A common belief about extended breastfeeding is that the quality of a mother’s milk declines the longer her child continues to nurse. Parents often question if toddlers really benefit from prolonged breastfeeding, as their nutritional needs begin to be met by solid foods; however, mothers who do breastfeed beyond a year know intuitively that their children are not only socially and emotionally more secure, but they are healthy. Science backs up what moms already know.
According to “Fat and Energy Contents of Expressed Human Breast Milk in Prolonged Lactation” published in Pediatrics in 2005,
Conclusions. Human milk expressed by mothers who have been lactating for >1 year has significantly increased fat and energy contents, compared with milk expressed by women who have been lactating for shorter periods. During prolonged lactation, the fat energy contribution of breast milk to the infant diet might be significant.
Only 34 mothers were involved in the study that had been lactating for over a year, and 27 mothers served as control subjects; however, this is the first study to systematically analyze “the fat and energy contents of HM after prolonged breastfeeding”. All of the women had a similar diet (Mediterranean), although there was one vegetarian, thus the researchers did not study diet or suspect it altered the results.
The authors conclude:
We must point out that, at the present time, the official policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics is not to put any limit on the duration of lactation.1 Moreover, a recent review of biological versus cultural aspects of weaning suggested that, from an anthropologic standpoint based on primates studies, “breastfeeding a child for 2.5 to 7 years is normal for our species.”
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