Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

Extended Breastfeeding

on July 27, 2015

There has been a great deal of discussion, both in the press and on the internet, about breastfeeding children who are beyond infancy.  The articles have been generally supportive of the choice to breastfeed longer than the average age of weaning and have shared some of the anthropological data that suggests weaning between 2.5 – 7 years is the biological norm for humans.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Statement on breastfeeding, released in 1997, stated that women should be encouraged to breastfeed for at least 12 months and “as long thereafter as is mutually desired”.  In 1997, breastfeeding to a year was seen as extreme breastfeeding in most of mainstream North American and European society.  Breastfeeding beyond that age was considered weird, or worse.  Within La Leche League circles, from the beginning in 1957, the thinking was different as LLL philosophy states: “Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need”.

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Eighteen years after the AAP statement, it appears that not much has changed if one reads the on-line comments that follow any of the articles about extended breastfeeding.  The thing that has changed is that there are articles being published in mainstream magazines and online news sources which talk about breastfeeding beyond toddlerhood.  The fact that breastfeeding older children is being discussed outside of La Leche League meetings is bringing the idea into consciousness of many more people.  Some people will still be horrified by the idea, but many more will be surprised, yet accepting and curious about something they have never considered.

On a more personal level, each of us has to decide how and if we are going to talk about breastfeeding our own babies beyond a year (if we chose to do so).  Who you tell and whether you talk about extended breastfeeding depends on your social circle and your own comfort with having the discussions that may ensue. Talking about your own experience can enhance the knowledge of normal breastfeeding within your community but, sadly, it may also bring down criticism on you and your child.  Only you can decide when to talk about your breastfeeding choices and your decision may change depending on the timing and the situation.

Breastfeeding is not a competition to see who can breastfeed the longest, nor is longer term breastfeeding a badge of honour that makes one mother better than another.  Breastfeeding should continue for as long as is “mutually desired” making it up to the mother and child to figure out what is right for them, at that time in their lives, and in their particular circumstances.

The bottom line?  Breastfeed for as long as is right for you and your child and talk about it, or not, as fits your circumstances.

If you have questions about breastfeeding or weaning at any age please contact a La Leche League Leader or attend a group meeting. Your choices about breastfeeding and parenting will be supported.

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If you are curious about some of the articles posted on-line, below are links to some of the better ones. La Leche League Canada takes no responsibility for the comments and discussions that follow some of these articles.

The Quiet Underground Is Quiet No More http://www.kathleenkendall-tackett.com/editorial_3-3.pdf

What’s Right About A 6-Year-Old Who Breast-Feeds http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2015/01/15/377384587/what-s-right-about-a-six-year-old-who-breastfeedsHere

A Natural Age of Weaning  http://icpa4kids.org/Wellness-Articles/a-natural-age-of-weaning.html

http://www.lllc.ca/thursday-tip-should-we-be-talking-about-extended-breastfeeding

Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants, a joint statement by Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada “Support breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond, as long as mother and child want to continue.”

http://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/nutrition-healthy-term-infants-6-to-24-months

If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to an accredited La Leche League Leader.  In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking http://www.lllc.ca/find-group or Internationally http://www.llli.org/

 

If you have found this article helpful, La Leche League Canada would appreciate your support in the form of a donation at http://www.lllc.ca/ so we can continue to help others breastfeed. Thank you!

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