How long to breastfeed?

          When it comes to breastfeeding, most mothers have a desire to do the best thing for their child. Many new moms are bombarded with advice from doctors, moms, grandmas, aunts, friends, neighbors, waiters, mechanics, hairstylists and anyone else who thinks they are an expert on what is best for an infant. While we all can agree that breastfeeding is what’s best for baby, what can we say about how long baby should be breastfed?

          Depending on who you talk to, what country you live in and what your cultural beliefs are, a baby may be weaned anytime from six months to five years. In the United States women tend to breastfeed their baby for a shorter period of time, sometimes because of social pressures, sometimes medical pressures and sometimes personal pressures. I tend to believe that in majority of the cases it falls down to social pressures. It would be kind of weird to see a mother breastfeeding her son before he runs off to kindergarten.  But in many third world countries it is a necessity for a mom to breastfeed her child for years. We are lucky in the U.S. to be able to have clean drinking water, immunizations and antibiotics when needed. Other countries do not have these luxuries and so babies are breastfed longer so they can have the benefits of the immunities it provides.

          If we were to take out the social stigma (in the U.S.) that comes with breastfeeding a child too long and start weaning at an older age, what would we find?

          Texas A and M professor Katherine Dettwyler, PhD says,  “In studies that divided breastfed babies into categories based on length of breastfeeding, the babies breastfed the longest did better in terms of both lower disease and higher IQ. In other words, if the categories were 0-6 months of breastfeeding, 6-12 months, 12-18 months and 18-24+ months, then the 18-24+ month babies did the best, and the 12-18 month babies did the next best, and the 6-12 months babies did the next best, and the 0-6 months babies did the worst of the breastfed groups, but still much better than the bottle-feeding group. This has been shown for gastrointestinal illness, upper respiratory illness, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, heart disease, and on and on and on. Likewise, the babies nursed the longest scored the highest on the IQ tests1

          I realize that breastfeeding a baby for two years is a little inconvenient, but when you look at the long term effects it can have on your child it seems as though it should be something to consider when having a baby.

 -Melissa Broderick




~ by Melissa Broderick on September 15, 2009.

4 Responses to “How long to breastfeed?”

  1. I think you bring up a very valid point in American Culture how we scrutinize those parents trying to keep their children healthy. Not only is breast milk the healthiest food for a child to partake in, the concept of still breastfeeding as the child continues to develop promotes parental bonding and more brain development… even more than just in newborn ages. I think we need to change our attitude in America towards those women that choose to continue helping thier children grow healthily.

  2. I have heard about a study that says that human breast milk has the ability to fight cancer. Should we drink human milk throughout our lives? link to an approximate source:

  3. havok43v3r = stuart walker

  4. Okay, I can understand maybe 2 years of breastfeeding, but any longer than that seems to go against babies natural developmental cycles. Of course, many people disagree with Freud and many people don’t, however he does point out that we exhibit our oral stage until, I think 2 or 3. That being said, there are many other stage theorists that support a shift in development around that same age as well. If that is true, which I do believe so myself, then its best to probably end the breastfeeding no later than 24 months. Because even if it might do good health wise, they may be held back developmental, socially, and physiologically. Just imagine, a 3 or 4 year old being breastfed and taken care of their mama, when all the other kids are learning to take initiative and ask their mothers for their bottle or even a cup. This breastfeeding clearly would be stagnating to the kid being able to grow up at the rate of everyone else.

    Reuben Cousin

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