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6 Benefits for a Mother and Her Baby When the Breastfeeding Period Lasts Longer

Every mother decides, for herself and her baby, how long she should breastfeed and when to start weaning. The World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed for up to 6 months, and then continue doing it for up to 2 years or more, along with introducing other foods. And there are certainly many health benefits that come along with this process, both for the children and their mothers!

We at Bright Side wanted to find out more about the positive effects extended breastfeeding can have on a baby. And at the end of the article, we will also tell you about some benefits for moms!

1. Better health and stronger immune system

Breast milk is high in white blood cells, which are immune cells. This means that extended breastfeeding can prolong the time your baby gets immune system boosts directly from you. Furthermore, your breast milk can adapt to what your baby needs, and will contain the right antibodies to fight off various infections.

Additionally, the quality of your breast milk gets better with time, so the longer you keep breastfeeding, the more health benefits it can bring to your child. And those benefits last even after you stop nursing. All in all, breastfeeding for 12 months or more has been shown to improve health and reduce the risk of certain diseases.

2. Positive effects on brain function and behavior

The way you child’s microbiota develops can affect their brain functions and regulate complex behaviors. Breastfeeding helps bolster the baby’s formative microbiome by providing the necessary nutrients. Several studies have even linked breastfeeding to higher intelligence, although it is only an association, and there are many other factors that contribute to a child`s intelligence in a much more significant way. However, breast milk does contain nutrients, such as DHA, that can positively affect your baby’s developing brain.

3. Healthy gut microbiome

Our microbiome, which is important for our development, nutrition, and immunity, is influenced by breastfeeding. And the baby’s developing microbiome needs digestive bacteria to develop properly, which your breast milk can provide. Breast milk actually contains a wide diversity of microbes, which are beneficial for your baby’s maturing bacterial flora. So the longer you keep nursing, the stronger your child’s microbiome becomes.

4. Better sleep patterns

Breastfeeding can improve sleep-wake rhythms in infants. Throughout the day, the chemical composition of your breast milk doesn`t stay the same, so the levels of certain chemicals change. For example, while the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep, is secreted during the night in adults, this doesn’t happen in infants. This hormone has a relaxing effect, and the breast milk that contains it helps improve your baby’s sleep and reduce colic.

5. Balanced nutrition

The longer you breastfeed, the more your milk changes. It does so to provide better nutrition to your baby’s changing needs. A study has shown that after one year of lactation, breast milk has higher levels of fat and energy contents, which can significantly and positively contribute to your child`s diet.

6. Maternal bonding

According to a study, women who breastfeed longer show more maternal sensitivity, even later in their children`s lives. This strong bond can help mothers read their children’s cues and be more flexible in their own behavior.

Bonus: Benefits for the mom!

Breastfeeding longer can actually have positive effects not only on babies, but also on mothers!

  • If breastfeeding continues for at least 6 months, it can help with weight loss.
  • study has shown that mothers who breastfeed for more that 12 months have a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Prolonged lactation is associated with stronger bones later in life.
  • Breastfeeding for more than 12 months has been linked to a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Extended lactation can have contraceptive effects.
  • Breastfeeding longer is associated with a lower risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Extended breastfeeding is associated with reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes.

How long did you breastfeed your children? Have you personally noticed any positive effects on you or your child? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Illustrated by Marat Nugumanov for Bright Side