Tuesday, August 25, 2009

When Are You Going to Wean Her?

I hear this question at least once a week. Talia turned two February 15 and she is still nursing. It wasn't a conscious decision to nurse her this long, in fact I had planned on weaning her when she turned two. Talia had a different timeline.

She's just not ready. So the more she wants to nurse, the more research I've done. This is what I've found:

Each time you nurse your toddler, you are providing nutrition, boosting her immune system and reducing her risk of allergies, no matter how old she is.

Some doctors may feel that nursing will interfere with a child's appetite for other foods. Yet there has been no documentation that nursing children are more likely than weaned children to refuse supplementary foods.

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

"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).

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.

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.

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)

According to Dr. Jack Newman:

Common concerns associated with nursing a toddler were also addressed. Some health care professionals comment, "There is no nutritional value of human milk beyond a certain age." Newman called this an unbelievable statement. He wondered aloud how human milk suddenly became white water after a certain age when, before that age, breastfeeding had all sorts of benefits to mother and baby. The concern that extended breastfeeding will prevent a child from developing his own immunity was discussed. In reality, breastfeeding provides passive protection via mother's immunities that come in human milk, but also stimulation to a child's immune system. A breastfed child has a more mature immune system.

Another concern Newman often hears is that breastfeeding a toddler will cause dependency. He pointed out that all three-year-olds tend to be pretty dependent on their mothers. Breastfeeding provides a sense of security and love that will help foster independence rather than create dependence. Newman stated that loving human contact does not cause harm to a child.

Armed with all this information on the benefits of extended breastfeeding it's puzzling why my family and friends are constantly trying to get me to wean her. I am going to nurse Talia for as long as she wants; it's not real fun for me and I catch a lot of slack for it but it's good for her and my job as a mom is to make the best choices for my child.

No comments: