Friday, March 7, 2008

Why Breastfeed a toddler?

Do you think it is strange or even dysfunctional that I am nursing a 20 month old? If so, I beg to differ. I think it is WEIRD and even FREAKISH that specifically American parents prefer their children to drink (nurse) another mammals milk..the cow! How is this normal? Yes it is culturally accepted...but when you think about it....we are the only mammal (I know of ) to encourage the consumption of another's milk instead of their own. Now that is strange.

The fact that I nurse my toddler is something that often gets mentioned within my writing. However, it has been quite some time since I have defined WHY we still nurse. When Grant was 15 months old I wrote a poetic 2 parter that really sums up the experience. Part 1. Part 2 .But today I want to share with you the referenced benefits of extended nursing, as it is commonly called in the west.

When Grant was born I knew I wanted to nurse him because everyone knows that breast is best. I set my goal at 6 months. Well 6 months came and went and I set a new goal of 12 months. Today I don't set any goals...I'm just nursing as long as it is mutual desirable. Although I will admit that many days I have moments where I just do NOT want to nurse anymore. I want my body back etc. However, these moments are overwhelmingly surpassed by the joyful connection my son and I have through this healthy exchange.

Here are some stats collected by Kelly mom is a wonderful breastfeeding resource that I encourage anyone interested in the subject to visit.

"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 "

I must say this is FABULOUS especially considering the finicky eating behavior that many toddlers exhibit. If Grant is having a day where he doesn't eat a balanced diet, I can be assured that he is getting enough supplemental nutrition from breast milk.

"Nursing toddlers between the ages of 16 and 30 months have been found to have fewer illnesses and illnesses of shorter duration than their non-nursing peers (Gulick 1986)."

Even though my little Grant has had over his fair share of health challenges, I know that without breastmilk the situation would have been worse. I will say that since he turned 16 months he has been healthier than ever.

"Antibodies are abundant in human milk throughout lactation" (Nutrition During Lactation 1991; p. 134). In fact, some of the immune factors in breastmilk increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process. (Goldman 1983, Goldman & Goldblum 1983, Institute of Medicine 1991)."

I've had another mom tell me that the benefits of nursing are only good for the first few weeks. HA. She could not be more incorrect. The chemical makeup of the milk actually changes with the babies needs. Isn't that amazing?

Since I send Grant to day care where he is exposed to 14 other children (5 of them are in school all day so they bring back school germs everyday ugh) the fact that breastmilk has antibodies is reason enough for me to continue! Vaccinations have nothing on mama milk.

"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."

Although this is not a reason I still nurse, it isn't a bad thing now is it?

According to Elizabeth N. Baldwin, Esq. in "Extended Breastfeeding and the Law":
"Breastfeeding is a warm and loving way to meet the needs of toddlers and young children. It not only perks them up and energizes them; it also soothes the frustrations, bumps and bruises, and daily stresses of early childhood. In addition, nursing past infancy helps little ones make a gradual transition to childhood."

I could not agree more! Grant can nurse and be a whole new a 30 minute nap. He can come to me sour and leave a super hero.

Baldwin continues: "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.

This is where so many are mistaken. They push the child force Independence at such an early age. Babies are many times not allowed to be babies. They are put on schedules ,trained to sleep alone & weaned way before they are emotionally ready. I fully believe the secure foundation of nursing Grant into toddler hood has fostered an exceptional level of independence for his age. In no way is it keeping him a baby or delaying his development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that "Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child... Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother... 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 2005)

The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends thatbreastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that "Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired." They also note that "If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned." (AAFP 2001)

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

The World Health Organization emphasizes the importance of nursing up to two years of age or beyond (WHO 1992, WHO 2002).

I found this synopsis at the Natural Child Project that expresses exactly how I feel.

