Breastfeeding for longer than a year – myths, facts, and what the research really shows

Welcome to the April Carnival of Breastfeeding!  For this month, the organisers have picked a delightfully controversial topic – extended breastfeeding.  It's one on which I have plenty to say.

Extended breastfeeding is the term given, in our society, to breastfeeding a child beyond the first year.  An increasing number of women are choosing to do this, and, sadly, are more often than not incurring heated disapproval for doing so. Breastfeeding toddlers or older children is believed to make them overly dependent, mothers who do so are accused of thinking only of their own needs and not of their children (that ultimate indictment for mothers), and the practice is looked on as inappropriate and downright perverse.

Fortunately, it's now being increasingly recognised that this position is not supported by either logic or evidence.  Not only is there not a shred of evidence that breastfeeding beyond a year is harmful, there is positive evidence to reassure us on this score – the world is full of societies in which it is considered normal and expected behaviour to continue breastfeeding for considerably longer than a year, and the children raised thusly seem to be doing perfectly well on the practice.  It is, of course, hugely beneficial for children in developing countries where food can be scarce and malnutrition rife, and it has some potential benefits even in our affluent society – it can be a valuable source of nutrition for otherwise faddy toddlers, and it slightly reduces a mother's risk of breast cancer or rheumatoid arthritis.

I'm delighted to see it becoming more widely recognised that there is absolutely no reason why a mother should feel obliged to wean simply because an arbitrary date on the calendar is approaching.  However, there's a twist to this; the pressure is starting to go the other way.  A small but vocal minority are pushing for breastfeeding past a year to be seen not merely as an option for women who want to do so, but as a goal for everyone to aim for.  Breastfeeding a toddler (or older child) is enthusiastically touted as having a host of physical and psychological benefits.  Lactivists are advising mothers that they should do their best to continue nursing until two years at the very least, and preferably longer (nursing until the child decides spontaneously to stop is held up as the ideal).  And the problem is that there really isn't any decent evidence to support this attempted move towards yet another blanket parenting 'should'. 

I'm not objecting, here, to an individual woman deciding that there may be particular circumstances in her child's case – deprived circumstances, an unusual health problem, or even just food faddiness – that might lead to her wanting to continue to breastfeed in hopes that it will be of some benefit.  Also, of course, I'm talking specifically about the situation in the developed world here, not about breastfeeding in developing countries where it is indeed likely to remain beneficial for long past infancy.  My objection is to the claims that extended breastfeeding has been shown to be of general benefit even in situations where other sources of nutrition are plentiful.  It hasn't.  And while this kind of pro-extended-breastfeeding advocacy has been a huge comfort to plenty of women who, having struggled with the pressure from others to wean before they wish to, now feel vindicated, it's also putting some women in the position of feeling obliged to nurse for longer than they really want to, in the belief that they'll be somehow depriving or disadvantaging their children if they don't.  That is not a trend I want to see.

That position, of course, is controversial enough in lactivist circles that it'll need some defending; to break up what's now set to be a very long post, I'm going to go for the 'Debate With Imaginary Opponent' format.

What do you mean, there's no evidence that nursing past a year is beneficial?  Are you trying to claim that a fluid so packed with nutrition, antibodies, and general goodness somehow magically loses all its benefits just because a child has passed the age of one?

Of course not.  What happens is that the child gradually grows, develops and reaches the point where breast milk just doesn't have anything much further to add.  (Just to clarify, in case anyone was forgetting how I began this post, I'm fine with children continuing to nurse after that point if they and their mothers so wish.   All I'm objecting to is the claim that they should continue to nurse, which I don't agree with any more than the claim that they should stop.)

But there's plenty of evidence that breasfeeding is beneficial to toddlers.  For starters, one study by Gulick (1) showed that breastfed toddlers between 16 and 30 months old get sick less often than non-breastfed toddlers and get better more quickly when they do…

No, it didn't.

Huh?

