Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nurse a Toddler! Why On Earth?

I'm starting this blog to capture the events of my daily life of nursing my youngest child who is now 15 months old.

I should first off say that I never dreamed I would be nursing a 15 month old. It never occurred to me that women breast feed beyond 1 year. But, since the birth of my first, I became much more educated and informed and explored the world's happenings in terms of child-rearing and all that it entails. I became friends with a whole new group of women and joined La Leche League and here I am.

You may be wondering, why on earth I would want to nurse my toddler? Here is an answer for that:

* Nursing toddlers benefit NUTRITIONALLY
1. "Human milk expressed by mothers who have been lactating for >1 year has significantly increased fat and energy contents, compared with milk expressed by women who have been lactating for shorter periods. During prolonged lactation, the fat energy contribution of breast milk to the infant diet might be significant."
-- Mandel 2005

2. 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. 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 (Briend et al, 1988; Rhode, 1988; Shattock and Stephens, 1975; Whitehead, 1985). 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 (Ahn and MacLean. 1980; Jelliffe and Jelliffe, 1978) and by offering the child more varied and more palatable foods to improve his or her appetite (Rohde, 1988; Tangermann, 1988; Underwood, 1985).

* Nursing toddlers are SICK LESS OFTEN
1. 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 an essential and sometimes underestimated role in the treatment and prevention of childhood illness." [emphasis added]

* Nursing toddlers have FEWER ALLERGIES
1. * 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 continue breastfeeding long-term after that point.

Breastfeeding can be helpful for preventing allergy by:
1. reducing exposure to potential allergens (the later baby is exposed, the less likely that there will be an allergic reaction),
2. speeding maturation of the protective intestinal barrier in baby's gut,
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 SMART
1. 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.

* Nursing toddlers are WELL ADJUSTED SOCIALLY
1. According to Sally Kneidel in "Nursing Beyond One Year" (New Beginnings, Vol. 6 No. 4, July-August 1990, pp. 99-103.):

"Research reports on the psychological aspects of nursing are scarce. 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 (Ferguson et al, 1987). In the words of the researchers, 'There are statistically significant tendencies for conduct disorder scores to decline with increasing duration of breastfeeding.'"

* Nursing a toddler is NORMAL
1. 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)

So, what kind of challenges am I facing today? Well, she has an obsession with twiddling
and while this drives me crazy, it's something I'm willing to put up with. Do I get tired of breastfeeding? Yes. Do I love it all the time? No. But, it's still what is best for my child so I continue. Now, I'm not saying I don't love it, because I do, it's just not that I love it all the time. It's a wonderful way to soothe her and heal her 'boo boo's' and calm her tantrums. It's something only I can do for her and I'll continue until she's ready to be done.

If you want more information on child-led weaning you can look here:

So for now, that's my first entry, I need to go nurse :D