"Given social criticism, people who are unfamiliar with the practice of nursing beyond infancy may wonder why mothers would want to continue to nurse through toddlerhood and beyond. As Leaders we can help mothers answer this question confidently. Mothers find many practical advantages in nursing. As a parenting tool it is useful when easing the exhausted child into sleep or soothing both mother and child after the storm of a tantrum has passed by. During illness, breast milk may be the only food or drink that a child will take or can keep down and digest. It can make the difference between a dehydrated child needing hospitalization and a sick, but well-hydrated, child at home in mother's arms nursing through a potentially serious illness."

"Though it is clear that the majority of women worldwide and throughout history have nursed their children into toddlerhood and beyond, women who choose to do so today may face an uninformed and frequently critical audience. Therefore many choose to make sure that they limit who sees and who knows, taking greater care as the child grows older. Given this climate it is a highly select group of mothers who nurse their children beyond toddlerhood."

Thanks to Alexandra at Watching Clouds for inspiring this post with the comment:

"I've been a regular reader of your Blog.I truly enjoy reading it.However,I'm wondering how long you plan to nurse?I mean isn't it time for a child this age to stop nursing?"

This is not an uncommon thought process in this country so you speak for the masses. Hopefully, though with time and access to information and research, we can learn and embrace extended nursing. We need to educate our doctors (who spend very very little time on nutrition and breastfeeding in medical school) and stand up for our rights to nurture our children the way nature intended.


Alexandra said...

Great Blog. Thanks for sharing. My name is Alexandra not Elisabeth. But that's ok. You have an adorable little Boy.

Christine said...

I totally agree! Both my kids nursed well into age three! WELL into.

renee - 21st Century Parenting said...

dh and i were just discussing this. our twilli just turned 7 months old today. she recently got her first teeth. seems like so many people think you are a freak if you continue to nurse once they have teeth.

kellymom is great! and also remember that breastfeeding greatly reduces the chance of breast cancer for mommy.

HotMama Mathe said...

I totally agree with you that breastfeeding is naturally good. Protein from cow's milk is not of the same structure as human breastmilk's that is why we hear of allergies and intolerance. Cow's milk was designed for a different kind of baby creature.

Kudos to you for posting this highly informative piece.

baby~amore' said...

wow Paula this is great information. I will put a link post. As you know I still nurse my 20 month old twins 4-5 times a day/night.
I still enjoy it and so do they - I plan to continue as long as they/we mutually desire.
I know a lot of people don't agree but I don't care - their problem !

katef - said...

Great post... lots of great info and I especially love the poem(s) you wrote!
I breastfed my twins until they weaned themselves at 2 years 3 months and 2 years 7 months (yes they weaned at very different times) and I am so pleased we managed to feed for that long.
I am already getting 'comments' though about breastfeeding my son.. he is 8 months old and I figured it isn't that odd for an under one year old to be nursing is it???
I even have a friend who's 5 year old still has the occasional feed.
I feel that is will be time for us to stop nursing when we are BOTH ready.... which I hope is not for a long time yet!

baby~amore' said...

I meant to add - thanks for all the stats to support extended nursing . You put a lot of effort into it.

thanks for visiting me

My Little Drummer boys

Alexandra said...

You need to join the Ultimate Blog Party! It's fun,you can win prizes and get to know other mom bloggers.

dawn224 said...

This is really wonderful and complete! Thanks :)

A said...

Fabulous post!
I breastfeed my almost two year old and will continue to do so until it no longer suits. Great to have some stats to back up this choice.
Just found your blog.. I'll be back :-)

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, and thanks for all those stats and info. I breastfed my oldest daughter to 2 years and plan to go at least long with my youngest who's now 14 months. So many people have that misconception that there's no benefit for the kids after about 6 months and then say "it's just for the Mum, she can't let go"

Every time my bubba gets sick I am so thankful she is still breastfeeding. Even if she's not eating, or drinking much from a cup, I can still feed her as much as she needs and know she'll be staying nourished and hydrated. Plus it is the greatest painkiller and comforter for a sick baby! Beats any medication.

Jenn said...