It didn't.  Although lactivist websites all over the Internet claim that that study shows a decreased rate of infections in breastfed toddlers between 16 and 30 months old, it actually shows nothing of the sort.  I know this because I've got hold of a copy of the study and read it for myself.  The toddlers being studied weren't breastfed toddlers – they were toddlers who'd been breastfed in the past but had stopped breastfeeding before entering the study.  What the study was actually looking at was whether longer duration of breastfeeding during infancy had any benefit in terms of reducing infection rates in toddlerhood after breastfeeding cessation.  (It didn't, in case you're interested; at least, not in that study.)  Somehow, someone has managed to utterly and crashingly misreport what the study was into and what it showed, and lactivists across the Internet have simply repeated this misinformation without question.  It's one of the biggest breastfeeding myths I've seen out there.

Well, come on – what about the other studies on the topic?  Look – Kellymom has a whole list of studies showing the immunological benefits to breastfed toddlers!

One of those is a study set in a developing country, showing benefit to children who are severely malnourished children.  As I said, breastfeeding can indeed be beneficial past infancy in such a setting, but it just isn't valid to assume that those results will be applicable to children living in our relatively privileged Western settings.  One wasn't even studying toddlers – it was a study of breastfeeding benefits in babies up to the age of 20 weeks, which is not toddlerhood by any remote stretch of the imagination.  The rest, as far as I can see, all just look at concentrations of antibodies in breastmilk of mothers of nursing toddlers, not at whether those antibodies are actually adding anything to the toddler's own antibodies when it comes to fighting off infections. 

Oh, come on.  Surely all those antibodies have to be doing something.

Not necessarily.  Bear in mind that a child's own immune system also develops rapidly during the early years, and at some point it's going to reach the stage where breast milk just doesn't have a lot else to contribute.

That surely can't be as early as a year, though.  I can't believe that breastmilk doesn't still have some benefit to children older than that.

You're welcome to believe what you like.  It's the claim that it's been proved to be beneficial that I'm objecting to.

So have you any evidence that it isn't?

In the one study I have been able to find on infection rates in breastfed vs. non-breastfed toddlers – a study in New Zealand that followed over a thousand children up to the age of two, looking at respiratory and gastrointestinal infections – breastfeeding didn't show any benefit in toddlers, or for that matter, in older babies (2).  Of course, there are flaws in every study, and I can think of several possible reasons why this one might have underestimated results enough to miss a small but genuine benefit, but it does seem to me that, if that's the case, we can't be talking about that great a benefit.  And, frankly, when the one study we have on the subject shows a complete lack of any benefit, I don't really think that the people claiming evidence of benefit are on solid ground.

But, what about the other benefits for breastfed toddlers?  Just look at the way that it helps an upset or tantrumming toddler to calm down.

I agree that that can be a wonderful convenience of breastfeeding.  However – and feel free to take this or leave it as you like, because we are temporarily stepping out of the realm of objective scientific evidence and into that of my own opinion – I do have my doubts as to whether it's a good idea to do so.  After all, what message does it send children when we regularly and repeatedly teach them to turn to a sweet-tasting food source at times when they need comfort?  I wouldn't use any other form of food or drink to distract my child from a tantrum, because that's not the message I want to be giving to my children about how food should be used; it's not encouraging healthy eating habits.  Why should I make an exception for breastfeeding?  I tried to avoid doing so, for both my children.  Just because something is the most convenient way to calm an upset child doesn't mean it's necessarily the best way in the long term.

But it has psychological benefits over and beyond just calming tantrums.  Breastfeeding for longer actually helps children become more independent!

No evidence for that claim.

Look, Jack Newman says so!  And Elizabeth Baldwin!

And they're entitled to their opinion on the matter.  However, I don't see any reason why I should automatically believe it, any more than I should automatically believe the equally unreferenced opinions of the doctors who claim that longer breastfeeding makes children more dependent.  Either way, they're opinions, which are not the same thing as evidence.

 But there is evidence!  Check out this quote on Kellymom's site – 'One study that dealt specifically with babies nursed longer than a year showed a significant link between the duration of nursing and mothers' and teachers' ratings of social adjustment in six- to eight-year-old children' (3).  Or are you trying to claim that that study's being misrepresented as well?

