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Ashlee is Mama of one darling boy. A 28 week early bird, now 1 and some change, doing beautifully. She lives near Chicago with her sweetheart husband and French Bulldog. She's a thinker not afraid to get her silly on. Babywearer, veggie queen, photography nut. Before the domestic days Ashlee was pursuing a future in developmental psychology but has happily shifted gears in favor of staying at home and couldn't imagine doing anything else. In her free time (ha!) you can find her whipping up babyslings, holding down the fort at Mama Speaks and spotlighting as an Itsy Bitsy Yoga Instructor.

The Breast is STILL Best!

3 short days until the big first B-day, I am amazed (and a bit offended) by the sudden onslaught of people asking just when I plan to stop nursing Xavier. Most have been surprisingly direct and then there are the few, who were formerly very supportive of my nursing that now look away uncomfortable or make subtle suggestions of "covering up" (while I'm already covered up!). So for the record: I plan on nursing by my darling boy until it is no longer mutually beneficial (i.e. - he will be weaning himself!)

I don't know why this is even an issue. Maybe because in our bottle feeding culture most are instructed to wean baby from the bottle at 1 year- which is because formula has no real nutritional benefit after that point (although I have noticed a bunch of new 'toddler' formula's popping up). But breast milk is NOT formula people!

And if you don't want to take my word for it, here are some handy facts for you: (source: KellyMom)

Nursing toddlers benefit NUTRITIONALLY:
  • Although there has been little research done on children who breastfeed beyond the age of two, the available information indicates that breastfeeding continues to be a valuable source of nutrition and disease protection for as long as breastfeeding continues.
  • Breast milk continues to provide substantial amounts of key nutrients well beyond the first year of life, especially protein, fat, and most vitamins.
  • In the second year (12-23 months) 448mL of breast milk 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 and 60% of vitamin C requirements.
  • It's not uncommon for weaning to be recommended for toddlers who are eating few solids. However this recommendation is not supported by research.
  • Some doctors may feel nursing will interfere with a child's appetite for other foods. Yet there has been no documentation that nursing children are more likely that weaned children to refuse supplementary foods. In fact, most researchers in Third World countries, where a malnourished toddler's appetite may be of critical importance, recommend continued nursing for even the severely malnourished. Most suggest helping the malnourished older nursing child not by weaning but by supplementing the mother's diet to improve the nutritional quality of her milk and by offering the child more varied and more palatable foods to improve his or her appetite.
Nursing toddlers are SICK LESS OFTEN:
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children weaned before two years are at increased risk of illness
  • 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. In fact, some of the immune factos in breast milk increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process.
  • 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 and essential and sometimes underestimated role in the treatment and prevention of childhood illness"
Nursing toddlers are SMART
  • Extensive research on the relationship between cognitive achievement and breastfeeding has shown the greatest gains for those children breastfed the longest.
Nursing toddlers have FEWER ALLERGIES
  • Many studies have shown that one of the best ways to prevent allergies and asthma is to breastfeed exclusively for at least 6 months and to continue breastfeeding long-term after that point. Breastfeeding can be helpful in preventing allergy by:
  1. reducing exposure to potential allergens (when baby is exposed later, allergic reactions are less likely)
  2. speeding maturation of the protective barrier in the baby's intestines,
  3. coating the gut and providing a barrier to potentially allergenic molecules
  4. providing anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the risk of infections (which can act as allergy triggers).
Nursing toddlers are WELL ADJUSTED SOCIALLY
  • One study that dealt specifically with babies nursed longer than a year showed a significant link between the duration of nursing and mothers' and teachers' ratings of social adjustment in six-to-eight-year-old children. In the words of teh researchers 'There are statistically significant tendencies for conduct disorder scores to decline with increasing duration and breastfeeding'.
  • Children who achieve independence at their own pace are more secure in that independence then children forced into independence prematurely.
Nursing a toddler is NORMAL
  • 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 mother... There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychological or developmental harm form breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer".
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that breastfeeding 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 "If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned."
  • A US Surgeon General has stated that it is lucky a baby who continues to nurse until age two.
  • The WHO and UNICEF emphasize the importance of nursing up to two years of age or beyond.
  • Scientific research by Katherine A Dettwyler, PhD shows that 2.5 to 7.0 years of nursing is what our children have been designed to expect.
MOTHERS also benefit from nursing past infancy
  • Extended nursing delays the return of fertility in some women by suppressing ovulation
  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer. Studies have found a significant inverse association between duration of lactation and breast cancer risk.
  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian cancer
  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of uterine cancer
  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of endometrial cancer
  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease insulin requirements in diabetic women
  • Breastfeeding mothers tend to loose weight easier
  • Breastfeeding protects against osteoporosis
And if all that isn't enough, adjusted for prematurity X is only 9 months, so put your opinions and looks on the back burner for a few more months! :)

