Breastfeeding a child older than a year is no different than breastfeeding a young infant.
Nursing frequency and duration vary widely from child to child after the first year. As time passes, and as the nutritional aspects of breastfeeding become less significant, the comfort aspect of breastfeeding becomes much more significant.
Children also incorporate breastfeeding into their play, which can add a new dimension to the breastfeeding relationship.
A breastfeeding child older than a year is not getting any food or drinks other than breastmilk.
Depending upon their age, these children are eating and drinking the same things that other family members eat and drink, with the milk they get from mum as an added nutritional and immunological cushion. Some younger toddlers (12-18 months) may still be getting mostly breastmilk, but this will gradually change as they get older and eat more family foods.
Mother’s milk becomes less nutritious after the first year.
Mother’s milk continues to provide substantial amounts of nutrients well beyond the first year. At some point after 6 months your child will need additional nutrients from other sources, but mother’s milk remains a valuable contribution to your child’s diet, including important nutrients designed especially for brain growth.
The immunities in mother’s milk are insignificant after the first few months.
The immunities in mother’s milk continue as long as nursing continues, and some of the immunities increase in concentration as your child moves toward weaning. Children who are breastfed have fewer illnesses and illnesses of shorter duration than their non-nursing peers.
Breastfeeding past a year (or any other arbitrary age) makes a child overly dependent and can cause psychological harm.
On the contrary, meeting a child’s need for breastfeeding fosters independence on the child’s own developmental timetable. Both research and the experiences of mothers worldwide indicate that children who nurse past a year have excellent social adjustment.
Mothers who breastfeed past infancy have not learned other ways of comforting their child.
For the typical mother, breastfeeding is only one of many tools in her parenting toolkit.
Mothers only continue breastfeeding past infancy for their own benefit.
A child will not breastfeed if he does not have a need to do so. A mother typically continues breastfeeding because her child is not ready to wean, and because of the continuing health and emotional benefits to her child.
Breastfeeding mothers need to wean for fertility to return. Breastfeeding during pregnancy is not safe.
Most mothers can get pregnant while continuing breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is considered compatible with a healthy pregnancy.
The longer you breastfeed, the harder it will be to wean.
Age has much less to do with ease of weaning than does your child’s developmental readiness for weaning. Each child has his own developmental timeline for child-led weaning. If mum initiates weaning, then the closer the child is to weaning on his own, the easier it will be (for both mum and child) to accelerate this natural progression. If the child takes the lead in weaning, then this is not an issue at all.