10 Reasons NOT to Stop Breastfeeding at 1 year

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10 reasons to Breastfeed beyond 12 months, Benefits of Breastfeeding past 1 year

Because breastfeeding is really only now coming back in “style” (I say that in quotation marks, because, really, the health of our children shouldn’t be a cultural fad), not much is known by the general populace about breastfeeding past 1 year.

“Now that your child is 1 year old, you can begin introducing cows’ milk.”

This is the standard line every American mom hears at her child’s 12 month well-baby doctor’s visit.  When my first two boys were babies I didn’t question this.

It was surprising then, when I was pregnant with my third child, to learn that there is no reason for a baby who is breastfeeding happily to be weaned simply because they hit a certain date on the calendar.  It was a light bulb moment.

There is absolutely no medical, health, or other reason that a baby who is breastfeeding well should be weaned when they turn one year old.  In fact, breastfeeding past 1 year benefits your baby far beyond what introducing cows’ milk does.

*Note: For this article, I want to start off with the understanding that this is directed at mothers who are happily breastfeeding their babies and would only wean their babies from the breast because their doctor, family, friends, whomever urge them to wean at 1 year.  I know what it is like to be unable to breastfeed (for various reasons).  This article is not intended to make those who are unable to breastfeed feel guilty.

Benefits of Breastfeeding Past 1 Year


1.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it.

The AAP recommends a “continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.”

2. Breastmilk continues to provide substantial amounts of important nutrients for toddlers.

Breastmilk changes as your child grows in order to meet the needs of your child.  In addition to a significant contribution of fat requirement, in the second year of life, just 15 ounces of breastmilk provides:

29% of energy requirements
43% of protein requirements
36% of calcium requirements
75% of vitamin A requirements
76% of folate requirements
94% of vitamin B12 requirements
60% of vitamin C requirements
– Dewey 2001

3.  Breastfeeding boosts your child’s immune system.

At 1 year of age baby’s immune system is only functioning at about 60% of adult level (Huggins 2007).  Breastmilk has an abundance of antibodies which can keep our babies well even when everyone else around them seems to be sick.  Breastfeeding toddlers between the ages of one and three have been found to have fewer illnesses, illnesses of shorter duration, and lower mortality rates (Mølbak 1994, van den Bogaard 1991, Gulick 1986).

If your child does happen to get sick or feel unwell, he will often accept breastmilk when he refuses other foods.

4.  Breastfeeding past 1 year provides emotional advantages for toddlers.

According to Elizabeth N. Baldwin, Esq. in “Extended Breastfeeding and the Law”:

“Breastfeeding is a warm and loving way to meet the needs of toddlers and young children. It not only perks them up and energizes them; it also soothes the frustrations, bumps and bruises, and daily stresses of early childhood. In addition, nursing past infancy helps little ones make a gradual transition to childhood.“  She continues, “Meeting a child’s dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence. And children outgrow these needs according to their own unique timetable.”

Rather than creating an endless dependency on mom (which I have heard some critics of breastfeeding past 1 year argue), extended breastfeeding supports a toddler with love and security as they naturally and gradually gain their own independence.

5.  Extended breastfeeding can delay fertility for mom!

While you shouldn’t absolutely depend on breastfeeding as birth control, I have to say it is really nice to be 18 months post partum and not have a monthly visit from “aunt flo”.  *I should note that women can experience a return of fertility at anytime after baby is born and that breastfeeding is not a guarantee that you’ll not ovulate and have your period.

6.  Breastfeeding reduces the risk of cancer.

The longer you breastfeed, the greater reduction your risk for breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer. (References)

7.  Breastfeeding reduces the risk of osteoporosis.

Researchers have found that women who breastfed a cumulative total ( months breastfeeding all their children) of 33 months had greater bone strength and size than women who breastfed for less than 12 months.

8.   It is what our children were designed to do.

Research by anthropologist Katherine A. Dettwyler, PhD, the natural age of weaning, as determined by weight gain, length of gestation, dental eruption, and other factors, is 2½ to 7 years old.

9.   Breastfeeding Boosts Child Intelligence Outcomes.

While the research on this theory is still in its infancy (so to speak) current studies support the hypothesis that breastfed children score higher on intelligence tests than their formula fed counterparts.  Studies show a correlation between longer breastfeeding and higher scores.

Also interesting to note is the study that found that children who were breastfed for at least the first 6 months of life had lower incidence of Attention Deficits.

