What role does breast milk play in an older baby's diet?

It depends on how much breast milk your baby is drinking.

After age 1, a baby might continue regularly drinking a moderate amount of breast milk. As a result, breast milk will continue to be a major source of nutrients for him or her. Other babies, however, might use solid foods to meet their nutritional needs and only want small amounts of breast milk.

If you have questions about your baby's diet or the role breast milk might play in it as he or she grows, talk to your baby's doctor or your health care provider.

Will extended breast-feeding make the weaning process more difficult?

Not necessarily.

It's often easiest to begin weaning when your baby initiates the process — which might be sooner or later than you expect.

Weaning often begins naturally at about age 6 months, when solid foods are typically introduced. Some babies begin to gradually transition from breast milk and seek other forms of nutrition and comfort closer to age 1. Others might not initiate weaning until their toddler years, when they become less willing to sit still during breast-feeding.

How should I handle negative reactions to extended breast-feeding?

Worldwide, babies are weaned on average between ages 2 and 4. In some cultures, breast-feeding continues until children are age 6 or 7. In other parts of the world, however, extended breast-feeding is less common and can sometimes provoke uninformed, negative reactions.

How long you breast-feed is up to you and your baby. If loved ones — and even strangers — share their opinions about when to wean, remind them that the decision is yours. Try not to worry about what other people think. Instead, trust your instincts.

Extended breast-feeding can be an intimate way to continue nurturing your baby. If you're considering extended breast-feeding, think about what's best for both you and your baby — and enjoy this special time together.

April 17, 2015 See more In-depth