There is always controversy when it comes to the benefits of breastfeeding past infancy. This was a hard subject to research because there are so many conflicting documents out there. One side says this, the other says that. So I tried my best to narrow down the info they all seem to agree on.
I want to say something first before you start reading what Ive found.
Breastfeeding your child is a challenge in itself. There are SO many misconceptions and obstacles that breastfeeding mothers face that others do not. We are harassed in public by strangers and harassed in private by friends and family. Breastfeeding is biologically normal for all mammals. There is nothing disgusting, wrong or sexual about it. There is no ‘set’ length of time that you have to breastfeed in. This is not a race and it is not something you just give up on one day. Your child and you benefit from any length of time you breastfeed be it 1 day 3 months or 7 years.
It is no one else’s business or right to tell you when you should breastfeed, where you should breastfeed or for how long you should breastfeed. You are feeding your child. That in it self is the most important factor to breastfeeding. You need to find people who will support you and stand behind your choice to breastfeed past infancy and into toddler-hood and beyond. And to those who that try and bring you down to their level, dont fall into it. Smile and say “we will stop when baby is ready” and leave it at that. No need to argue with those who do not want to help.
Okay. Now lets get to the research!
This site has 101 Reasons to breastfeed. Print it off and carry it with you so that you can share it with those who ask ‘why?’
Duration of Exclusive Breastfeeding
The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant, a recommendation concurred to by the WHOand the Institute of Medicine.
Support for this recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding is found in the differences in health outcomes of infants breastfed exclusively for 4 vs 6 months, for gastrointestinal disease, otitis media, respiratory illnesses, and atopic disease, as well as differences in maternal outcomes of delayed menses and postpartum weight loss.
Compared with infants who never breastfed, infants who were exclusively breastfed for 4 months had significantly greater incidence of lower respiratory tract illnesses, otitis media, and diarrheal disease than infants exclusively breastfed for 6 months or longer.When compared with infants who exclusively breastfed for longer than 6 months, those exclusively breastfed for 4 to 6 months had a fourfold increase in the risk of pneumonia. Furthermore, exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months extends the period of lactational amenorrhea and thus improves child spacing, which reduces the risk of birth of a preterm infant.
The AAP is cognizant that for some infants, because of family and medical history, individual developmental status, and/or social and cultural dynamics, complementary feeding, including gluten-containing grains, begins earlier than 6 months of age. Because breastfeeding is immunoprotective, when such complementary foods are introduced, it is advised that this be done while the infant is feeding only breastmilk.Mothers should be encouraged to continue breastfeeding through the first year and beyond as more and varied complementary foods are introduced.
Breastfeeding results in improved infant and maternal health outcomes in both the industrialized and developing world. Major methodologic issues have been raised as to the quality of some of these studies, especially as to the size of the study populations, quality of the data set, inadequate adjustment for confounders, absence of distinguishing between “any” or “exclusive” breastfeeding, and lack of a defined causal relationship between breastfeeding and the specific outcome. In addition, there are inherent practical and ethical issues that have precluded prospective randomized interventional trials of different feeding regimens. As such, the majority of published reports are observational cohort studies and systematic reviews/meta-analyses.
To date, the most comprehensive publication that reviews and analyzes the published scientific literature that compares breastfeeding and commercial infant formula feeding as to health outcomes is the report prepared by the Evidence-based Practice Centers of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) of the US Department of Health Human Services titled Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries. The following sections summarize and update the AHRQ meta-analyses and provide an expanded analysis regarding health outcomes.
Respiratory Tract Infections and Otitis Media
The risk of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections in the first year is reduced 72% if infants breastfed exclusively for more than 4 months.Infants who exclusively breastfed for 4 to 6 months had a fourfold increase in the risk of pneumonia compared with infants who exclusively breastfed for more than 6 months. The severity (duration of hospitalization and oxygen requirements) of respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis is reduced by 74% in infants who breastfed exclusively for 4 months compared with infants who never or only partially breastfed.
