The Benefits of Breastfeeding – Even After The First Birthday

breastfeed at night after the first 6 to 12 months. Their insecurity stems from the widespread opinion that babies and toddlers would have to sleep through after the first few months. Many mothers are afraid to fail in education and to teach their children wrong habits if they follow the child’s needs and also breastfeed their toddlers at night as needed. In the following article, the experienced nursing and sleep consultant Sibylle L├╝pold reveals widespread myths and shows that nocturnal breastfeeding is normal even in infancy and does not impair the child’s sleep development. The nocturnal breastfeeding is a biologically meaningful, binding and ideally also for the mothers pleasant possibility to feed their child at night and care.

Nocturnal breastfeeding is normal even after the first half of the year

It is quite normal that nursing children still want to be breastfed at night after the first or even second birthday. While the baby’s organism relies on regular food intake around the clock, it is likely that infants are increasingly experiencing emotional factors that may cause them to suck on their breasts at night (often regardless of whether there is still much milk left). Breastfeeding is an important part of the mother-child-bond and from the beginning much more than pure food intake. Falling asleep is felt by the child in the early years as a frightening separation situation and triggers in him the natural attachment behavior.

Nocturnal breastfeeding

That is, it seeks intensely closeness and protection among its attachment persons and reacts with fear and screams when left alone. Sucking on the chest and the related body contact with the mother provide security, comfort and reassurance. Breastfeeding or breastmilk are not only satisfying, they have many physiological effects on the child. This improves heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature and blood glucose levels. In addition, breastfeeding relieves pain and promotes falling asleep. Most nursing children calm down quickly on the chest – provided they did not have to scream for a long time first – and fall asleep. From a child’s point of view, this ideal state of physical attachment to the mother offers an optimum of closeness and security.

During the emotional development of the first three years of life, a small child repeatedly goes through phases associated with great fears, especially at night. Especially during strangulation there is more nightly waking and more frequent nursing meals.

The climax of separation anxiety is between the second and third birthday; a time when children can leave their bed by hand at night and go to the parents’ bed.

Western children are rarely breastfed for more than half a year. With the Abstillen also the nocturnal still meals must be replaced by another nutritional and care form. For those mothers who breastfeed longer, however, sooner or later the question arises as to whether nocturnal breastfeeding is still in order. Sleep development is closely related to the course of breastfeeding. It is erroneously assumed by many parents that both processes are linear (that is, they think their child would wake up less often and breastfed with age), but this is not necessarily the case. While there are a few nursing children who take a firm rhythm during the first few weeks and months, and who can cope with longer breaks between nursing meals, many also require breastfeeding every two hours or more with increasing age.

Nocturnal breastfeeding is normal even after the first half of the year

Uncertain parents, missing role models

Almost all mothers breastfeed their child in the first time also at night and find that initially normal. After about six months, they are often increasingly worried about nocturnal breastfeeding and wonder if they need to take educational measures. Their fears are very often aided by professionals warning against “creating false habits” and advising them not to eat at night (Kast-Zahn & Morgenroth, 2013). Many parents worry about such recommendations that their child will never give up their “bad habit” if it continues to be breastfed at night. If parents want to change something before their child is willing to do so, it usually reacts with protest. This, in turn, increases parental anxiety about having missed the “right” moment and failed in education. Since most parents do not know any other parents whose children have been breastfed for longer, they lack the role models and knowledge about this topic. Many professionals also have no experience with long-term-exhausted children and their sleep development.

