Does Breastmilk Have Nutritional Value After a Year?

Continuing the conversation about unsolicited advice, a friend of mine wrote me an email a few days ago, sharing with me the latest unsolicited advice she received, from a ‘friendly’ neighbor!

“So I have to tell you this because you're a lactation consultant.   I just had someone tell me today that breastfeeding my son at 17 months has no nutritional value for him.  She also told me that I should have stopped at six months, because after that they don't need it and that I'm only doing it for me. 

I was thinking WOW! She doesn't think breastfeeding has nutritional value.  How crazy is that?”


Well, my dear friend, it is just that….CRAZY!  Clearly, this lady has not read any research about breastmilk in the past 10 years or she would know the following…

  • "Human milk expressed by mothers who have been lactating for >1 year has significantly increased fat and energy contents, compared with milk expressed by women who have been lactating for shorter periods. During prolonged lactation, the fat energy contribution of breast milk to the infant diet might be significant."  -- Mandel 2005, Pediatrics
  • In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL 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, Pediatr Clin North Am.

But, even beyond that, breastfeeding a child over a year old also has many additional benefits:

  • Nursing toddlers are less sick
  • Nursing toddlers have fewer allergies
  • Mothers nursing beyond one year reduce their risks of breast, ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancer

Let’s just put it this way….breastfeeding beyond a year is NORMAL!  So keep it up, my friend!  And once again, feel free to use my favorite reply, “How sweet of you to be concerned about me and my baby/toddler/kiddo.  We are doing just fine.”

Why do you enjoy breastfeeding your toddler?