Davina Wright gained a lot of attention for her decision to keep breastfeeding her 5-year-old triplets. However, while it might seem weird to keep breastfeeding your child after two years, there are actually some crazy health benefits that come from choosing to do it longer.
In fact, the practice of extended breastfeeding is pretty common in other countries outside the US. While it might remain taboo here, it certainly should not.
Here are seven health benefits of extended breastfeeding.
1. It lowers your chance of breast and ovarian cancer.
Breastfeeding for at least six months can help protect you from breast and ovarian cancer, however, women who breastfeed for longer reap the most benefits. This is because women who breastfeed go through hormonal changes that help delay they menstrual periods. This means less exposure to hormones like estrogen, "which can promote breast cancer cell growth," according to the MD Anderson Cancer Center. The Center also reports, "Breastfeeding also can help lower your ovarian cancer risk by preventing ovulation. And the less you ovulate, the less exposure to estrogen and abnormal cells that could become cancer."
2. It offers greater protection for your child.
Breastfeeding helps boost your child's immune system, allowing for them to fight off infection much easier. This is because your baby will not only get protein, sugar, and fat from your breast milk, but also antibodies, immune factors, enzymes, and white blood cells. These benefits improve the longer a woman breastfeeds her baby.
3. It offers nutrition for your baby.
There's a common misconception that breastfeeding after a year won't have the same nutritional benefits. This is not true. Your breastmilk contains protein, calcium, fat, vitamin A, and other nutrients, and doesn't go away after a certain window. Keep on milkin'!
4. It actually helps your baby's brain develop.
Several studies conducted on the correlation between breastfeeding and brain development have shown a positive link, and one study, in particular, that was published in the journal NeuroImage found that results "support the hypothesis that breast milk constituents promote healthy neural growth and white matter development." The areas of the brain with more development included those associated with language, emotional function, and cognition. The results showed that children breastfed for at least three months had better brain development in these areas when compared to children who were not breastfed at all, or were breastfed in combination with formula.
5. It allows for more mother-child bonding.
Breastfeeding allows for bonding time and is also calming for your child. Some women also see it as a way to calm themselves down in the midst of other commitments and tasks. They can break away from errands, assignments, and other stressful tasks and connect with their baby.
6. It can help your child become more independent.
Dr. William Sears writes in The Baby Book,
We have studied the long-term effects on thousands of children who had timely weanings and have observed that these children are more independent, gravitate to people more than things, are easier to discipline, experience less anger, radiate trust...[after] studying the long-term effects of long-term breastfeeding, the most secure... and happy children we have seen are those who have not been weaned before their time.
7. Your child is less likely to develop allergies.
According to WebMD, "Exclusive breastfeeding for at least four months may help prevent asthma, eczema, and food allergies in high-risk babies." Prolonged breastfeeding could up these benefits!
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