Many mothers report in breastfeeding counseling that they feel very exhausted from the nocturnal breastfeeding and the associated sleep interruptions. In conversation, it often turns out that fatigue comes from the fear of doing something wrong. Concrete information about the natural sleep behavior of nursing children and the benefit of nocturnal breastfeeding as well as appreciative counseling can be very helpful. When mothers understand that an infant in the first year of life relies on food at night and later on nocturnal care, they can often handle it much better and feel invigorated.

breastfeeding behavior

The waking up at night is not a disturbance

Unfortunately, the frequent waking up of an older nursing baby is often considered a “disorder” by many psychologists and other counseling professionals. A “normal” child sleeps in the opinion of these “experts” after a few months all night. Some authors from the psychological research conclude that it is mainly the parents “guilty” of this so-called childhood “sleep disorder” (Weinraub, 2010). Weinraub and colleagues accuse the parents in a publication that they interfere with their sensitive behavior, the childish ability of self-pacification. If the parents respond to each of their signals, the child can not learn to fall asleep independently. The “sleep problems” would therefore be reinforced by the nightly attention. In particular, breastfed children would find it difficult to calm themselves and go back to sleep because they had become accustomed to falling asleep at the breast.

We inraub and colleagues have examined the children until their third birthday in their work. But it would be interesting to see how their sleep development went afterwards. The fact that many nursing children who often wake up during the first three years of life and require parental support to easily learn to sleep on their own after their third birthday is not considered a possible option.

Some experts talk about so-called touchpoints, critical milestones in child development. This includes more frequent waking between eight and twelve months. This behavior is completely normal and an indication of a healthy development, but often leads to disturbances in the family system, because parents expect something different due to cultural norms.

The waking up at night is not a disturbance

Some experts talk about so-called touchpoints, critical milestones in child development. This includes more frequent waking between eight and twelve months. This behavior is completely normal and an indication of a healthy development, but often leads to disturbances in the family system, because parents expect something different due to cultural norms. Also the connection between nocturnal awakening or calling for the parents and a secure attachment was examined. Securely bound children have more confidence in their parents. In situations of anxiety (as is the case at night and when sleeping alone) they show a healthy attachment behavior and require the caregivers. Not-reporting is not necessarily a good sign in this case.

After binding research has examined and confirmed the importance of parental sensitivity over decades, the conclusion of the above-cited study is irritating. Instead of making parents feel that they have failed in education because their child wants to be breastfed after six months at night and needs their support, it is much more helpful to encourage them in their actions and to give them the background of the child’s sleep To explain breastfeeding behavior.

Nursing children sleep differently

Breastfed children wake up more often at night. On the one hand, they are fed more on demand, which they expect at night. On the other hand, nursing mothers tend to sleep with their mothers, who ideally perceive their reactions immediately and react to them within a few seconds. Reasons for waking up at night are mainly hungry and thirsty in the first few months. However, nutritional factors may also promote waking, e.g. Infections, teething problems, developmental stages, outside care, relocation, holidays and conflicts in the family. Some nursing children are too keen on their surroundings during the day and distracted so they can catch up on the missed food supply and proximity at night.

Children who are still breastfed in their second year of life often have a very different sleep development than is expected in Western society. However, this fact should not mislead parents into unborning their child early so they sleep faster. Sleep is a biological and emotional development and maturation process that can only be accelerated from outside. The evening administration of fortified, artificial baby milk helps, as various studies have shown, not to a previous sleep through.

The norm definition of infantile sleep development was compiled in the mid-twentieth century from studies with western, non-breastfed babies in an artificial laboratory setting. By 1950, hardly any children were breastfed in the industrialized nations, much less was it common for them to sleep with their parents. The “normal” child was weaned in a few weeks and slept alone in a room. This raises the question of whether this “norm” is still meaningful for today’s and especially breastfed children.

Evolutionary biologists and anthropologists have also investigated the question of which breastfeeding and sleeping behavior was / is widespread for human children at hunter-gatherer times about 10,000 years ago and in originally living cultures. Their findings show that what is widely defined in Western culture as a “disorder” is a very natural and quite meaningful behavior for human children. For almost all of human history, nocturnal breastfeeding was extremely important for several reasons: frequent breastfeeding promoted maternal milk production on the one hand, and prevented re-pregnancies, thereby improving the child’s chances of survival. Researchers showed that in many of the original societies, some of which still exist today, children are also breastfed at night as needed.

