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Breastfeeding older babies and toddlers

Breastfeeding your baby beyond the first year of their life is good for their health and nutrition. (It should be combined with increasing amounts of complementary foods.)

Benefits for the toddler

  • Breastfeeding helps protect your toddler from acute and chronic illnesses, and reduces the risk of some chronic diseases (eg, diabetes and obesity) in later life.
  • Breastfeeding enhances the mother-child relationship and promotes brain development, both of which are important for your toddler’s overall development.
  • Breastfeeding provides energy, essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Breastfeeding is beneficial if your toddler has diarrhoea or fever: their appetite for other foods may decrease, and it can help prevent dehydration and provide essential nutrients for recovery.
  • There is some evidence that breastfeeding provides protection for children with allergies.

Benefits for the mother

  • The longer you breastfeed for, the stronger your bones are, which lowers your risk of hip fractures when you’re older.
  • Continued breastfeeding can help with weight loss (and maintaining a healthy weight).
  • Breastfeeding for longer is associated with a delay in natural fertility.
  • There is some evidence that breastfeeding for longer may help protect against breast cancer.

How often to breastfeed your older baby or toddler

There is no set number of times to breastfeed an older baby or toddler. Let them guide you.

  • If you’re together during the day, then they’re likely to breastfeed a few times, when they’re hungry or thirsty.
  • If you’re not together during the day, then you can breastfeed at the beginning and end of the day. This can be a nice way to have some special time with them.

Up to the age of one, breast milk or infant formula is the most important nutrient source.

By the time baby is one year old, they should be eating a variety of foods and textures, and be eating healthy family foods.

Older babies and toddlers need three meals and two snacks each day. They also need to be offered drinks regularly.

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