Photo by Alexander Tundakov
Now that my nursling is almost 2 years old, I raise many eyebrows whenever I raise my blouse to breastfeed. Family and friends have begun to say, "Oh, you're still breastfeeding him?" implying that I should stop already.
This just shows that lay people do not know the benefits of breastfeeding into toddlerhood, also known as "extended breastfeeding".
My own reasons for continuing to breastfeed are quite unscientific. I like being able to comfort Anton easily when he's hurt, cranky or ill. I also think it's great that I can put him to sleep without having to carry him; in fact, I can lie down and doze off myself.
On the other hand, scientific research reveals many benefits of breastfeeding a toddler, such as:
- Protection From Diseases
(Goldman AS et al. Immunologic components in human milk during weaning. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1983 Jan;72(1):133-4; Goldman AS, Goldblum RM, Garza C. Immunologic components in human milk during the second year of lactation. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1983 May;72(3):461-2; Gulick EE. The effects of breastfeeding on toddler health. Pediatr Nurs. 1986 Jan-Feb;12(1):51-4)
- Increased Protection Against Allergies
(Saarinen UM, Kajosarri M. Breastfeeding as a Prophylactic Against Atopic Disease: Prospective follow-up Study until 17 years old, Lancet 346:1065-1069, 1995.)
- Higher Intelligence
(Mortenson EL, MIchaelsen KF, Sanders SA, Reeinisch JM. The association between duration of breastfeeding and adult intelligence. Journal of the American Medical Association 2002;287:2365-2371; and Daniels M C, Adair L S. Breast-feeding influences cognitive development of Filipino children. J Nutr. 135: 2589-2595, 2005)
(Dettwyler, Katherine PhD. A time to wean. Breastfeeding Abstracts. 14,1: 3-4. 1994)
Clearly, when it comes to breastfeeding, longer is better! So why do health caregivers and breastfeeding advocates have a difficult time getting mothers to adhere to the minimum recommendation of breastfeeding for one year?
In contrast, milk companies have convinced the public that children need to be drinking formula even after they've started school. Even though the science fully backs extended breastfeeding, it is the milk companies that are touting outrageous unsubstantiated benefits for their follow-on formulas and growing-up milks.
What can we learn from milk companies so that more children will enjoy the benefits of extended breastfeeding?