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Breastfeeding beyond infancy: a concept analysis

18 May 2016


To report an analysis of the concept of breastfeeding beyond infancy.


The World Health Organization and Health Canada recommends breastfeeding is sustained until 2 years old and beyond. However, little is known about breastfeeding a child beyond 12 months old. Breastfeeding beyond infancy is defined as any breastfeeding over the age of 12 months with no parameters placed on who initiates the weaning process.


Rodger's framework of concept analysis was used to organize and guide data analysis.

Data sources

A historical, systematic search of the literature up until 2014 was conducted using the search terms: breastfeeding OR breast feeding OR breast-feeding AND sustained, extended, prolonged, long-term and duration.


Literature was selected according to whether breastfeeding beyond 12 months old was described or analysed. All study designs and observational, descriptive and opinion papers were included in the initial screenings.


Four characteristics were chosen as essential attributes of breastfeeding beyond infancy: health benefits, maternal profiles, parenting style and experiences. Consequences included stigma and secrecy. Additionally, the role of the nurse in supporting breastfeeding beyond infancy was explored.


The practice of breastfeeding beyond infancy is entrenched in parenting beliefs that serve to address the child's needs by fostering an intimate and attached relationship between the mother and child. Many women conceal their breastfeeding behaviour to protect themselves from unsolicited judgement and comments. Nurses are well-served to understand, support and promote the practice of breastfeeding beyond infancy to ensure the bio-psycho-social health of their clients.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Journal of Advanced Nursing