Sunday, May 16, 2010

Extended Nursing!

 Micaiah, 15.5 months, in a moment of nonchalant confidence.

After 15 months of reading about extended nursing from a variety of sources, I came across an article in Mothering Magazine (Sept/Oct. 2007) that beautifully summarized the current state of knowledge on this. Since I can't say it better myself, I'll just give you some word-for-word quotes from the article.  My own thoughts are placed in brackets.  I plan to let my youngest wean himself and have already kicked myself around the block for force-weaning my oldest at 12 months. Anyways, here are the quotes:

1.  "The World Health Organization recommends that children be breastfed for up to two years and beyond, as do UNICEF and the Canadian Pediatric Society." 

2.  "In many parts of the world, it is normal to breastfeed for two or three years or even longer."

3.  "Research shows that the fat and energy content of breastmilk actually increases after the first year.  Breastmilk adapts to a toddler's developing system, providing exactly the right amount of nutrition at exactly the right time".  (Ever wonder if your toddler is not getting enough nutrients at meal times?  You don't have to if you're breastfeeding.)

4.  "According to research, the immunological benefits of breastfeeding actually increases during the second and third years of nursing.  The antibodies in breastmilk that protect a newborn against pathogens, viruses, and bacteria are still present in the milk of mothers nursing their toddlers.  Literally thousands of antiviral, antibacterial, and antiparasitic factors are found in human milk, protecting against hundreds of infections and diseases, including E. coli, pneumonia, strep throat, Salmonella, influenza, rotavirus, rubella, West Nile virus, mumps, measles, diabetes, meningitis, and many childhood cancers such as leukemia.  These immunological factors remain present whether the nursing child is three months or three years old.  This doesn't mean that your child will never become ill, but nursed toddlers contract fewer diseases, and when they do get sick, they heal more quickly... In addition, breastfed toddlers are much less likely to suffer from asthma and allergies."  (Makes it sound like breastfeeding is something like a natural vaccination.)

5.  "Dr. Jack Newman, founder of the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic in Toronto, Canada, and author of The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, believes that extended breastfeeding actually promotes a child's independence and emotional development.  He says, "The breastfed toddler is more independent in the long run because his independence comes from a deep-seated security that comes from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a source not only of nutrition, but also of comfort, support, and security."

6.  "Numerous studies show that breastfeeding promotes a higher IQ, including increased reading comprehension, math skills, and scholastic ability, even into adolescence.  In one study, breastfeeding was associated with a 4.6 higher mean in three-year-old intelligence.  The fine motor and language skills of breastfed toddlers also develop more quickly.  According to Ginger Carney, a clinical nutrition manager and lactation consultant at Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee, "The unique coordination of the tongue, lips, and jaw during breastfeeding exercises the muscles used for speech."  In other words, the act of sucking promotes oral development, which enhances language skills."

7.  Nursing soothes the aching of gums, skinned knees, bumped heads, and tantrums that come with toddlerhood.   Toddlers experience a roller-coaster of big, messy emotions from moment to moment, and reconnecting with the close, physical touch of nursing reminds them of your love and support during those difficult times.  While mothering a toddler is an amazing journey, it can also be intense and demanding.  A few moments of calm, quiet nursing throughout the day can reenergize both of you."


  1. Yey Renae!
    I know it is always used but I don't even like the term "extended nursing" because to me it should be the norm. I am confused when people choose to ween early and why is 12 months the best time to do it? I think it must have something to do with the addition of food to the baby's diet. Cows milk can be given at 12 months so most people thing cows milk is just as good so it is time to ween. The second reason is probably due to moms going back to work after their year maternity leave. This poor child looses the closeness, comfort, and nutrients associated with nursing and then is dropped off at a daycare. Most children have their neediest time between 11-13 months and most moms choose to go back to work then. Poor kiddos. I am not sure when I will ween my boy but it will be on our terms not society's norm.

    A sad story. My Grandma told me that only poor people nursed in the 50s. If you had money you bought formula. I wonder what the formula ad campaign was like? Ugh!

  2. Thanks Renae, that was a great reminder. ( We're still going strong here at 18 months!) That also explains how she managed to escape the Strep throat I had twice this spring!

  3. Sorry for my delay in commenting Renae...

    This is a very interesting topic to me though I did have difficulty in breastfeeding my both my two children.

    When I was close to giving up completely I expressed for as long as I could before my milk went. I hope to be more sucessful this third time around!

    It is wonderful that you are making this investment in your childrens health now and for their future years!

  4. I have taken the extended nursing approach with all 4 of my children, believing it to be the best way to show my children clear connection and attachment. Giving them security in my most basic and healthful thing to offer them. All of them nursed for different lengths of time the longest being 30 months. they each weaned themselves and knew clearly when they were done with that need.

    I was disappointed each time to have that special bond with my baby done. It meant I now had a boy who was more confident in himself and ready to explore more independently.