How Often Should You Be Breastfeeding Your 1 Year Old?

Many mothers have been shamed for breastfeeding their children past the age of one.

Women are being told that they should not nurse beyond a year old because it’s unnatural, but this is simply untrue. There are many benefits to continuing breastfeeding after the first year and this article will cover some of them.

The solution is to continue nursing your child as long as he or she desires it, which can be up to 2-3 years old! It’s good for both you and your baby so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it if you’re comfortable with it. I personally nursed my son until he was three years old, but we had stopped by then due to his own personal preference rather than mine.

How Long Should You Breastfeed For?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months and continuing to breastfeed along with solid foods for at least 2 years of age and beyond. The American Academy of Family Physicians supports the WHO’s breastfeeding recommendations.

The World Health Organization estimates that increasing breastfeeding rates to near perfection would prevent up to 10% of all deaths of children under five years old worldwide. This is due to the health benefits associated with breastfeeding, not just because it provides essential nutrients for your baby.

As long as you are both happy, continue to breastfeed for as long as you both desire.

Do Babies Need Breast Milk After 12 Months?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding for at least a year but do they need breast milk after 12 months of life?

Toddlers ages 12 months and up still get most of their nutrition from breast milk. They do get nutrients from small amounts of new foods and healthy snacks but this is just the start of when they start to eat and rely on food as a source of nutrition breast milk is still an important staple in a toddler’s diet. If you are having any questions about breastfeeding your toddler, it’s best to meet with a lactation consultant or find one of the many breastfeeding support groups.

breastfeeding your toddler

At What Age Is Breastfeeding No Longer Beneficial?

Breast milk is powerful. That is why it is referred to as liquid gold. Your child does not have a mature immune system so it will always be beneficial for them to receive the antibodies, probiotics, prebiotics, and nutrients that your breast milk has to offer. Infant formula doesn’t compare. The benefits of breastfeeding are not limited to infancy. These include the following:

Breastfeeding has been known to help with allergies, weight loss post-pregnancy, reduce the risk for certain types of cancer, and even boost IQ levels. There is nothing quite like liquid gold! So if you have breastfed your child past infancy you should be proud of yourself! You are helping to give your child a leg up in life by doing something that not everyone is willing to do, let alone think of.

Benefits Of Breastfeeding After 12 Months

The antibodies in your breast milk only go up as your baby gets older. When your baby is on the move and putting everything in their mouth, they are introduced to a lot of germs. Your body will produce the exact antibodies needed for your baby.

For example, if your baby gets a cold, you will already have antibodies built up for this because of your breast milk. This is just one of the many reasons breastfeeding past infancy benefits both mother and child.

Why You Should Breastfeed Beyond 12 Months of Age

There are many benefits to breastfeeding your child after the first year and these include:

-Boosts IQ levels

-Improves allergies

-Fewer ear infections

-Reduces the risk of certain types of cancer

-Longer breastfeeding provides more antibodies as your baby gets older.

Emotional benefits:

– Give your child the best start in life possible.

– You will be able to make a stronger bond with your child.

– After the first few really hard months, it gets easier and you may even enjoy breastfeeding!

It’s best to breastfeed for as long as both mother and baby desire. That way you can prolong that special bond between mother and child while providing them with all the benefits breast milk has to offer. It really is liquid gold!

How Often Should My 12 Month Old Be Nursing?

This can vary from toddler to toddler. Some will only nurse a couple of times during the day and some will up to 10 times a day. Frequent feeding is common during developmental milestones and growth spurts. You will want to nurse your baby when he or she is not getting enough food from the solids they are eating. You can breastfeed your toddler before every meal or whenever they desire.

How Long Should a Breastfeeding Session Last?

The length of time for breastfeeding sessions is known to shorten and don’t take as much time and can last for as little as a few minutes during the day. In the morning, after naps, and evening, it is normal to have longer sessions since they are sleepy and not as keen to run around. Some toddlers will only breastfeed once in the morning and evening while others love to have a breastfeeding session before naps or after they wake up. It all varies from toddler to toddler.

What if My Toddler Does Not Want To Breastfeed?

Some children are not interested in nursing when they are twelve months of age. If this is the case, there is no need to force anything. You can still provide your child with the antibodies and nutrients breast milk has to offer by pumping and offering in a sippy cup. You can always offer when they are sleepy as they are more likely to want to breastfeed at those times.

Breastfeeding An Older Baby: 12-18 Months

Breastfeeding on demand will not only protect your milk supply but it will also supply your baby with lots of antibodies throughout the day to protect from illness. To ensure your baby is getting enough milk, it’s best to nurse on demand.

How Often Do Toddlers Breastfeed?

It is normal for breastfeeding sessions to shorten when your baby becomes a toddler. They are busy running around, wanting to see everything. It is much harder for them to nurse for an extended period of time.

They are also much more efficient at breastfeeding than when they were younger. Toddlers can get more milk out much more efficiently than an infant. So they can get as much milk as they need in a few minutes during the day which can be helpful for a busy mom.

Now That My Baby is 1 Year Old, Do I Need to Introduce Cow’s Milk or Another Milk Alternative?

You can use cow’s milk or soy milk in addition to breast milk but it is not necessary. Breast milk fulfills all nutritional needs of your baby and now that they are eating solid food, you can add in foods such as avocados to get more of the macronutrients that they need.

Benefits for Mom

Extended breastfeeding is also shown to provide benefits for moms as well. It has been shown to prevent breast cancer, lose pregnancy weight, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis!

Benefits for extended breastfeeding for mom:

– Shown to prevent ovarian cancer

– Shown to prevent breast cancer

– Help lose pregnancy weight faster

– Boost oxytocin 

– It’s a great time to bond with your child.

How Do I Handle Unsolicited Advice About My Toddler Being “Too Old to Breastfeed?”

It is your personal decision for how long you want to breastfeed your child. While you cannot please everyone, the benefits to your baby are certainly worth it.

Some people say breast milk is for babies and if your child is old enough to ask for it then they are too old to be breastfeeding. That can be perfectly good advice for them but that does not have to work for you. I find that having my baby begin the toddler years and start being able to communicate their needs to me is great and I look forward to that stage.

Will It Be Harder To Wean if I Breastfeed Past 12 Months?

The weaning process will not be difficult just because you choose to nurse past 12 months. If it is time to wean your child, you will notice they are ready. You can slowly cut back on nursing sessions or switch to bottle-feeding some milk instead of breastfeeding.

It’s best to continue breastfeeding as long as both mom and baby desire, which means extending the special bond between mother and child while providing them with the many benefits breast milk has to offer.


Breastfeeding past infancy is not a new concept. In fact, many countries around the world see it as the norm. For some cultures, breastfeeding past one year old can be seen as taboo. For others, it’s an important tradition to uphold. There are many benefits to long-term breastfeeding. Such as reducing the risk of breast cancer or helping moms lose pregnancy weight post-pregnancy faster. If you’re considering weaning your toddler from nursing anytime soon, know that there will likely be no difficulties involved with this process. Just because they were nursed longer than most children who nurse until 12 months of age shouldn’t impact that. They may even enjoy drinking cow’s milk or soy milk instead of exclusively breastfeeding. But these options won’t replace what breast milk has to offer such as the antibodies, nutrients, and energy boost.

To read more on how to establish a healthy breastfeeding relationship with your child at different ages, check out these posts: Can You Diet While Breastfeeding? 9 Tips to Lose Weight, 9 Best Breastfeeding Tips on Producing More Milk


About the author

Lacy Reason is a highly experienced and compassionate lactation counselor, who has dedicated her career to educating and supporting new mothers on their breastfeeding journey.

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