Is it therefore appropriate to rate the nocturnal breastfeeding of a child from the age of six months as “wrong” or is it not much more a completely natural and meaningful behavior? For this it is helpful to answer the following question:

Nursing children sleep differently

What advantages does nightly breastfeeding offer the infant and toddler?

From a child’s perspective, nocturnal breastfeeding has several advantages:

  • Nursing at night and the associated body contact stimulate the release of the breastfeeding hormone prolactin. This will maintain milk production and produce more milk.
  • At each nursing meal, there is a release of the hormone oxytocin, which i.a. strengthens the bond between mother and child.
  • Children often fall asleep on the chest quickly. Breast milk contains a large amount of flabby in the evening and at night
  • Nursing at night and the associated body contact stimulate the release of the breastfeeding hormone prolactin. This will maintain milk production and produce more milk.
  • At each nursing meal, there is a release of the hormone oxytocin, which i.a. strengthens the bond between mother and child.
  • Children often fall asleep on the chest quickly. Breast milk contains a greater amount of sleep-inducing substances in the evening and at night. The mother also calms down optimally while breastfeeding and finds her way back to sleep.
  • At night, breastfed children are breastfed longer and are therefore healthier.
  • As the growth horm
  • ones are increasingly released at night and the child’s brain almost triples its size in the first year of life, the nocturnal food intake supports growth and neurological development. For poorly thriving children, additional nighttime breastfeeding helps to improve weight gain.
  • Human breast milk, in contrast to the milk of other mammals, is rich in carbohydrates but low in fat and is rapidly digested. The composition of human milk and the small size of the child’s stomach show the importance of frequent meals.
  • Children enjoy extra attention and physical contact during breastfeeding, which leads to an increased release of endorphins (so-called happiness hormones) and supports their development.
  • Breastfeeding promotes co-sleeping, which in turn is associated with many benefits for the child, but also his parents under safe conditions.
  • Nursing children sleeping next to their mother are normally in a safe position, i. in the lateral or supine position.
  • The risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced by half in nursing children. Nocturnal or suckling improves breathing and prevents dangerous respiratory arrest.

Unfortunately, there are only a few literature on the sleep development of nursing children. Since I accompany many nursing mothers in my consultations, I have sent a questionnaire for nocturnal breastfeeding. 14 mothers out of a total of 30 breastfed children answered this question. Their experiences and the most important findings from this interview survey seem to me to be interesting for all parents of breastfed children.

All children of the mothers surveyed were breast-fed for at least eight months, some longer than three years. More than half of the children were breastfed every two hours at night during the first year of life, and then usually with decreasing tendencies. Almost all mothers indicated that illness, teething, developmental stages, care for others, relocations, and vacations led to more frequent nocturnal waking. About half of the mothers felt exhausted now and then through nocturnal breastfeeding. Most, however, said getting up rather than breastfeeding at night was exhausting. Over time, many of the mothers got used to nocturnal breastfeeding and felt rested throughout the day. The condition was alleviated in all cases by co-sleeping and lying breastfeeding. Helps some mothers to rest during the day, to go to bed early or to give the child something while teething.

About half of all children have weaned themselves. These children were nursed at night for as long (two or three years) until they were willing to sleep on and off in another way. In the others, the mother actively weaned and offered her baby a vial, comfort or more body contact at night. Those children who were weaned by their mother before the first birthday still woke up regularly at night. Only a nocturnal weaning in the second or third year of life meant that the child slept throughout the night without interruption. This point is interesting in that it makes clear that nocturnal weaning in the first and possibly even the second year of life often does not lead to the desired sleep through. Only with the aging of the child, a change of the nursing behavior can also accelerate the sleep through.

Almost all mothers said that they were happy to have breastfed their child for so long at night and that they would do the same again. Some said that in hindsight, they would even breast-feed longer and be less insecure.