Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Breastfeeding Beyond One

By the time we're done, this poor nursing cover will be tattered and torn!
After lots of research and prayer, Michael and I have made the decision that I will keep offering breastmilk to our little Liam and allow him to self-wean only when he's ready.  We feel this is the best decision for our family.

I really didn't want to talk about this topic on my blog because our choice is a personal one.

Also, I didn't want to sound preachy or arrogant, if I did share.  I realize that not all mommies can breastfeed due to circumstances beyond their control, and some mommies choose not to breastfeed simply because that is their free choice to make.

I hesitated to write this blog post because I do not want anyone to feel guilty or unhappy or to feel that I would ever judge them.

Choosing or not choosing to breastfeed is a personal choice, and no woman should ever be made to feel bad about her decision.  Many of my friends with children have chosen not to breastfeed, and their precious cherubs are sweet, well-adjusted, healthy, and intelligent toddlers today.

But since so many people have been asking us "Why are you STILL breastfeeding Liam?" I figured that it was time to share our research and sources in a blog posting...and just be done with it.  :)

So, here's a summary of the compelling evidence we found which formulated our decision.  I have cited the sources we used at the bottom of this posting.  There are SO MANY advantages to breastfeeding beyond year one!  Here's a few of our favorites:

The World Health Organization emphasizes the importance of nursing up to two years of age or beyond (WHO 1993, WHO 2002).

The US Surgeon General has stated that it is a lucky baby who continues to nurse until age two (Novello 1990).

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that "increased duration of breastfeeding beyond the first year of life confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother" and that there is "no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer” (AAP 2012, AAP 2005).

This tidbit we found was Michael's favorite:  Extensive research on the relationship between cognitive achievement (IQ scores, grades in school) and breastfeeding has shown the greatest gains for those children breastfed the longest (Quigley 2011).

The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children weaned before two years of age are at increased risk of illness (AAFP 2008).

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding beyond the baby's first birthday, and says that the easiest and most natural time to wean is when your child leads the process (AAP 2013).

Studies have shown a positive relationship between longer breastfeeding duration and social development (Duazo 2010).

According to several studies, breastfeeding does not deter independence but actually fosters it.  One source said that, "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" (Baldwin 1993).

Breastfeeding toddlers between the ages of one and three have been found to have fewer illnesses, illnesses of shorter duration, and lower mortality rates  (Mølbak 1994, van den Bogaard  1991, Gulick 1986).

Antibodies are abundant in human milk throughout lactation.  In fact, some of the immune factors in breastmilk increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process. (Lawrence 2011).

Per the World Health Organization, “A modest increase in breastfeeding rates could prevent up to 10% of all deaths of children under five.  Breastfeeding plays an essential and sometimes underestimated role in the treatment and prevention of childhood illness" (WHO 2002).

Breastfeeding beyond year one continues to be a valuable source of nutrition and disease protection for as long as breastfeeding continues.  This is because “human milk expressed by mothers who have been lactating for greater than 1 year has significantly increased fat and energy contents, compared with milk expressed by women who have been lactating for shorter periods. During prolonged lactation, the fat energy contribution of breast milk to the child's diet is significant" (Mandel 2005).

Furthermore, “Breast milk continues to provide substantial amounts of key nutrients well beyond the first year of life, especially protein, fat, and most vitamins" (Dewey 2001).

One source even stated:  "It is normal for baby to keep breastmilk as the primary part of his diet up until 18 months or even longer. An example of a nice gradual increase in solids would be 25% solids at 12 months, 50% solids at 18 months, and 80% solids at 24 months" (Kelly 2013).

And here's a few more great reasons:

Plus, there's lots of health advantages for the mother, if breastfeeding is continued beyond one year!  It is widely acknowledged (so I won't bother to cite any sources) that she is more likely to avoid breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and weight-gain.  With every year that a woman breastfeeds, her chances of getting breast cancer go down and down.  Awesome!

So there you have it!  For all of these reasons, we've chosen to let Liam continue.


Please click on any link below to read the original text of my citations.

American Academy of Family Physicians

American Academy of Pediatrics











Van den Bogaard 

World Health Organization