This is a great post! I was very interested to read about the nutritional information. And you say this - "He can come to me sour and leave a super hero." - so perfectly!
I'm still nursing my 24 month old.

Corey~living and loving said...

GREAT post....GREAT!

my daughter and I are heading into our 39th month of nursing her next week. I can not tell you how many people think I have a screw loose. oh well....I even blogged about it way last May.
People can call me a freak if the want to. I am okay with that. They just don't get it....and to be quite frank...neither did I, until I experienced it.
I cherish our nursing, and I am sure it will be hard when Sugar finally decides she is done.
Thanks for the great facts. I believe wholeheartedly, that Sugar's health has been greatly affected by her nursing.

ettarose said...

Breastfeeding is choice that a Mom has the right to do or not. The fact that you are still breastfeeding your beautiful baby says a lot about you as a Mom. You obviously want only the best for your child. Our society also thinks the breast is a sexual thing, I mean how many Moms are asked to cover up or leave when breastfeeding in public. You continue to do what you feel is best for you and that Baby.

Laura said...

Absolutely WONDERFUL post! Thank you for posting put into words what I struggle to get across to people...

I nursed all 6 of long as they wanted...the youngest nursed the longest...she quit sometime around 2 1/2.

Good job,'re doing something wonderful for your child that no one else can do...Keep up the good work!!

Jenn said...

I've been thinking about this post ever since I read it last night. I had just written my own post about struggling with my two-year old not eating and working at weaning him and then I read this and felt so uplifted. I hope you don't mind, I linked to you.

Paula said...

Wow mamas! Thanks for rallying and for taking the time to comment. Feels great to know you are out there! Rise up.

Jenn and Trish...thanks for linking...spread the word.


mommyontop said...

yeah! kudos to all breastfeeding moms! cheers to you! never mind those who thinik breastfeeding at any age is not proper. let's just see who's kids are healthier a few years from now.

heather said...

I have been looking everywhere for information about why we encourage weaning to cow's milk (whole milk) at one year instead of continuing with breastmilk.

My son is 10 months old and have 8 teeth. I am weening him to a cup (he will already use a bottle) because he is a biter and I can't take the pain any longer.
But I still think that breastmilk is best and want to continue to give him the milk that nature makes for him. I've had no problem with pumping so I don't think it should be a problem.

My big question (that I can't find info on anywhere) is if I still give him breastmilk, but don't breastfeed how much do I give him a day? And for how long? How do I know when to start him on other liquids and then do you start them on cow milk when they're around 2 or 3?

Amanda said...

I nursed my baby until she was 12 months, then she stopped, jsut was not interested anymore once she ahd the cup. I really wanted to do the extended nursing, maybe next time. thanks for sahring your story with us.

Rachel said...

Absolutely brilliantly written! Wonderful! I agree wholeheartedly!! I'm so glad you wrote this!!
My daughter quit on her own at 14 months and my son at 16 months, 1 month ago. They were just done. I would have continued, but they were done :-(
This was so great. I"m so glad you wrote this, and wrote it so well!!
Love the header :-)

Elle said...

Great informational post, plus sweet pics of the little man. I wish I could have nursed longer than I did -- did not have a good start, we wound up going back to the hospital with TERRIBLE jaundice (Max, not me) after four days!

Beth is wfg said...

It's great to see another mom nurse her toddler! My son bfed til he was over 3 years old! I loved that he could snuggle up and bf for a few minutes, and his whole cranky disposition would be turned around when he was done. is one of the best resources I've found for bfing.

Paula said...

Heather...I am working on answering as many of your questions as I can. Thanks for the comment!

Joey said...

Hi, just stumbled upon your blog, and I'm glad I did.

No, it's definitely NOT weird to be nursing a toddler. I nursed my son until he was 22 and a half months (he's now a few days shy of 30 months). I only stopped because I had to undergo chemotherapy but I would have continued breastfeeding if not for that!

BreastFeeding Top Shop said...

great post, their is nothing wrong with breastfeeding a toddler