Oh, not with the kind of spectacular degree of inaccuracy as the study by Gulick we discussed above.  However, that quote makes the results sound far more impressive than they were.  We're not told that the differences found were very small, that they showed up in only one of the several measures of psychosocial adjustment that were tested, that adjusting for other factors eliminated practically all the difference found in the teachers' ratings, or that the researchers themselves were pretty unimpressed by their results.  To quote from their conclusion: 'In general the evidence above gives only very weak support for the view that breastfeeding makes a significant contribution to later social adjustment.  The research findings tend to be both inconsistent over time and between measurement sources and at best suggest a very small association between breastfeeding and subsequent social adjustment.  Further it is more than likely that even the small and inconsistent associations that have been reported could have arisen from factors which have not been controlled in the analysis.'  As evidence goes, I have to say that that doesn't really strike me as compelling enough to justify trying to persuade women to continue breastfeeding if they don't want to.

So what about all the other studies listed on Kellymom?  Showing that breastfed toddlers suffer from fewer allergies and have higher IQs?

I've checked all five of the papers she lists as supposedly backing up her claim about reduced allergies in breastfed toddlers (full text of four of them, the abstract of the other), and none of them are about toddlers.  They're all looking at breastfeeding in infancy.  In fact, one of them (a review rather than a study) actually mentions in passing that the existing research shows 'some suggestions' that longer breastfeeding may be related to an increase in allergy risk.

When it came to the studies on breastfeeding and intelligence, after a while I simply gave up.  The only study I did manage to find that looked at breastfeeding over a year didn't find any substantial difference in intelligence or school performance between children breastfed for that length of time and children who stopped shortly before that – longer duration of breastfeeding was initially associated with a slight increase in intelligence level, but then the effect leveled out.  (That one's not available on line, but you might be interested in checking out this one by Mortensen et al that Kellymom also links to, which also studied the association between intelligence and breastfeeding duration and reached a similar conclusion – initially the increased duration of breastfeeding was associated with slight improvement on the intelligence scales, but the effect then levelled off, with children breastfed for longer than nine months having scores no better than those breastfed for 7 – 9 months.) 

I checked several other studies on her list which, again, all turned out to be follow-ups on breastfed babies, not children breastfed past a year.  So, as I say, I gave up.  Checking all the studies she lists would have taken forever and I'm afraid there are limits to the amount of time and effort even I can put in to checking references from someone who's clearly such an unreliable source of information.  (And, before anyone gets offended at me dissing Kellymom, I do actually think she's a great source of information when it comes to dealing with breastfeeding problems; I've just found her to be appallingly bad at giving accurate information on any research dealing with any question in the general category of 'Is it possible that breastfeeding in circumstance X is anything less than incredibly beneficial?')

So, for all you know, there might be studies on her list that do show benefits of toddler breastfeeding and you just haven't seen them?

Well, if you find any, by all means let me know.  I mean that – I'd be interested to read them and happy to spread the word about them.  But, until I actually see a decent-quality study providing good evidence that breastfeeding past a year is actively beneficial for children, I'm not going to tell women it is.  And, given how many studies are being erroneously cited as showing benefits of toddler breastfeeding when they show nothing of the sort – frankly, I think my scepticism about the existence of any studies that do show benefits is completely excusable.

Well, I don't care!  I love breastfeeding my older child and I want to carry on whether or not you've found any studies proving that it's beneficial!  We're both enjoying it, and that's benefit enough!

EXACTLY!  And that's the ONLY reason you need.  You don't need to prove that it's in some way superior to what all the other mothers are doing.  You don't need to score Good Motherhood points on some imaginary scale to justify your choice to others.  You just need the confidence to believe that it's OK and that it's what works for you.  Enjoy nursing your toddler or older child, accept that mothers who have made a different choice from you are doing just as well by their child and shouldn't be conned into nursing for longer than they want to, and support every mother in the choice she makes on the matter, in the knowledge that, as far as we can see from the available evidence, nursing or not nursing a child of that age are equally good options to go for and thus we can happily leave this one in the realm of personal preference where it belongs.

