience them. Let’s face it -- any protection we can give our babies from these challenges is a good thing.
3. The Baby Is Helped Later in Life
The immune-building capability provided by breast milk but absent in formula does such a good job that it can help them later in life, reducing the odds of certain cancers and numerous illnesses that people tend to get even after they’re grown. This includes asthma, diabetes, and even obesity.
Obesity is a huge problem in many Western countries, especially the United States, but breast milk contains everything the baby needs to maintain a healthy weight and nothing that the baby doesn’t need, so that their odds of avoiding certain illnesses are much higher.
4. The Mom Has a Reduced Risk of Certain Illnesses
When Mom breastfeeds for a long period of time, her risks of getting ovarian, breast, uterine, and endometrial cancer are much lower. Some studies suggest that if Mom nurses for two years or more, this can lower those risks even more. In other words, the longer you decide to breastfeed your child, the lower the risks are of getting any sort of “female” cancer, which are the types of cancer that scare women the most.
5. The Mom Gets Help Getting Back Into Shape
Nursing helps you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight in two ways. First, each time you nurse, the uterus contracts, which helps it get back to its pre-pregnancy size. Sometimes this can be a bit uncomfortable or even painful, but it shouldn’t last long. Second, when you’re nursing, you burn about 500 calories or so per day. Between these two things, you can both lose weight and get a smaller belly as long as you’re nursing.
This is also why nursing mothers are told that they need to add 300 to 500 calories per day to their diet while they’re nursing. If they don’t, their milk supply may dwindle or they may even have problems feeling weak or dizzy. Most moms, however, have no problems adding calories to their diet, especially since it doesn’t cause them to gain any weight!
6. The Mom Is Less Likely to Suffer with Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is something that many new moms suffer with, and part of it is due to hormones. If you breastfeed, your hormones tend to level out on their own and very slowly, instead of changing instantly like they do when you do not nurse.
Because they level out so slowly, your body adjusts better to its post-pregnancy phase; therefore, postpartum depression is much less likely. If you do nurse and get postpartum depression, it won’t be nearly as severe as it can be in women who use formula.
This is yet another reason to nurse for a long period of time. The longer you breastfeed, the longer it takes for your hormones to level out, which means the lower your risks are for getting severe postpartum depression or depression that lasts for a very long time. When you nurse for six months or longer, your body eases into post-pregnancy instead of rushing into it, which is good for the mother in many ways, both physically and emotionally.