1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Breastfeeding your Child Effectively

Breastfeed a Toddler - Why on Earth?

By

Updated October 29, 2007

Because more and more women are now breastfeeding their babies, more and more are also finding that they enjoy breastfeeding enough to want to continue longer than the usual few months they initially thought they would. UNICEF has long encouraged breastfeeding for two years and longer, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is now on record as encouraging mothers to nurse at least one year and as long after as both mother and baby desire. Even the Canadian Paediatric Society, in its feeding statement, acknowledges that women may want to breastfeed for two years or longer. Breastfeeding to 3 and 4 years of age has been common in much of the world until recently, and it is still common in many societies for toddlers to breastfeed.

Why should breastfeeding continue past six months?

Because mothers and babies often enjoy breastfeeding a lot. Why stop an enjoyable relationship?

But it is said that breastmilk has no value after six months.

Perhaps this is said, but it is wrong. That anyone can say such a thing only shows how ignorant so many people in our society are about breastfeeding. Breastmilk is, after all, milk. Even after six months, it still contains protein, fat, and other nutritionally important and appropriate elements which babies and children need. Breastmilk still contains immunologic factors that help protect the baby. In fact, some immune factors in breastmilk that protect the baby against infection are present in greater amounts in the second year of life than in the first. This is, of course as it should be, since children older than a year are generally exposed to more infection. Breastmilk still contains factors that help the immune system to mature, and which help the brain, gut, and other organs to develop and mature.

It has been well shown that children in daycare who are still breastfeeding have far fewer and less severe infections than the children who are not breastfeeding. The mother thus loses less work time if she continues nursing her baby once she is back at her paid work.

It is interesting that formula company marketing pushes the use of formula (a rather imperfect copy of the real thing) for a year, yet implies that breastmilk (from which the imperfect copy is copied) is only worthwhile for 6 months or even less ("the best nutrition for newborns"). Too many health professionals have taken up the refrain.

I have heard that the immunologic factors in breastmilk prevent the baby from developing his own immunity if I breastfeed past six months.

This is untrue; in fact, this is absurd. It is unbelievable how so many people in our society twist around the advantages of breastfeeding and turn them into disadvantages. We give babies immunizations so that they are able to defend themselves against the real infection. Breastmilk also allows the baby to be fight off infections. When the baby fights off these infections, he becomes immune. Naturally.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.