10. You avoid the trauma of early forced weaning.

Imagine spending hours a day snuggling up to your favorite person, looking into their eyes…emotionally bonding and eating your favorite most nutritiously complete food.  Then imagine that the very person you have enjoyed all this emotional bonding with suddenly says your snuggling days are over.  For some little ones, parent-led weaning can be very traumatic.  Extended breastfeeding can save you and your little one lots of confusion, tears, and frustration.

Infant feeding [breast feeding] should not be considered as a lifestyle choice but rather as a basic health issue.  –American Academy of Pediatrics

 Have you been able to breastfeed past 1 year?  What has been the most rewarding part of extended breastfeeding?


If you enjoyed this post, make sure you check out these other great articles… 

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What is Baby Led Weaning and How do I get Started? 

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About Amy @ Oh So Savvy Mom

Amy is mom to three, wife to one, and a sister and aunt to many. Her family is a former military family now settled in Lehi, Utah. Oh So Savvy Mom began as a way for Amy to share parenting and product advice with others. Just as she has evolved, Oh So Savvy Mom has evolved into a resource for Healthy Living for Families, Food, Parenting, and Family Travel.


  1. I've breastfed all 3 of my kids past 1 year. The first was 14 months, the second 25 months, and the third is 21 months and still nursing. My goal has always been just to make it to the one year point and then I'd play it by ear after. Now, one year, or even 14 months still seems so small. I love that I never have to worry what's in breast milk or what they're getting nutrition wise. It's so great for added bug-fighting protection when you have older kids who bring things home from school or just picking a cootie up from anywhere while out in public. And, should they still get sick with something, it's the perfect source to keep them hydrated and give them the extra nutrients they need. There are just so many more pluses to extended breastfeeding than there are disadvantages. I would encourage more moms to try to keep going just a little longer if they can.
  2. Oh how I wish I could go back in time. I didn't succeed breastfeeding my first 2 and quit after a few months. My 3rd and 4th I quit breastfeeding at one year, because I didn't know any better. My 5th, I am still breastfeeding and he's over 2 years old now. This is a great post with great info, thanks for sharing. So many moms need to hear this so they realize they don't have to quit, just because people are telling her to. My family keeps bothering me to quit, I know how it is.
  3. Great benefits, Amy! I breastfed my youngest until he was close to 2 1/2, my middle almost as long and only 1 month for my first. I was only 21 when I had him, he was a preemie, and I just didn't have the support to keep going. I wish I would have gone a lot longer.
    • I think that (particularly before facebook mama groups) the first is always the most difficult. It is complicated when your child has special issues or needs. All of my boys have a lot of food issues which made breastfeeding very difficult. My first I breastfed until he was 10 weeks and then pumped and supplemented until he was 6 months (I only had a single pump!!! I still can't believe I did that with a single pump). My second had severe food issues and I BF'd him for 3 months and then we put him on a special formula. By the time my 3rd came along I'd done a TON of research, had a very supportive pediatrician who kept urging me to keep going, and we made it!!
  4. This is great! I'm still breast feeding my 16-month old, and have always planned on doing so until he was ready to stop. I had been wondering, though, if I needed to give him cows milk in addition to breast milk, just because it seems so many babies drink milk because they're babies. But I guess not! :) I've really enjoyed nursing my babe, and will be sad to stop. He seems to have no end in sight right now; in fact, he seems to have increased his feeding a lately. :)
    • Good for you! I know it was rough going for you for a little while. Aren't you so glad you hung in there? I know I'm glad I didn't give up at 4 months like I really wanted to. Nope, you don't need to give him any milk, especially if he is still nursing multiple times a day. :) Have fun with that cute little baby of yours!
  5. My older son--might have been six. It went away so gradually and I didn't write it down. He is 31 now. His brother is 2 and 3/4 years younger. I went into labor with J as D was getting a little snack. Since I was due it might have been the nudge I needed. J was born 35 minutes later! He nursed until the month after his fourth birthday in keeping with his more independent nature. I was never able to conceive again but really missed that relationship.
  6. Yes! My first two kids nursed past age 2, and the 3rd baby is still little. I hope to nurse him 2+ years as well. Best part was not having to wash sippy cups (except for a few for water, but not many). Or pack/buy milk when traveling. And they would fall asleep anywhere nursing. I think they got sick a lot less too, and when they did they were comforted and hydrated by nursing.
