Monday, August 2, 2010

How Can We Increase Breastfeeding Until Age Two?

Lauren from
nurses her toddler.
I was interested to read the following excerpt from the American Academy of Family Physicians’ 2008 Position Paper[1. Thank you, peaceful parenting]:

"Note that breastfeeding at least until the second year of a child's life is not considered 'extended' breastfeeding. Rather, breastfeeding until the bare minimum age of 2 years is the norm and anything less brings about detrimental consequences. Human milk for growing human babies is expected (physiologically) by the baby's body in order to receive all that is needed (and only found in human milk) for this important period of rapid brain, body, and immune system development."

Where only 22% of babies in the United States are still nursing at one year, how can we encourage women to keep nursing for an additional year?

I'm interested in your thoughts:

If your child(ren) weaned before the age of two, why? What factors played into your decision? (Family/friend pressure? Advice from your doctor? Lack of information in favor of nursing past infancy?)


What would have encouraged you to keep nursing to two years? Be as specific as possible - if you think information would have helped, from who? Your doctor? Online? Friends? If societal pressure was your main reason for weaning, what would have helped you feel better - breastfeeding friends? An online forum?



~Dionna

19 comments:

This is a great post. My daughter just turned one on the 28th of July and we are still breastfeeding strong. I didn't even think about weaning when she turned one. My plan is to let her self wean, so when she is ready to call it quits, then that's when we will(Can't say i won't be a little upset though. lol)

We exclusively breastfed to a year, that means no solid foods except for an occasional bite of this or that. She is healthy, strong, and sooooo smart! I will continue to breastfeed as long as she chooses to and I hope that's for awhile to come.

I know I am wanting to breastfeed till minimum of 2 years. I remember reading somewhere, either from the birthing mag or DR. Sears books, that at the two year mark a mothers breast milk has another type of antibodies given to her child! Makes sense. :) They are more social and active by then. Also read an article from Mothering mag of a mother in Mongnolia(SP?) and how they perceive breastfeeding! It is simply wonderful and very funny. I think if you were talk to other people besides from the western world, you would see that it is just common sense, and why would you go against mother nature?

My friends who weaned promptly at one did so because of the hassle of pumping, or because one year was seen as "enough" and anything beyond that was kind of "extra credit" that they weren't interested in. Or because they thought it would increase their child's interest in solid foods.

My LO is 13 months old. I try to include things in everyday conversation, when it fits, like "well, his iron was a bit on the low side at his one year appointment, and breastmilk helps them absorb iron so much better than cow's milk, so now wouldn't be a good time for us to stop." (even though I would continue even if his iron had been perfect).

I nursed my first son until he self-weaned at 21 months. I was newly pregnant with his younger brother so the taste of the milk may have changed, but even before that he was starting to skip nursing sessions. I could not persuade him to nurse more.

My second son nursed also for 21 months. Right around 18 months he started to nurse less. By 21 months he was done. He did still want to comfort nurse occasionally, but only once every few days.

Interestingly I can still express milk even though it has been 2 years since he weaned.

I would have happily nursed to age 2 or beyond, but the babies weren't interested.

I'm in the process of weaning my daughter now... She'll be three in just shy of two months, and hasn't been terribly interested in nursing during the day in about eight months.
All of my friends and family know I've only just started actively weaning her. Some are relieved that I've "finally" come to my senses and others are sad that I'm taking an active part in her weaning.
I think the biggest factor in normalizing breastfeeding to at least two is that doctors need to learn more about it, and they need to encourage it. My daughter's pediatrician gave me a handout when she turned a year old that said, "if your baby is still breastfeeding or taking formula, now would be a good time to start introducing cow's milk in place of one of the normal feedings at a time until he or she is finished weaning from breastmilk or formula." I had a talk with him about how that could set the perception that it's medically recommended to wean at a year old, and he ended up changing his handouts. He's an awesome, understanding pediatrician, but he knows very little about breastfeeding, and he's not unusual in that.
The other thing is that women need to be more open to broadcasting the fact that they do breastfeed beyond a year.
It's seen as "weird" and kind of "yucky" by a whole lot of people because it's perceived as unusual. More people being open about it and open to trying it is the key to it not being unusual anymore.

I nursed my daughter till about 15 months -- (and for the last month or so just once a day). I really enjoyed nursing -- and my daughter did too. However I did feel some pressure to wean from family and my husband. My sex drive was particularly low while nursing -- and I definitely understood my husbands desire for me to stop. Once I stopped, I did have more of an interest in sex and being touched by someone else rather than my baby : ) Another factor was that I was interested in a little more independence. As a nursing mom - whose kido loved to fall off to sleep on the breast -- it required me to be there for all nap time and bed times. I really did have interest in taking a vacation from our bub -- so it pushed me over the edge to wean completely. It was not a dramatic experience for either of us. It was gradual - and my daughter has been quite happy to take cows milk since.