 

References

1. Gulick E. The Effects of Breastfeeding on Toddler Health.  Pediatric Nursing 1986; 12(1): 51 – 4. 

2. Fergusson D.M., Horwood L.J., Shannon F.T., and Taylor B.  Breast-feeding, gastrointestinal and lower respiratory illness in the first two years.  Australian Paediatric Journal 1981; 17: 191 – 5.

3. Fergusson D.M., Horwood L.J., and Shannon F.T.  Breastfeeding and subsequent social adjustment in six- to eight-year-old children.  Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 1987; 28(3): 378 – 86.

 

Do come and check out the other links in the Carnival!

Mamapoeki from Authentic Parenting: Extended Breastfeeding?

Mama Alvina of Ahava & Amara Life Foundation: Breastfeeding Journey Continues

Elita @ Blacktating: The Last Time That Never Was

Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC: Old enough to ask for it

Karianna @ Caffeinated Catholic Mama: A Song for Mama’s Milk

Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Favorite Moments

Tamara Reese @ Kveller: Extended Breastfeeding

Jenny @ Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: The Highs and Lows of Nursing a Toddler

Christina @ MFOM: Natural-Term Breastfeeding

Rebekah @ Momma’s Angel: My Sleep Breakthrough

Suzi @ Attachedattheboob: Why I love nursing a toddler

Claire @ The Adventures of Lactating Girl: My Hopes for Tandem Nursing

Elisa @ blissfulE: counter cultural: extended breastfeeding

Momma Jorje: Extended Breastfeeding, So Far!

Stephanie Precourt from Adventures in Babywearing: “Continued Breastfeeding”: straight from the mouths of babes

The Accidental Natural Mama: Nurse on, Mama

Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Gratitude for extended breastfeeding

Nikki @ On Becoming Mommy: The Little Things

Dr. Sarah @ Good Enough Mum: Breastfeeding for longer than a year: myths, facts and what the research really shows

Amy @ WIC City: (Extended) Breastfeeding as Mothering

The Artsy Mama: Why Nurse a Toddler?

Christina @ The Milk Mama: The best thing about breastfeeding

TopHot @ the bee in your bonnet: From the Mouths of Babes

Beth @ Bethstedman.com: Extended Breastfeeding: To Wean Or Not To Wean

Callista @ Callista’s Ramblings:  Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding

Amanda @ Postilius: Nursing My Toddler Keeps My Baby Close

Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes: Tandem Nursing- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Zoie @ Touchstone Z: Breastfeeding Flavors

Lauren @ Hobo Mama: Same old, same old: Extended breastfeeding

Tanya @ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Six misconceptions about extended breastfeeding

Jona (Breastfeedingtwins.org): Breastfeeding older twins

Motherlove Herbal Company: Five reasons to love nursing a toddler

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27 Comments

Filed under Milky milky, Sacred hamburger

27 responses to “Breastfeeding for longer than a year – myths, facts, and what the research really shows

  1. Christina

    Interesting perspective. I don’t know where you live, though, but honestly, I think you’re just wrong to say that “the pressure is starting to go the other way.” I haven’t seen any evidence of that, but you know what? If it does start to happen that there’s “pressure” on women to nurse to a natural term, then I would fully support it.

  2. Rather than supporting your claim that breastmilk is no longer beneficial after a certain point, it simply seems that there are too few studies of breastfed toddlers.

