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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Breastfeeding beyond 1 year

My youngest son is turning one on Friday. This year has gone by so fast! It's hard to believe that he is already walking and can say, "mama" and "dada". And, he's still breastfeeding. In America most babies are done nursing by 6 months of age, so I know that we are in the minority. It is definitely a personal decision to decide when and how to wean your baby, or toddler, but I think there are some good reasons to continue breastfeeding for more than 6 months.

Babies have immature immune systems and breastfeeding helps prevent them from getting sick since they get antibodies from their mother through her milk. Our pediatrician made a comment one time that my kids had such thin charts because they hadn't been sick very much. Now, don't get me wrong, we've had our fair share of colds and stomach bugs, but we have not once had an ear infection or strep throat! I truly believe that my kids have been so healthy because they have all breastfed past one year.

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at LEAST the first 2 years of life. Any woman in the USA who has breastfed her baby until he or she was 2 probably got some negative reactions from others. The average age of weaning worldwide is 4 years old. That's right 4!! Again, it is a very private and personal decision when to wean your baby, but I think that Americans can learn from the WHO and other countries that support long term breastfeeding.

I breastfed my first two children for 15 and 16 months respectively. I only stopped breastfeeding them because I was pregnant again. (There are a number of women though, who tandem nurse, or continue to nurse their toddler and a new baby). I intend to keep breastfeeding my youngest at least through this winter and hopefully until he turns two when his immune system is more fully developed.

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