4/30/2010

"Isn't he a bit OLD for that?"

Question:
My 12 month old has lactose sensitivity and my pediatrician said to keep nursing him and try milk each month to see if it still upsets him tummy. Is it really beneficial to nurse babies longer than 1 year? Some people nurse for 2 years, some 6 months. When do the benefits start to decrease? Will they really be smarter if they're nursed a year, or 18 months? I've always quit by 1 but now I want to know if I should keep going.
-Toni, mother of 7

Answer:
The short answer- Yes, the benefits to your baby from breastfeeding are real. The long answer: The World Health Organization's recommendation is, “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.” Although, it is true that the composition of your breast milk will change as the months go by, these changes happen to compliment the development of your baby. For example, Colostrum is produced during the first week after your baby is born. It is FULL of antibodies and has less fat and sugar than mature milk (milk that will come later). This is to help build your baby’s immune system to give them a good strong start in life. Mature milk is constantly changing as your baby’s needs change. After 6 months, mature milk is not enough to completely sustain your baby because developmentally that is the time to start introducing solid food.

But, even though the composition is constantly changing, the benefits of breastfeeding are constant. Even after one year, the benefits to continued nursing are great for you and your toddler. Breastfed toddlers are sick less often (because of the antibodies that only your breast milk can provide) and develop fewer allergies. According to "KellyMom" (see link below) a breastfed toddler (12-24 months) receives from your breast milk:
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
60% of vitamin C requirements

And if this wasn’t enough, breast feeding reduces the mother’s chances of breast, uterine, ovarian and endometrial cancers as well as protects you against rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
For information on the studies, look here:
KellyMom
iVillage

I am a huge advocate of breast feeding, but having said all of this, when to wean is a personal decision. Only you can decide what is best for you and your baby. I have really tough pregnancies and then when I am nursing, I drop weight like most women gain it during pregnancy. For my own health, I quit nursing between 9 and 13 months. Don’t make a decision based on what the norm is. (many women stop nursing before 12 months). Often, the norm, is not the best thing for you and your child.

To summarize, the benefits of nursing never end and when you wean is a decision you need to make based on the needs of you and your child (and family)and only you (and your doctor) can decide when is best. Happy nursing.

And really, is there an image more precious than this?



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