I love your article, a lot of great info and while I can't say I haven't felt pressure myself with both of my little ones not to breastfeed, it has not discouraged me at all. I did find the comment "anything less brings about detrimental consequences" disturbing and factually untrue.
For various reasons that would take too long to list, I pumped milk for my daughter until she was 14 months old, and she received frozen EBM until she was almost 2. Now that I'm nursing my son, age 7 months, I've also been giving my breastmilk to my now 3 year old daughter in cups and her cereal.
My son, although only 7 months, is all ready not very interested in nursing other than at nighttime. Although I encourage it as much as possible, I do not see at all how he will still be nursing when he's 2. If this is the natural course of events for him, and God designed my body and he to work perfectly together for his nourishment, there is no way that stopping before 2 would be detrimental to my son, no matter what any person or internet blog says.
I do have over 3 months of EBM that I can continue to give him when he weans himself, and also have the option of continuing to pump and providing he and our daughter with my milk (not to mention husband or relies on it to keep him from catching the many illnesses he comes in contact with in his line of work)
Praise the Lord for Breastmillk and Mothers who are unashamed!

My son is 19 months and I plan to let him self wean. However, I want to get pregnant next year (after he turns 2) and I'll probably be scaling back our schedule from 4 nursing periods to 2. (Rather than on-demand nursing, we've always followed a schedule. Works for us...) I agree with La Leche League's philosophy where breastfeeding should continue as long as both parties - mother AND chile - wish to continue. This is really the only way it can be a happy realtionship. What I don't think should be a factor is societal pressure. I don't hold back in conversation that I still nurse. As my son isn't that old yet, there's not alot of "input" yet. But I can see that changing as he gets older. I'm just going to have to stay strong and help him do the same. As with anything, you have to stick to your values and not be swayed by others who don't agree with your choices. Good luck to those of you nursing "beyond the norm" - stay strong and focused on what's right for your family!

Most everyone agrees that breastfeeding is the best option. Personally, I've found breastfeeding to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, even though I never thought I would do it. However, I think it's quite harsh for the AAFP to claim that the consequences of stopping before age 2 are "detrimental".

The WHO recommendation "Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond" is quoted up here a lot by health professionals who advise breastfeeding women. BUT the language of "up to two years" is very confusing, I think. It sounds like breastfeeding for 6 months is important and that you can (but really don't need to) to two years. The and beyond part is, clearly, just for wierdos (like me!). Perhaps some much needed lactivisim would include getting the WHO to clarify that oft quoted statement on breastfeeding "up to two years" to include words like "it is recommended to continue breastfeeding until two years and beyond".

In my experience I've found that there's a lot of help and support from health professionals re: nursing a baby under six months but when you need help with your nursing two year old they get all nervous and confounded and quote the WHO statement that it is "okay to do that". It is rare to find a health professional who reads the WHO statement as it is "important" to that.

Just saying.

Nursing until 2 years is strongly recommended now in our area, and we talk about it as early as pre-natal classes. It's still very seldom done. I was sad when I read in one of the most popular baby books that it wasn't nutritionally benefitial to nurse past 1 year - talk about mixed messages! It surprises me that anyone can try to dispute the nutritional and emotional benefits of breast feeding. My daughter is almost 13 months and I plan to nurse until she is 2, if she still is interested. I so enjoy our quiet times when she is looking for that extra comfort - when else does a busy toddler ever stop for cuddles!!! She nurses regularly when she wakes in the morning and before naps (it makes my life so much easier to nurse her to sleep for naps!) and on demand if she wants the comfort.
That being said, I have avoiding nursing her in public for about 6months, simply because she gets far too distracted! And I do plan on weaning her before our next pregnancy to conserve my energy, and I would not want to share breastfeeding between a toddler and infant and actually think it's kind of unfair to a new baby.

I think social pressures have the biggest influence on nursing mothers. If breastfeeding were normalized to where two years was perceived as the acceptable minimum, then I think the majority of women would go at least that long. Right now, for some people, even breastfeeding a newborn is some weird neanderthal thing to do.

I think at the same time we really need to change perceptions of formula as an "acceptable choice." As long as it "doesn't really matter" what you feed your baby (and there are so many people out there who will assert this!) then who cares how long you breastfeed? If we could really get the word out about what a miracle substance mother's milk is (and scientists discover new benefits all the time) then maybe women would really take to heart what a huge service they are doing their child to continue breastfeeding beyond when it is their primary food.