Any breastfeeding compared with exclusive commercial infant formula feeding will reduce the incidence of otitis media (OM) by 23%. Exclusive breastfeeding for more than 3 months reduces the risk of otitis media by 50%. Serious colds and ear and throat infections were reduced by 63% in infants who exclusively breastfed for 6 months.
Gastrointestinal Tract Infections
Any breastfeeding is associated with a 64% reduction in the incidence of nonspecific gastrointestinal tract infections, and this effect lasts for 2 months after cessation of breastfeeding.
Meta-analyses of 4 randomized clinical trials performed over the period 1983 to 2005 support the conclusion that feeding preterm infants human milk is associated with a significant reduction (58%) in the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). A more recent study of preterm infants fed an exclusive human milk diet compared with those fed human milk supplemented with cow-milk-based infant formula products noted a 77% reduction in NEC. One case of NEC could be prevented if 10 infants received an exclusive human milk diet, and 1 case of NEC requiring surgery or resulting in death could be prevented if 8 infants received an exclusive human milk diet.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Infant Mortality
Meta-analyses with a clear definition of degree of breastfeeding and adjusted for confounders and other known risks for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) note that breastfeeding is associated with a 36% reduced risk of SIDS. Latest data comparing any versus exclusive breastfeeding reveal that for any breastfeeding, the multivariate odds ratio (OR) is 0.55 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.44–0.69). When computed for exclusive breastfeeding, the OR is 0.27 (95% CI, 0.27–0.31). A proportion (21%) of the US infant mortality has been attributed, in part, to the increased rate of SIDS in infants who were never breastfed. That the positive effect of breastfeeding on SIDS rates is independent of sleep position was confirmed in a large case-control study of supine-sleeping infants.
It has been calculated that more than 900 infant lives per year may be saved in the United States if 90% of mothers exclusively breastfed for 6 months. In the 42 developing countries in which 90% of the world’s childhood deaths occur, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and weaning after 1 year is the most effective intervention, with the potential of preventing more than 1 million infant deaths per year, equal to preventing 13% of the world’s childhood mortality.
There is a protective effect of exclusive breastfeeding for 3 to 4 months in reducing the incidence of clinical asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema by 27% in a low-risk population and up to 42% in infants with positive family history. There are conflicting studies that examine the timing of adding complementary foods after 4 months and the risk of allergy, including food allergies, atopic dermatitis, and asthma, in either the allergy-prone or nonatopic individual. Similarly, there are no convincing data that delaying introduction of potentially allergenic foods after 6 months has any protective effect.One problem in analyzing this research is the low prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months in the study populations. Thus, research outcomes in studies that examine the development of atopy and the timing of introducing solid foods in partially breastfed infants may not be applicable to exclusively breastfed infants.
There is a reduction of 52% in the risk of developing celiac disease in infants who were breastfed at the time of gluten exposure. Overall, there is an association between increased duration of breastfeeding and reduced risk of celiac disease when measured as the presence of celiac antibodies. The critical protective factor appears to be not the timing of the gluten exposure but the overlap of breastfeeding at the time of the initial gluten ingestion. Thus, gluten-containing foods should be introduced while the infant is receiving only breast milk and not infant formula or other bovine milk products.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Breastfeeding is associated with a 31% reduction in the risk of childhood inflammatory bowel disease. The protective effect is hypothesized to result from the interaction of the immunomodulating effect of human milk and the underlying genetic susceptibility of the infant. Different patterns of intestinal colonization in breastfed versus commercial infant formula–fed infants may add to the preventive effect of human milk.
Because rates of obesity are significantly lower in breastfed infants, national campaigns to prevent obesity begin with breastfeeding support. Although complex factors confound studies of obesity, there is a 15% to 30% reduction in adolescent and adult obesity rates if any breastfeeding occurred in infancy compared with no breastfeeding.The Framingham Offspring study noted a relationship of breastfeeding and a lower BMI and higher high-density lipoprotein concentration in adults.A sibling difference model study noted that the breastfed sibling weighed 14 pounds less than the sibling fed commercial infant formula and was less likely to reach BMI obesity threshold. The duration of breastfeeding also is inversely related to the risk of overweight; each month of breastfeeding being associated with a 4% reduction in risk.
