Extended Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding baby
Overcoming the views of societal "norms" and what's best for your growing baby

A mom on my birth board asked this morning if it was ok to give her 18 month old bottles of her breastmilk. She was concerned about the "effects of breastmilk on toddler's bowels". It seemed quite strange to me that someone could not know that human milk is the best milk for human babies regardless of age. Yes, an 18 month old is still very much a baby. I went searching for a link to provide her showing that major world health organizations recommend breastfeeding until at least two years of age, and that the benefits last well beyond that. The UNICEF link states

Optimal breastfeeding practices include exclusive breastfeeding (breastmilk with no other foods or liquids) for the first six months of life, followed by breastmilk and complementary foods (solid or semi-solid foods) from about six months of age on, and continued breastfeeding for up to at least two years of age while receiving complementary foods.
"At least two years of age" That's a 24 month minimum that a child should be receiving mother's milk.

When I hear about doctors telling moms to wean so the baby will eat more solid food, I always want to ask them (the docs) what foods they had in mind as being nutritionally and immunologically superior to breast milk -- I mean, are we talking about hot-dogs here?

The benefits of nursing a toddler are many. Nursing toddlers have been shown to have fewer allergies, are sick less often, be better socially adjusted, and are smarter. Breastmilk is far superior to cows milk nutritionally for babies of this age as well. In the second year (12-23 months) 448ml (about 15oz) 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
It is normal to breastfeed a toddler. It is the natural way to sooth hurt feelings, to promote a sense of security and attachment. According to Elizabeth Baldwin author of "Extended breastfeeding and the law" "Meeting a child's dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence. And children outgrow these needs according to their own unique timetable." Children who achieve independence at their own pace are more secure in that independence then children forced into independence prematurely.

Here is an article you may find interesting. It is by Katherine Dettwyler, PhD, Professor of Anthropology at Texas A&M. She studied our closest primate relatives to form a conclusions on when the "natural" age for humans to wean would be. According to her research, 2.5 to 7 years would be optimal time for us to wean.

And as always Kellymom has some great information for us: http://www.kellymom.com/bf/bfextended/ebf-links.html

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knitsational said...

What a great post! I am breast feeding my 3 yr old and 1 year. They are bothy happy, healthy girls and we wouldn't have it any other way

Corin said...

Awesome post! The nutritional beni's of toddler breastfeeding are amazing, and the emotional ones just as important. It is absolutely the natural thing to do.

Corin said...

Oh yeah, nice to "meet" you! I'm so glad you found me. Your blog is great!

Kim said...

Good 4 U!!! I was a happy breastfeeding mom in the late seventies. I was a La Leche League leader, nursed my first daughter for 2.8 years, second daughter for four years and third daughter for 2 yrs. I tandem nursed, nursed while pregnant and had a family bed for all three until they wanted a bed of their own. It makes me happy that these traditions are still alive and well today!!