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  • Blogger mamamilkers says so:
    6:47 AM  

    Good for you, mama! I am nursing a 30 month old and it was neat to see all your stats! Isn't kellymom the best?!

    Looking forward to seeing some birthday photos! top

  • Blogger Glass Half Full says so:
    8:20 AM  

    I have realized that every mom has different ways in parenting their children. As long as X is fed, sheltered, and clothed....isn't that enough??? Keep up the good work!!! :) top

  • Anonymous Anonymous says so:
    8:27 AM  

    It's our rotten culture that gets people all weird about this. We are the only country to frown upon nursing a toddler, and to also frown upon co-sleeping. It's sad, really. People need to mind their own business. You do what's right for your baby, and don't worry about what other people think. (Which is easier said than done.)

    Have a great day! top

  • Blogger isunshine says so:
    9:37 AM  

    Unfortunately, I was unable to nurse my daughter, who is now 3, and I feel like she missed out on some very important nutrition and bonding. Good for you and little X! He will let you know in his own time when he is ready to wean. As far as the comment on co-sleeping: My daughter and I still co-sleep. The way I figure it...if she's away at college and can't sleep without me, then maybe we have a problem. She and I are neither one ready to give that up yet. top

  • Blogger Cyclone says so:
    10:43 AM  

    Ugh. I'm sorry you have to deal with that. I don't get how people think that there's just some magical 12-month mark where you just take away the breast and everyone is happy. It makes no sense!! top

  • Blogger Randi says so:
    2:58 PM  

    I think that the BEST decision that I EVER made was to BF my son. And I think that any gal should be able to do it worry free until her and her baby are ready to stop:) I'm ALL FOR Bfing! For us we are stopping at a year old, just b/c that's what I want for my personal situation. (We want to TTC#2 this spring/summer.) But I say go for it and I'm happy that you want to and can do it. It's wonderful, great post! top

  • Blogger Adventures In Babywearing says so:
    9:58 PM  

    Oh amen! I haven't gotten any negative feedback yet about still nursing Gray, but all my family KNOWS the plan and probably don't want to "get me started" ! Also, Gray looks so small for his age so most people just probably figure he's younger! But, we are on the same nursing plan as you- we'll probably need each other for support when that weaning day does come! top

  • Blogger Heidi says so:
    10:48 PM  

    Yup that's the way we did it too...until he was 22 months. At the end he would only ask once every few days, then once every week or so, sometimes not for 14 days. Each time I would think is this the last time? Trust me you are doing the right thing for your family - I personally think people forget that what works for them and their family won't work for everyone. We all are individuals and each family is different so it's important to follow our instincts as Moms. top

  • Blogger Gina says so:
    2:19 AM  

    As long as my milk stays, I'll nurse. I love the bonding... I won't let go until he does most likely... he's almost 14 months now... top

  • Blogger Amy says so:
    6:40 AM  

    It's amazing how once your child hits a year people start to look at you strange when you continue to nurse. I read an article on closet nursing and it's sad that most mom's resort to that once their children are older. Thanks for the post. I may link it to my blog if that's ok!! Amy top