Breast milk is often referred to as "liquid gold" for many reasons. Several of which are the benefits breast milk provides to your child. When referring to the pros of breast milk, many people often think of newborns and young babies. There are, however, ways toddlers benefit from breast milk to consider as well.
Whether you're breastfeeding or pumping breast milk for bottles, your milk continues to provide immunities and vitamins, and can help protect your toddler from illness and allergies, according to the La Leche League International (LLLI). Among the health benefits of breast milk, toddlers who continue breastfeeding often receive the same comfort, bonding, and security of an infant. Beyond the benefits toddlers get from breast milk, guidelines from organizations such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that babies receive breast milk for at least two years – well into toddlerhood – for healthy growth and development. Because breast milk has a multitude of healthy uses, it's going to continue to be beneficial if you choose to keep breastfeeding or pumping into toddlerhood, which is ages 1 to 3 shared Healthy Children. Read through the information below to see just what benefits breast milk has for toddlers.
1. It Provides Immunity & Vitamins
According to Kelly Mom, in the second year postpartum, human milk contains "significantly higher concentrations of total protein, lactoferrin, lysozyme and Immunoglobulin A," which are key to fighting off bacteria. Some of the other key nutrients breast milk continues to provide past 1 year old include vitamin A, vitamin B12, and vitamin C.
2. It Helps Toddler Mature
According to the aforementioned LLLI article, if a mother chooses to breastfeed into toddlerhood, the closeness and availability assists toddlers in growing emotionally.
3. It Aids In Sensory & Cognitive Development
According to the aforementioned WHO article, breast milk promotes sensory and cognitive development. Furthermore, in a study shared by Live Science, researchers found support of a relationship between long-term breastfeeding with language at age 3 and with verbal and nonverbal IQ at school age. The study found that for every additional month a child received breast milk, their scores by the age of 3 on a picture vocabulary test increased.
4. It Protects Them From Chronic Illnesses
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) shared a growing body of evidence that suggested breast milk plays a major role in protecting against chronic illnesses like obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and type II diabetes mellitus during adulthood.
5. It Lowers Chance Of Obesity
According to Ask Dr. Sears, breast milk can help prevent obesity. Studies show that longer periods of breastfeeding or receiving breast milk can greatly reduce the risk of obesity in adulthood. According to LLLI, at the age 5 to 6 years, children who never received breast milk had obesity rates of 4.5 percent; however, obesity rates were 0.8 percent for children who were received breast milk past 12 months of age.
6. It Lowers Illness & Mortality Rates
The aforementioned Kelly Mom article shared that toddlers receiving breast milk between the ages of 1 and 3 have fewer illnesses, lower mortality rates, and battle illness for a much shorter amount of time if they do get sick.
Providing breast milk into toddlerhood is a very personal decision, and it's not for every family. However, for those mothers who do decide to provide breast milk to their toddler, there are a plethora of benefits related to health, development, preventative measures, and even benefits that reach well into adulthood.