As I approach the one year mark the more questions I begin to have about breastfeeding. You are supposed to stop at one year, right? You have to switch to cow’s milk, right?
Well maybe not. Everyone ‘says’ at a year babies (-> toddlers) can switch to whole cow’s milk and eating meals with the family. Just like a regular human. (cue all the sadness that my baby is all grown up) But what really happens on day 365?
Reaching the One Year Mark
Here’s the thing. Most babies will switch to cow’s milk or some sort of calcium-dense beverage at year one. This is a traditional and accepted way of raising babies. It certainly is a more cost-effective way if you were using formula during the first year of life. But what about breastfeeding? With breastfeeding (since it is”free”) there really shouldn’t be any pressure on weaning. Maybe one year was your goal and you feel ready. Then go for it. Make the plunge. But maybe your goal was only six months and yet now at a year you can’t even come to grips with the idea of quitting. Then, by all means, keep on! No worries, nothing magically happens overnight on day 364 to the morning of day 365.
Certainly, by day 365 (and hopefully before then too), your babe should be getting more nutrition than just from breastmilk. Breastmilk is wonderful nourishment but growing kiddos still need a lot of other nourishment to meet their calorie and nutrient needs like iron and vitamin D. Hopefully at this point you have switched to three meals a day and snacks offered as needed.
Breastfeeding Into Toddlerhood
Breastfeeding past one year is pretty normal outside of the U.S. In fact, the WHO recommends breastfeeding until 2 years of age or until mom and babe desire. During the second year of life, breastmilk can provide many nutrients that fill in the gap from what they don’t get in food. While whole fat cow’s milk provides a convenient package of fat, calcium, vitamin D, and protein – breastmilk is an even more convenient and is human milk created for human babies! Plus all the other wonderful benefits of breastfeeding like the immunity boost for babe, better health outcomes for both mom and babe, and the ability to nurture your babe into toddlerhood. Just 15 ounces of breastmilk is able to provide your toddler with about:
- 29% of their daily calories – great for growing and active bodies
- 43% of daily protein needs
- 36% of their daily calcium needs
- Majority of their vitamin A, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin C needs
My Breastfeeding Goal
As day 365 inches closer and closer for me and my babe I have come to realize that it doesn’t mean much to me (except ditching the darn pump). Pre-baby I knew that I was going to shoot for one year of exclusive breastfeeding than just switching to cow’s milk because that is the norm. While my breastfeeding journey hasn’t always been easy I have loved it. So we are planning to take it day by day and following her lead. With a more natural approach to weaning, this allows a more gentle progression into toddlerhood for your babe and the prevention of engorgement in mom. I also like to think it will be a smoother transition for me as we say goodbye to this phase of our journey.