Breastfeeding in Sickness and in Health, Even Past Infancy

July 30th, 2011 by Dionna | 12 Comments
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Carnival and Special Series, Compassionate Advocacy, Feed with Love and Respect, Healthy Living, Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy, natural parenting

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Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about the importance of breastfeeding. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!

Today I am happy to host a guest post by Amanda. Amanda is a pediatric RN and the mama of two. Here is her breastfeeding guest post, number 36 in our “Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy” series:

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I knew I would breastfeed. I couldn’t imagine not doing what comes naturally.

As a pediatric RN, I had also taken some classes on breastfeeding and was amazed at everything that breastmilk does for the child throughout life. The immune benefits alone are incredible and unmatched by any formula. What a miracle to learn that if I get sick or am exposed to something, my breast milk produces antibodies to that specific sickness so that my baby will be better able to fight everything we are exposed to. AMAZING!

And even better? This miracle doesn’t stop when babies start to walk – your child will continue to receive health benefits from your breastmilk for as long as she nurses.

I was very committed to breastfeeding for at least six months, but I had not heard a lot about extended breastfeeding. When he turned six months, neither of us were ready to stop nursing, so we didn’t. Once he turned a year old and was still nursing, I felt pressure from friends and family to quit. At that point I only did it at home, and only in the morning and at night, to avoid having to defend myself. I eventually weaned him at seventeen months.

Six months later I found out I was pregnant with number two. Shortly thereafter, I was talking about breastfeeding with a friend who had been stationed in Japan for a few years. She said that Japanese mothers only give their babies breastmilk for a full year. The Japanese women told her the only reason that giving food at six months is encouraged in the United States is for convenience for the mom.

I decided to do some research and discovered that most world health organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding (no other food or drink) for the first six months of life.1 The World Health Organization actually recommends nursing until at least the age of two years!2 And contrary to popular advice, it is not at all necessary to introduce cow milk to toddlers at a year of age – or ever!3 I was very surprised by all of this.

So I decided I would exclusively nurse for longer than six months. For the first six months I nursed my daughter approximately every two hours to keep my milk supply up. We nursed a little less often after that, but she still refused a bottle, so I was literally tied to her for a whole year. But it was completely worth it.

Of course, most of my friends did not approve. Even the ones who breastfed thought I was doing it too long. I had plenty of people constantly telling me to “give her some food already.” I would just smile and say she was getting plenty of “food” from me. My husband, thankfully, was very supportive, and he loved the money-saving aspect since we got to skip baby food completely.

When she turned a year old I started pureeing veggies and fruits in my magic bullet and giving her those in addition to the breast milk. She is fifteen months now and we are happily still nursing.

Of course we continue to get looks from people who can’t believe that I am “still” nursing her. I am not going to let them get to me this time, however, because I know I am doing what is best for both of us. She cannot get the specific immune system support from anything or anyone else.


Breastfeeding past infancy is full of laughter, joys, and heartbreaking tenderness. I am publishing a series of posts dedicated to the beauty of nursing children past infancy in an effort to normalize this healthy and beneficial nursing relationship. But this isn’t just about me – I want to hear YOUR joys. If you are nursing a child who is older than one year, please contact me and tell me about your favorite moments. I will include them in the series and credit you, your site, or post it anonymously if you so desire. (This series was formerly called “The Joys of Breastfeeding a Toddler.” I changed the name to reflect the fact that we are celebrating women who breastfeed past infancy, regardless of the age of the nursling.)

Here are more post by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

12 Responses to:
"Breastfeeding in Sickness and in Health, Even Past Infancy"

  1. Jennifer

    Breastfeeding a toddler is so worth it. Besides the immune benefit, nursing is great for helping with the frustrations of toddlerhood.

    I am going on 4+ years nursing my oldest, tandem nursing for 9 months with baby sister.

  2. Camille   camilleta

    It’s so surprising how much pressure you start getting to wean starting at 6 months – a year. I’m still nursing my 2 and a half year old. My husband has been know to say “Thank God for breastfeeding!” when it nips a terrible twos tantrum in the bud. We both just LOVE the fact that she’s never been sick with more than a minor cold. The most special thing about extended nursing is she can tell me just how much she appreciates it. “Nursies make me feel better.” “Mommy, can I nurse you, please?” Melts my heart! It’s so hard to deal with the criticism though so sometimes I wish she would wean soon. It makes me so mad at society for making me need to either not do what’s best for my daughter or experience stress and judgment every day for my actions. But my mom got through it and I will too. She breastfed me until I was 7, 4 years of that was tandeming with my brother! She’s my breastfeeding hero and she inspires me to keep going. That and the happy I-just-nursed smiles I get from my daughter. =)

  3. Kathleen B

    Keep up the incredible work, mama! Nursed my first 26 months. 1yr and going strong with my second. If your friends are judgy they’ll get over it or get gone :) I had gestational diabetes with my first but not my second because of that awesome bf’ing relationship! I thank my mother in law & my husband for all their support.

  4. Lacey Jane   LaceyJane

    I LOVE this series! Every time a new one is post I save it for future reading. I am pregnant with my first and plan on nursing for as long as possible. Keep it up!!

  5. Elta

    I firmly believe in letting the child ween themselves. My first boy nursed till 2.5yrs and my second nursed till 20 mons ~ both just up and quit one day. One must go with the feeling that you are doing the best thing for your baby and you and the babe will and should enjoy it as long as it lasts.

  6. Gaby @ Tmuffin   tmuffindotcom

    A toddler still feels like such a baby… I’m so surprised people think it’s weird to nurse a toddler. And I totally get the food thing! My first son had an immature digestive system and just didn’t really eat until 12 months. I felt pressure to give him food. I felt like there was something wrong with him (or me). At daycare, they would ask me, “Maybe he would sleep a little better if his belly was full?” And I would watch the 10 month olds sitting in high chairs, holding their bottles and eating rice crispies with milk out of bowls, and think “that is so not us.” Baby T didn’t really eat solids until after a year either–he just wasn’t interested. He’s still a picky eater, but it was so comforting knowing I was giving him so many nutrients and antibodies in my breastmilk.

  7. Jess   theloushe

    I was so psyched to see that the image you used is my youngest son! He was 2 years, 4 months old when I took the photo, and I made it available through flickr’s creative commons because I believe it’s important for images of nursing toddlers to be seen. :o) He nursed until 3 years, 3 months old. While I’m not an advocate of 100% child-led weaning, I do believe that a mother can find ways to meet both her needs and her child’s needs.

    It’s ridiculous that many people think it’s “extreme” to nurse beyond 6 months of age. The World Health Organization recommends a MINIMUM of two years. With good social support, this is attainable for most mothers and babies, and can play a valuable role in their lives that goes far beyond physical nutrition.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thanks so much for making your photo available for me to share – I agree, it is important for people to see images of nursing toddlers!

  8. I’m bothered by this story. Not the fact that you nursed for so long – I strongly support each mother being able to make her own choice in this regard – but the fact that you delayed solid food so late. I really don’t think this is a good thing to be advocating. Sure, health organisations all advocate delaying solids until six months – but none of them advocate deliberately delaying solids to one year.

    I’ve read quite a bit about this, and all the evidence suggests that a baby’s iron and zinc stores are likely to be running low by around six months. While the iron in breastmilk is in a form that can be very easily absorbed, you can’t absorb more than is there and the small quantities in breastmilk mean that even with excellent absorption the baby just isn’t going to get that much.

    One paper I read (I’ll dig out the reference if you like) calculated the time that a baby’s iron stores, supplemented by the iron absorbed from breast milk, would be likely to last, and found that even in optimum circumstances – a full-term baby, mother has full iron stores in her own system (which is less common than you might think), and umbilical cord clamping delayed for some minutes after birth to get optimal amount of blood through to the baby – the iron stores would still be expected to have run out by about eight months, and the baby would need more iron after that than could be obtained just from breastmilk, even allowing for how well the iron in breastmilk is absorbed.

    Obviously, there is variation between individual babies. Some babies are going to want less solid food at this age, some more, a few are going to get on very well with leaving it a while after six months (conversely, and more controversially, I believe that a few really are going to need solids sooner than six months). But I do *not* think it is at all a good idea to be trying to nourish your baby on *nothing but* breastmilk for an entire year. By all means continue to give the breastmilk, but the evidence I’ve read suggests that babies are going to need something to supplement it. I’m worried about the advice you’ve given here, and sincerely hope nobody thinks it a good idea to follow it.

    By the way, starting solids at six months also enables you to avoid the baby food stage altogether. By then, babies can hold food, bite it, and learn to chew it for themselves. Google ‘baby-led weaning’ for more information on this. (The word ‘weaning’ here is used in the British sense of first starting solid food, not in the US sense of stopping or cutting back on breastfeeding.)

    • Amy   Peace4Parents

      As I read all of the various opinions, experiences, and research on breastfeeding I find one commonality – those in favor are speaking to the life giving connection between mother and child. It goes deeper than breast milk, like the Bible reference that we do not live on bread alone (now, don’t shoot me because I brought up the Bible)!

      I feel our babies benefit from us watching them for signs of readiness – rather than adhering to strict schedules of introducing or delaying food. Parents who are not as comfortable watching baby for signs may feel more swayed to go by suggested standards, whatever culture they are in.

      Each baby is unique. If a baby has some teeth and is very interested in food, she may be ready to gradually be introduced to solid foods. This depends on her response and her ability to assimilate what she is eating. Some babies cannot mash and swallow what they eat, or may have sensitivities that indicate waiting a month or more may be helpful.

      The first few months of introducing solids are much of an exploration of food for many babies rather than a big addition of nutrition; again this depends on the child and how much they really eat.

      My first three children did not show interest until around 6-8 months and didn’t really begin eating on their own until 9-12 months (where they could pick up pieces of soft, mashable food off of a tray). Our 11 month old is different – she wanted food earlier and was able to mash it earlier. She is offered breast milk and then food. It is more of a free flow eating and breastfeeding experience than a hard and fast “it must or must not be this much by this time” of her life.

      Watching our babies for readiness and gradual introduction of food is beneficial for everyone – baby’s needs are met and the parents get to adjust to baby’s growing autonomy and independence gradually.

    • Julia @ A Little Bit of All of It   JuliaLittleBit

      Baby-Led Weaning is a great way to introduce solids and is what I started using with my daughter a little after 7 months. I found using this method my daughter actually ingested very little food so I’m guessing it most likely did not add much iron, if any, to her diet. I never personally worried about her iron intake since she was breastfeeding on cue and I trusted that she was getting all she needed. I do think that if this is a real concern for anyone, that a simple blood test could easily alleviate any fears. This link has some information about delayed cord clamping and links to a study showing that this is definitely beneficial, as you alluded to, for children’s iron stores.

  9. Sarah   Sarah_the_doula

    Great post, Amanda! I think women will always have to deal with getting the ‘look’ from others as they nurse their over one year old child. Just the other day I was talking to a mother who struggled with her family giving her the look and convincing her to stop nursing her 15 month old. Sadly, she complied. That child is now 5 and she still struggles with it. Good for you for persevering in what you know to be right.
    I agree with Amy in the benefit of waiting until baby is ready for solids. With my first daughter, my pedi recommended starting her on infant cereal at 4 months. She was so not ready, but I did. With my second, he suggested the same time line, but I held off until I thought she was ready. We had a much better experience. Babies tell you when they are ready for new things and waiting until they are ready is so important. The benefits of breast milk, especially exclusive breast milk, can only be good! :)

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