  3. Thanks for commenting, you two! Trying to type a very quick reply before having to go get the kids ready:
    Christina: The pressure has mostly been in attachment parenting/lactivist circles, where I have seen several women who are struggling with continued nursing or with a decision over whether or not to wean and who are clearly influenced in their choices by the misinformation they’ve been receiving about the supposed evidence for benefits of breastfeeding. I also see some people coming out with terms like ‘full-term nursing’, with the obvious implication (sometimes flat-out stated) that nursing for less than the ‘correct’ length of time is somehow ‘premature’ or inadequate. (Now there’s a nice little slap in the face for women who’ve struggled to breastfeed through earlier months…)
    What I would be very interested in hearing is your justification for your statement that you would support pressure on women to nurse for longer. Given the lack of any good evidence of benefit, which I’ve detailed above, why would you support a situation where women are feeling pressured to do something that they do not feel comfortable or OK with doing?
    Elisa: To clarify my position, it was not that we have absolute proof that nursing is of zero benefit after a certain age. (I thought I’d made that clear in the post, but, reading through, realised that my very last sentence did sound as though I thought that, and I have now edited it accordingly.)
    My position is a) that we have no evidence that it is, and b) it is not acceptable to be misinforming women by misrepresenting studies to them and claiming we have evidence that does not, in fact, exist. I believe I’ve justified the first statement adequately, though I’m happy to respond to any other points anyone would like me to; with regard to the second, I sincerely hope that that’s something that everyone reading can agree on.

  4. Ruth

    Excellent post. I’m all for breastfeeding, but there is little more tedious than the sanctimonious garbage people spout about it. It’s great to see the evidence assessed objectively rather than used to put forward a particular agenda.

  5. Heidi RN

    Wow, I just found a new favorite blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I am all for women breastfeeding as long as they or their kiddos want, but not for making claims about evidence that isn’t there.

  6. Rachelle

    I was just wondering if you have read anything from Kathy Dettwyler? http://www.kathydettwyler.org/dettwyler.html

  7. Rachelle – I sure have! Would be delighted to write a post about her work if anyone is interested. Any essays of hers in particular that you wanted me to respond to?
    Ruth, Heidi – Thanks!

  8. Amy

    This seems like a good place to get real information about breastfeeding while pregnant. I tend to think (no evidence, just logically) that it could be potentially detrimental to the growing embryo/fetus/baby. Isn’t that why pregnant breast-feeding mothers lose their milk after about the first trimester? Because all nutrients and fat is needed for the new baby? I have seen the ‘information’ on kellymom, but am not satisfied. I am asking for information because I genuinely love nursing my 8 month old. I want to have kids 2-3 years apart, but really want to nurse him at least 18-24 months. Could you direct me to any information on this? Does anyone feel this way? Because every time I ask in these circles, moms are very quick to say “it is completely healthy for the new baby” — well, probably, but where is the evidence. (Besides that all around the world, mothers do it all the times.) Thank you and blessings.

  9. Granny C

    Thanks for this monumental post. A really thorough and helpful guide. Huge amount of effort that I am sure will be appreciated by many.

  10. Hi Sarah,
    It’s Philip here from Cybercom, a digital agency based in Dublin, Ireland. We’ve been reading your blog and think you’d be a perfect partner to review and feature a range of upcoming skincare products – ideally suited to busy mums – which we’ll be handling. If you’re interested in collaborating and earning a few rewards, please get in touch by mailing philip (dot) byrne (at) cybercom (dot) ie. I look forward to hearing from you!
    Thanks
    Philip

  11. I appreciate the work you put in to researching this post

  12. Your post is quite impressive and stands out from the rest of the Carnival. I like that you present all your ideas objectively and with a research base. You are gifted in both presenting the facts and talking about them in a way that isn’t too scientific in order for the rest of the (non-scientific) world to understand.
    And, I agree with you that we don’t need to impose another “should” on the parenting world. We, mothers, have too many conventions and constraints already. If the science is not there to support breastfeeding past a certain point, then we shouldn’t pretend it is.
    As for me, I’m holding onto my breastfeeding days as long as I can (going on a year next week), but I do not judge anyone that weaned well before me.
    Thank you for the thoughtful, thought-provoking, unique, and carefully researched post!

  13. Zoie and Nikki – Thanks! Kind words greatly appreciated.

  14. Breast milk is known to be the perfect way to feed your child, it has the proper components that contribute on your child immunity and health, so is important to feed the child as much as you can. Me for example I nurse my little boy for about a year and then he stopped, he doesn’t want anymore although I wished to keep nursing him, maybe his organism knows better when is enough.

  15. While very well researched and composed, I don’t believe you mention that babies/toddlers under TWO years old require a mammal’s milk for optimal nutrition and early brain development. Just a thought.

  16. The Crunchy Lion: I didn’t mention it because I don’t see any evidence that it’s the case. Milk is a useful source of nutrition because it does have quite a wide range of different nutrients in it, but there are no known ingredients that occur only in milk and not in other foods. A toddler who is happy to eat a wide range of foods (yes, such creatures do exist! I had one!) is going to get all the nutrients she needs whether or not she drinks milk. And the studies I mentioned on IQ, showing a levelling off of the benefits after about nine months or so of nursing, indicate that it doesn’t make a particular difference to brain development, either. Children (like adults) require particular *nutrients*, but they have plenty of choice about where they get those nutrients from.

  17. You are incredible, and I seriously worship this blog. Thanks for this funny, astute and amazingly well-researched post.

  18. I identify with the Attachment Parenting style & am first to share with others that families need to do what works best for them. I am personally choosing to have my 20 month old son to wean himself when he is ready & it is a choice. I, too, have been researching toddler nursing studies and will share what I find. I just found one regarding the social aspect of how many nursing mothers feel ostracized by their choice to continue nursing which I feel often. We should be respected for our decision to nurse or not & for the length of time, regardless. http://jhl.sagepub.com/content/11/3/179.abstract I also have a website that sells natural/organic nursing tops, wraps, teething toys etc. Our Mission is to help mothers feel more empowered, confident, and lovingly connected with their children. Our vision is to create a space where mothers feel supported and welcomed into motherhood; a space where their voices are heard, their needs fulfilled, and their instincts validated. I even have a blog & want to mention your blog in my upcoming post. I look forward to sharing more. http://www.milkmommymilk.com/blog.asp

  19. There is a very good book called ‘Breastfeeding Older Children’ which is fully substantiated with links to research.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Breastfeeding-Older-Children-Ann-Sinnott/dp/1853439398
    And just about to be published – Psychologist Darcia Narvaez at University of Notre Dame launched her research results Sept/Oct 2010 and recommends a range of parenting practices, including breastfeeding for 5 years
    http://al.nd.edu/news/16831-research-shows-child-rearing-practices-of-distant-ancestors-foster-morality-compassion-in-kids/
    Though, as you say ‘You’re welcome to believe what you like’
    Lisa
    http://www.lactivist.co.uk

  20. I think one of the greatest modern disservices to mothers today is the censorship of breastfeeding photos on Facebook. This is similar to the insistence of some that nursing mothers go into a bathroom (a bathroom?!) to feed their child.
    Who eats in the bathroom, especially a public bathroom?
    Breastfeeding is beautiful, bonding, natural, healthy for child and mother, and to be encouraged. It’s very discouraging to have ignorance and repression working so hard to stop something so important.
    But you all already know that, don’t you?

  21. RN IBCLC MPH mama

    your post has a strong focus on picking apart what some lactivists cite as evidence promoting nursing to self-weaning. as a health care professional with a research background, i agree with your methodology, and agree that there is not enough high-quality research on this topic.
    you also advocate that moms should opt to wean at whatever age they find appropriate, and not feel pressured to wean earlier or later, because there is little/no evidence that nursing longer than one year is helpful to mom or child. and you point out that there is no evidence to show that nursing to self-weaning harms a child in any way, which is true.
    however, the main issue i have is that you don’t seem to start from assumption that breastfeeding is normal/baseline for human babies, toddlers and young children – that it’s how we’re biologically designed. you’re probably read the work of anthropologist kathy dettwyler by now, but here’s a link to a summary of her work just in case: http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html
    so instead of asking whether nursing for X length of time confers physical and/or psychological “benefits,” it makes more sense to assume that nursing to self-weaning is what’s normal for humans physically and psychologically. if/when studies are conducted on the topic, those studies should look at “extended” nursing as normal and expected, and investigate whether there are increased/decreased risks of health conditions, adverse attachment issues, etc when babies are weaned before they indicate readiness. nursing to self-weaning is what’s baseline.
    i understand that you feel that nursing to self-weaning is more important in developing countries than in developed countries. however, your perspective is an unproven hypothesis, just as i have the unproven hypothesis that nursing to self-weaning is still important in developed countries even if it’s more important in developing countries.
    similarly, your post includes a hypothesis about associating sweets with tantrums (which i find fascinating but disagree with for a few reasons). however, we would need evidence to prove this idea, as you mentioned. since reading your post, i have come up with a few hypotheses of my own about why your idea may not be true.

  22. Crys in OKC

    My baby turns one year old tomorrow and I am proud that I have been able to breastfeed for this long. However, with work getting in the way of my pumping, my supply is now dwindling. After reading your post I felt relieved and comforted. I have often felt that pressure to continue breastfeeding beyond 1 yr and that if I didn’t I’d be a bad mother.
    Honestly, I don’t think breastfeeding beyond 1-2yrs will have any effect on the child’s social/psychological behavior. It depends on how you raise and educate your child. I know a guy that was breastfed until he was five years old and he was an incorrigible womanizer, drug and alcohol abuser, until he got married to a controlling woman. What does that mean? People need to take responsibility of how a person develops by raising them properly. They won’t magically become a good, responsible and respectable person because they ate or drank something when they were babies.
    And as for the bonding…yes, I am sure breastfeeding helps, but it’s not the end-all way to bond with your child. My two cents.

  23. Avery Gilbert

    You are arguing that there is a lot of misinformation related to breastfeeding toddlers that is being shared widely on the web. Is there a reason you chose to illustrate your negative points exclusively with links to KellyMom.com? I would think that if what you are saying is true then you would have illustrated that point using multiple examples across multiple websites. As it is all I see that you have issues with the information presented on one website.

  24. Re: Avery… the thing is, much of the information about extended nursing benefits being shared across the Web is just the Kellymom info being repeated over and over in a kind of self-referential loop. Kellymom is cited a hell of a lot, which–I assume–is why GEM chose to focus on it.

  25. THANK YOU for this, especially for the bit about tantrums. My neighbor is breastfeeding her toddler, who, like all toddlers, is a difficult kid. When he wants to nurse, he shrieks and bangs his (substantial!) head against her sternum. If I’m still breastfeeding when my kid is closing in on two years old (doubtful, since I work outside the home), I can’t imagine accepting that sort of behavior and rewarding it with milk! You accept that sort of behavior in an infant because of course he doesn’t know any better, but by the time a kid is old enough to say or sign “please,” you don’t respond to a tantrum with a sweet drink. Keep up the skepticism!!

  26. Dr. M

    I sincerely appreciate the effort you’ve put into this post. Critical review of research is such a lost skill today, so many people believe the latest “pop-psychology”, evening news-research-headlines. I can say that across the pond, here in New York, I certainly feel the pressure from other Moms who brag that they breastfed until age two, three and even four (yikes!). As a school and child psychologist, I am trained to question the “evidence” critically and had begun to do so when I stumbled across your blog. Both my children started to lose interest in breastfeeding once solids were introduced and while my youngest is almost seven months (oldest just turned two), I am exhausted and wondering if I am putting them at a developmental disadvantage by allowing her to wean. As a scientist-practitioner, I am completely grateful for your blog and it is SO refreshing to see another woman health care professional who makes a factual argument rather than an emotional one. Thank you from Long Island, NY

  27. Jennifer Grattan

    Thank you for this. I’m currently tandem nursing a 2.5 year old and a 10 month old. I hate nursing my toddler and find myself in an awkward position because I have nursed him longer than most people do, but if I’m wanting to wean him now I’m also stepping outside the norms of the child-led weaning lactivists. This was just the support I need to be able to do what’s right for me (and my son, as I think our relationship has suffered due to my reluctant breastfeeding). Thank you.

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