The interpretation of these data is confounded by the lack of a definition in many studies of whether human milk was given by breastfeeding or by bottle. This is of particular importance, because breastfed infants self-regulate intake volume irrespective of maneuvers that increase available milk volume, and the early programming of self-regulation, in turn, affects adult weight gain. This concept is further supported by the observations that infants who are fed by bottle, formula, or expressed breast milk will have increased bottle emptying, poorer self-regulation, and excessive weight gain in late infancy (older than 6 months) compared with infants who only nurse from the breast.
Up to a 30% reduction in the incidence of type 1 diabetes mellitus is reported for infants who exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months, thus avoiding exposure to cow milk protein.It has been postulated that the putative mechanism in the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus is the infant’s exposure to cow milk β-lactoglobulin, which stimulates an immune-mediated process cross-reacting with pancreatic β cells. A reduction of 40% in the incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus is reported, possibly reflecting the long-term positive effect of breastfeeding on weight control and feeding self-regulation.
Childhood Leukemia and Lymphoma
There is a reduction in leukemia that is correlated with the duration of breastfeeding.A reduction of 20% in the risk of acute lymphocytic leukemia and 15% in the risk of acute myeloid leukemia in infants breastfed for 6 months or longer.Breastfeeding for less than 6 months is protective but of less magnitude (approximately 12% and 10%, respectively). The question of whether the protective effect of breastfeeding is a direct mechanism of human milk on malignancies or secondarily mediated by its reduction of early childhood infections has yet to be answered.
Consistent differences in neurodevelopmental outcome between breastfed and commercial infant formula–fed infants have been reported, but the outcomes are confounded by differences in parental education, intelligence, home environment, and socioeconomic status.The large, randomized Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial provided evidence that adjusted outcomes of intelligence scores and teacher’s ratings are significantly greater in breastfed infants. In addition, higher intelligence scores are noted in infants who exclusively breastfed for 3 months or longer, and higher teacher ratings were observed if exclusive breastfeeding was practiced for 3 months or longer. Significantly positive effects of human milk feeding on long-term neurodevelopment are observed in preterm infants, the population more at risk for these adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes.
WHO(World Heath Organization) – http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/exclusive_breastfeeding/en/
Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers. Review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, WHO and UNICEF recommend:WHO/NHD
- Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life
- Exclusive breastfeeding – that is the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water
- Breastfeeding on demand – that is as often as the child wants, day and night
- No use of bottles, teats or pacifiers
What is breastfeeding?Breastfeeding, also called nursing, can be an easy and inexpensive way for a mother to feed her child.According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Policy Statement on Breastfeeding, women who don’t have health problems should exclusively breastfeed their infants for at least the first six months of life. The AAP suggests that women try to breastfeed for the first 12 months of life because of the benefits to both the mother and baby.What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding offers many benefits to the baby:
- Breast milk provides the right balance of nutrients to help an infant grow into a strong and healthy toddler.
- Breastfed infants, and those who are fed expressed breast milk, have fewer deaths during the first year and experience fewer illnesses than babies fed formula.
- Some of the nutrients in breast milk also help protect an infant against some common childhood illnesses and infections, such as diarrhea, middle ear infections, and certain lung infections.
- Some recent NICHD-supported research also suggests that breast milk contains important fatty acids (building blocks) that help an infant’s brain develop. Two specific fatty acids, known as DHA and AA, may help increase infants’ cognitive skills. Many types of infant formulas available in the United States are fortified with DHA and AA, and all formula available for preterm infants is fortified with these fatty acids.
Breastfeeding also benefits the mother:
- In response to the baby’s sucking, the mother’s body releases a hormone that makes her uterus contract and get smaller.
- Many mothers also get emotional benefits from breastfeeding because of the closeness of this interaction with the baby and from the satisfaction of helping to nourish their babies.
- Some research suggest that mothers who breastfeed their babies have fewer episodes of post-delivery depression.
- There is evolving evidence to indicate that certain types of cancer (such as breast, uterus, and ovarian cancer) occur less often in mothers who have breastfed their babies.
- Many societies and cultures also encourage mothers to breastfeed, which can offer support to a new mother.