Kathy - posted on 10/30/2010 ( 248 moms have responded )
This is a subject on which there are vastly differing opinions, some mothers very much against the concept, some very enthusiastic.. I want to make it clear that I’m not talking about when to wean your child – that is completely up to the mother. I’m talking about the benefits provided by breastmilk should the mother decide to breastfeed into toddlerhood.
I think we’re all in agreement about the benefits of breastmilk. But do all these benefits just stop at 12 months (or whatever age?) According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother, especially in delaying return of fertility (thereby promoting optimal intervals between births).
In Australia, 21% of children are still being breastfed at 12 months. (Donath and Amir, 2000, quoted in an article published by the Australian Breastfeeding Association. http://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/t...
This same article also provides the following information:
Breastfeeding your toddler can provide:
31% of his daily energy needs,
38% of protein requirements,
45% of Vitamin A requirements, and
95% of Vitamin C needs.
What the research says –
The Australian Breastfeeding Association has provided some more detailed information, discussing the benefits if extended breastfeeding in terms of:
Goldman and Goldblum (1983) showed that immunologic components of breastmilk are maintained into the second year of lactation and are still providing protection to the infant. The data showed that the production of IgA antibodies operates throughout lactation
Enhanced cognitive development has been shown to be positively associated with duration of breastfeeding
Obesity and nutrition
Kries (1999) in a cross-sectional study found a clear, inverse, dose-response relationship between the duration of breastfeeding and incidence of obesity and overweight. Longer breastfeeding duration was a significant protective factor, attributed to the composition of breastmilk rather than other lifestyle factors which were adjusted for. In a study of affluent United States infants, those who stopped breastfeeding before 18 months gained more weight from 12 to 24 months, but were the same in length, in comparison with the infants who breastfed for longer than 18 months (Dewey et al 1995).
An interesting fact is that another study of mothers who breastfed for 12 months or more showed a more relaxed attitude to feeding their toddlers and they were less likely to exhibit high levels of control over when and what their toddlers ate and drank. The increased intake by toddlers of a variety of foods as well as the fact that these toddlers were leaner but taller was attributed to the maternal style of feeding which accompanied longer-term breastfeeding (Fisher et al 2000).
Researchers have found that the greater the amount of breastmilk infants receive, the greater bone mineral acquisition in the long term.
The research in this area is incomplete and contradictory, and is ongoing. . Nevertheless bottle-fed babies are significantly more likely to develop caries. Further research is required into all the risk factors for dental caries.
Effects on the mother
Sustained breastfeeding also provides many benefits to the mother including lower risk of anaemia, longer periods of lactational amenorrhea, reduced risk of osteoporosis and breast cancer, promotion of postpartum weight loss and sense of personal achievement
This is a very rough summary of some of this research.. You can read more at http://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/s...
What’s in it for mum?
I’ve mentioned the health benefits, but some things are hard to quantify. Norma Jane Baumgarner, author of “Mothering your nursing toddler” writes: “Nursing is not only a pleasure, but also quite a convenience. A major task in mothering is helping your child several times daily to overcome fears or hurts or exhaustion. There are various ways to comfort a crying child - walking, rocking, singing - but none is easier or more efficient than nursing. It has been described as a little bit of magic on your side: presto, a fussy child is happy again.” and “Being very close to a warm, cuddly child is the advantage mothers like best about extended nursing. “ http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/norma_...
Breastmilk is best for your child, but it doesn’t have to stop until you and your child are ready.
As well as the Australian Breastfeeding Association site I’ve used, Kellymom also has some great information and links on this topic: