The translation of Surah Al-Baqarah verse 233, states “Mothers should nurse their children for two full years — for those who wish to complete the full term of nursing. It is the duty of the fathers to feed and clothe them with correctness and courtesy — no self is charged with more than it can bear. No mother should be put under pressure in respect of her child nor any father in respect of his child. The same duty is incumbent on the heir. If the couple both wish weaning to take place after mutual agreement and consultation, there is nothing wrong in their doing so. If you wish to find wet-nurses for your children, there is nothing wrong in your doing so provided you hand over to them what you have agreed to give with correctness and courtesy. Have taqwa of Allah and know that Allah sees what you do.”
According to Sunnipath.com this verse “implies that it is the moral and religious responsibility of the mother that she breastfeeds her child…and indicates that breastfeeding for two years is the child’s right on his/her mother.” Despite Allah’s (swt) recommendation to breastfeed for two years, many mothers wean early assuming breastmilk has no benefits for the child beyond one year of age. This is partly due to the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics only recommends breastfeeding “for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired.” However, Allah’s (swt) infinite wisdom prevails, as there are many physical, spiritual and emotional benefits of breastfeeding toddlers up to two years.
Immune System Protection
Unlike cow’s milk, breastmilk has antibodies in it that prevent diseases and help fight infections.
Prevents Digestive Problems
The lining of the intestinal tract and kinetics of digestion and absorption attain complete function in the second year of life. Also, a child will have all their milk teeth, which stimulate production of gastric juices that help foods to completely breakdown in the stomach. Therefore, a child who is breastfed the full term, will be more capable of depending on solid foods for nutrition and be less likely to experience issues like constipation and diarrhea.
Toddlers can be picky eaters. By providing them with breastmilk, you can ensure that they are receiving all the nutrients they need to grow.
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
In general, breastfed children perform better than formula fed children. However, studies have shown that the longer a child is breastfed, the better they performed on intelligence tests.
Emotional Well Being
Breastfeeding creates an emotional bond that makes it easier to calm-down an overstimulated or irritable child. Also, nursing instantly comforts a child who has been hurt or is ill. Lastly, due to the fact the child’s dependency or “baby” needs are being met, they will be more outgoing, confident and independent.
Breastfed children are less likely to have food allergies, asthma, eczema and related issues.
It is natural for an older child to gradually self-wean. As they will be more emotionally mature, they will be able cope better when they are completely weaned from the breast.
Weight Loss for Mom
Breastmilk production burns almost 500 calories a day. Weight loss may be more rapid with extended breastfeeding.
Natural Child Spacing
Breastfeeding stimulates hormones that may prevent you from ovulating and delay the return of menstruation. This is known as Lactation Amenorrhea Method and is a legitimate way to prevent pregnancy.
Prevents Dehydration During Illness
This my favorite benefit because I have personally experienced the gratification of being able to feed my child when she is sick and won’t eat (or drink) anything else. Most importantly, breastfeeding helps to prevent dehydration which can worsen an illness and can be life threatening for a child.