  7. I've nursed all seven kids past a year.. the longest was 3 1/2 years. They will self wean when they're ready. I love how playful they are while nursing and love those nursey smiles. I remember how my twins would hold hands and play with each other while nursing. Happy memories. I'm currently nursing my one year old.
  8. I feel so good after reading this article. My son is 11 months has no intentions of weaning himself off and I don't have the heart to do it either. He really enjoys nursing but a lot of people around me are uncomfortable if I nurse him beyond 1. If breastfeeding is giving him all this benefits than why should I stop?
    • I'm glad the article helped. Best of luck to you. It can be really difficult when people don't understand the benefits of continuing to breastfeed, and so aren't supportive. As I've continued to nurse my son, I've been surprised to find several moms where I live who also nurse their older toddlers.
  9. shelly peterson says
    I never breast fed my kids. My daughter is breastfeeding her son though, who is just turning one. She has debated whether to continue or not. I will pass this post on to her.
  10. I also nursed both of my kids for a while, I don't remember how long for though, I think it well over a year for sure, but I Love the benefits of breastfeeding both for baby and mom.
  11. My son just turned 21 months yesterday. I work fulltime and alternate weekends with his father. But there is no better feeli g than nursing after i get out of work. Or on that Sunday night when i hadn't seen him in two days. I dont plan on stopping but it's truly up to him. I find such comfot and serenity in nursing. Truly.
  12. This was a wonderful article, that confirms what I know and believe through intuition and the experience of breastfeeding my 18 month old. I'm not sure when we'll stop... I am letting her decide. And although I hope to, one day, have another baby, whom I will also breasfeed, I know I will miss these moments one day.
    • My youngest stopped breastfeeding at 23 months. I was kind of relieved at the time, but looking back on it now (he's almost 3 now) I still feel that he was such a baby when he weaned. Thanks so much for stopping by and also for taking a moment to leave a comment. I'm so glad so many women have found comfort and courage to continue breastfeeding through this article.
  13. I never thought the social pressure would get to me. My first is 10 months now. When she was really tiny I was totally comfortable in public and what not. The older she gets the more I feel 'weird' or like people are looking at me funny. Will my breasts continue to make milk for her if I just do it like twice in the morning and twice at night? In the privacy of our own home?
    • I'm still nursing my daughter and she's just over 2 1/2 years old. She now just nurses at nap time and night and I still produce quite a bit of milk. I think I stopped nursing as much when we were out around 10-12 months, more because my daughter couldn't concentrate with all that was going on around her. If she needed to nurse when we were out than I just tried to find somewhere quiet or did it in the car.
    • Hi Rachel, First of all, you're still nursing your 10 month old. Own it and be proud of yourself! Nursing is not an easy task. For all those looks you think you are getting just know there are other moms that you may not see (but who see you) who are proud of you for nursing your soon-to-be toddler. There may also be the mom out there who finds strength to continue breastfeeding her baby from the example you are setting. In answer to your question, your breasts will produce just as much milk as your baby needs. If you are nursing full-time, your breasts will produce enough milk for your baby's needs, if you are just breastfeeding twice a day, your breasts will produce enough for twice a day. I nursed only in the morning and at night for the last several months before my little guy weaned. Best wishes to you on your journey. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you need any support or have any questions. amy (at) ohsosavvymom (dot) com.
  14. Thank you for this great article! My first is 17 months old and I'm still breastfeeding her. My husband took her to her 12 month doctors appointment and the doctor said to him that we should start her on cows milk. My husband said "So my wife shouldn't breastfeed anymore?" and the doctor answered that I absolutely could continue with breastmilk, he just assumed she was getting formula! Maybe it was because my husband was the one who brought her in that he thought that, but I also think that there is still such a prevalence of doctors who give advice that is geared only towards formula feeding parents. That's why I'm happy this info is out there!
  15. My baby is 16 months old and I am breastfeeding her. My husband cracks jokes that she will be nursing until she is 5. I know its good for her its just sad how people make me feel like its dirty or weird. This article has helped me realize I am NOT harming my baby. She will stop when she is ready.
  16. Your breasts will still produce milk. Just keep telling yourself your milk is better than the formula. Be strong.
  17. I nurse past a year always...but I really feel so much pressure to stop! I've always been ridiculed. Friends and family have always made jokes and although that hasn't made me stop it does get old and very embarrassing at times. I wish people were more accepting of breastfeeding.