Extended breast-feeding: What you need to know

Curious about extended breast-feeding? Know the benefits, the role breast milk plays in an older baby's diet and how to handle others' opinions on the topic. By Mayo Clinic Staff

You've breast-fed your baby for a year. Congratulations!

If you plan to breast-feed your baby beyond age 1 — also known as extended breast-feeding — you might have questions about the process. Get the facts about extended breast-feeding.

Is extended breast-feeding recommended?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months after birth — and breast-feeding in combination with solids foods until at least age 1. Extended breast-feeding is recommended as long as you and your baby wish to continue.

What are the benefits of extended breast-feeding?

The benefits of extended breast-feeding for a baby include:

  • Balanced nutrition. Breast milk is considered the gold standard for infant nutrition. As your baby gets older, the composition of your breast milk will continue to change to meet his or her nutritional needs. There's no known age at which breast milk is considered to become nutritionally insignificant for a child.
  • Boosted immunity. As long as you breast-feed, the cells, hormones and antibodies in your breast milk will continue to bolster your baby's immune system.
  • Improved health. Research suggests that the longer breast-feeding continues and the more breast milk a baby drinks, the better his or her health might be.

The benefits of extended breast-feeding for a mother include:

  • Reduced risk of certain illnesses. Extended breast-feeding — as well as breast-feeding for 12 months or more cumulatively in life — has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
  • Improved health. Research suggests that the longer breast-feeding continues and the more breast milk a baby drinks, the better a mother's health might be.
Sep. 20, 2012 See more In-depth