Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The benefits of extended nursing

I have 4 children, each with their own  breastfeeding history. My oldest, now 9, nursed sporadically for about 2 months. I was a young mom, in the middle of no where with no family, in a new town. I had a lot of trouble, and he seemed to flat out refuse to nurse. So I promptly gave up. Even though he had an exceptional vocabulary by the age of 15 months and currently tested with an IQ of 140, he suffers from ADHD and other behavior problems.

My daughter, now 6, nursed like a champ for the first 4 months of her life. I contracted a kidney infection, and ended up in the hospital for a weekend, on meds. The nurse told me I had to stop breastfeeding...instead of looking for a lactation consultant to talk to me! I am quite sure she  would have nursed for quite some time. She had bottle mouth so bad by the age of 2, that she had to have mouth surgery. We are still not sure why this happened, as we always brushed her teeth, and took care of her mouth. She also has some behavior problems, uncluding Autism. On the bright side, she is 2 grade levels ahead of her class in reading and math.

I wish I knew about Le Leche League for my older 2 kids. I would have been able to nurse them a lot longer then I did, and they would have been a lot better off for it! To this day, I still feel guilty for quitting on them!

My little man, now 2, nursed for 23 months. I would have gone longer, but he decided to stop, even though mama tried to encourage him to continue! He never had a drop of formula! He is exceptionally bright and, even though he can be a handful, seems to have no other behavior problems I saw in the other two by this age!

The baby seemed to have a hard time adjusting to the outside. He is nursing like a champ, but we did end up giving him a couple bottles of formula a week, maybe 3 a week, for the first 4 weeks of his life. He is now 2 months old and exclusively on breastmilk. I plan to keep it that way for as long as he wants to go! Maybe he will be my kid to go past the 23 month mark. He is also my last baby...so it may take mama a while to wean him!

I see a lot of people wondering when they should wean their baby off the breast. Many think that they have to by a certain age (3 months, 6 months, 1 year, etc...) because they either heard it from a friend or relative, or a doctor. The good news is, there IS no age you HAVE to wean.

First and foremost, doctors have little to no factual knowledge in the area of breastfeeding. They only know what they may have read in a book, or learned in a 5 minute blurb in a class in medical school. If you want the real facts on breastfeeding, contact a lactation consultant, or the local Le Leche League.

Many will tell you that, after a year, there is no nutritional value to breastmilk. That is about as true as saying that after one, there is no nutritional value to food itself. It is just not true. In fact, unlike formula, breastmilk changes and grows WITH your child, to meet their current nutritional needs. The milk that your baby had as a newborn, is not the same as it was/is going to be at 12 months, 24 months, and beyond.

The longer you breastfeed, the better the benefits to both you and your child!

Breastfeeding benefits toddlers and young children...nutritionally, immunilogically and psychologically.
    * Nursing toddlers benefit NUTRITIONALLY
    * Nursing toddlers are SICK LESS OFTEN
    * Nursing toddlers have FEWER ALLERGIES
    * Nursing toddlers are SMART
    * Nursing toddlers are WELL ADJUSTED SOCIALLY
    * Nursing a toddler is NORMAL
    * MOTHERS also benefit from nursing past infancy
    You can read more on the above on the Kellymom site.

There are also some other great resources out there,  including Dr. Sears and LLL.

Some great books I reccommend are:
The Breastfeeding Book 
Mothering Your Nursing Toddler
The Breastfeeding Answer Book 
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
The Nursing Mother's Companion

These are all great resources to arm yourself with information, the next time you are confronted on your personal choice to breastfeed, and the most important thing you can do for your baby and toddler!

Happy nursing!

Becka has a Bachelors in Early Childhood Education and Development, and has 18 years experience in the field. She is a Certified Parent Educator and Licensed Baby, Toddler, and Preschool Sign Language Instructor. You can visit her site, at www.learnandgrowtogether.com


  1. Did you know the average nursing length for the world is 4 years!!! What are we doing hear that we think we should nurse only 6-12 months?! I did 16m with B and 19m with Z. We might of gone longer, but I felt guilty feeding Z when B flat out refused.
    Keep it up mama!!!!!

  2. I pumped exclusively for both of my boys because they would not latch. Eventually the big kid got it at 3 months and then nursed until he was 11 months old (was told at 1 week to give up by a lactation consultant). At that time he got coxsakie virus and could not nurse. Thanks to a febrile seizure and other stresses, my milk dried up during this time (could not pump at all). We went right to milk at the time, but could not do it since he was allergic. Lots of allergies, low muscle tone and still had the benefits of my milk for 11 wonderful months. Came to find out that hubby had many of these troubles and he was nursed for almost two years.

    My little guy took about a month and a half to learn to latch properly. Thanks to his big brother's milk allergy he never had cow's milk until after two years old. So far no major reaction. At 27 months now he is still nursing 2-4 times a day. He appears to have seasonal allergies, has had his fair share of illness (3 febrile seizures so far), and is a smart cookie like his big brother.

    Not sure how long we will continue to nurse. I take it one day at a time and follow my little guy's lead. Most people are not aware that we are still a breastfeeding family because of the comments I get and looks. Oh well, it is none of their business and we will do whatever needs to be done.

  3. Yep! I did know that the world average is 4. I think the United States has sexulaized breasts to a point that many forget what their actual purpose is!

    I am hoping that Evan nurses longer then Wyatt, at least to 24-30 months!