So let's keep talking about it and get the word out!

My son weaned at 21 months... something between self-weaning and me giving him a nudge in that direction. But honestly, he had been nursing once a day (and skipping a day here and there) for several months. He was eating food robustly and just didn't seem all that interested. I can't imagine 2 as a bare minimum because to me, some toddlers with a diverse diet may well be able to meet their nutritional needs without mamas milk.

That being said, if/when I have another baby, I'm hoping to stretch out nursing a little longer, just because soon after my son weaned he seemed to catch every bug known to man, and it's certainly easier to tend to a sick little one if they're still nursing.

My 4 yr old still nurses before he falls asleep at night and when he wakes up in the morning. And of course, he's a great eater and has been since we introduced solids at about 6 months old.

According to research in comparitive physiology, anthropology, neurology, etc.. the natural/biological weaning age for human children is between 3-7 yrs.

Why not just let the child naturally self wean when he/she is ready and tell all the nosy neighbours and well-meaning but uneducated others to BUZZ off! It's none of their business to pressure you to 'actively wean'...!!

I think that what many people don't know is that when a baby/toddler is "mothered through breastfeeding" then he generally won't wean before 24 months of age. Of course there are exceptions to the norm. But for many, the "norm" of nursing a baby means the cultural norm rather than the biological norm (meaning on a schedule, not for comfort, not at night past six months, etc.). Many babies who "self-wean" did so based on subtle cultural cues given by the mother. As toddlers grow, mothers tend to use more of these cues naturally, like asking a 2 year old to wait to nurse. Even things like cars and travel can have an impact: if a child is in his carseat and it is unsafe to take him out, then he will be going longer without nursing than he might otherwise. So, if a mother has not been scheduling her baby and not trying to pacify him in other ways to avoid comfort-nursing, and he still weans prior to 24 months, then he is probably one of those exceptions, and nothing to feel badly about.

I don't know how to get nursing to age 2 to be a more accepted norm... among my family and friends, age one is the generally accepted age that you "should" nurse until, although I know many families who don't think that nursing past six months is important at all. But, among people I know who think babies should receive breastmilk for one year, they think it is more about the milk, not the act, and I don't know how to counter that idea. It seems that the pressures of "independence" as being prized in our culture win out among people I know. I can't think of what other reasons may be, other than as one person commented already, that 12 months is "good enough" and anything beyond that is just for "extra credit." One person even said to me as I was nursing my first child at age 18 months, "You know, when I have children I don't think I'll breastfeed that long (meaning for 18 months), and I think they'll turn out just fine." And she did wean her first right at the one year mark.

I breastfed both of my children past two years (32 mos. and 25 mos.). I never had to deal with too much societal pressure, but there was the occasional "vibe" that "you're STILL nursing?!" Other than that, I've been shocked at the number of people who seem to believe that breastmilk has absolutely NO nutritional value after some magical point (6 months to a year?)! As if, breastfeeding for longer than the "norm" is for a mom's own "selfish" reasons and has nothing to do with nutrition/health. Ugh! It seems that most people don't fully understand ALL the amazing benefits of breastfeeding (at any age). Lots of misinformation out there.

My son is 18 months and nursing strong. In fact, his pediatrician suggested that I slow down on his nursing because he is not gaining weight. He would rather nurse than eat solids. But he is healthy (only had a couple very mild colds), happy, ENERGETIC, and smart! I think I love nursing as much as he does. This time goes by so fast and I can't imagine trying to speed it up.

Yay to breastfeeding !! Am exclusively nursing my 31/2 month old. I love it n most importantly he loves it!. The nutritional benefits are unparalleled in comparison to formula. The quiet time we spent together while he is nursing is soo special , I wldnt want to rush to wean him off the breast. I hope he nurses till he is atleast 2 yrs old.

Yay a refreshing and encouraging article on breastfeeding.

My bub is still a devout booby boy at 19months.
Despite family input or rather, my fathers strong feelings that he is just sucking the life out of me ( wish my stomach and hips showed evidence of that)
I have no desire to stop, although I am looking forward to not being woken 2-3 times a night for his comfort nursing.

Socially there isn't any pressure to stop. However there doesn't seem to be any support from the medical or health community to continue more than a year.
To the extent that nurses and health care providers with the Tresilian group have stated that there is no nutritional value in breastfeeding after a baby starts solid food.
Which is shocking and also quite annoying given that these people are the authority figures when helping mothers in need.

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