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"Breast-feeding a 3-year-old is normal, anthropologist says"

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http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-05-11/breastfeeding-rates/54909940/1

Breast-feeding a 3-year-old is normal, anthropologist says

Despite a breast-feeding brouhaha kicked off last week by a Time magazine cover photo of a mom nursing her 3-year-old son, that's actually the norm worldwide, experts say. But in the United States, breast-feeding children that old is practiced among a tiny sliver of mothers.

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Some online are calling it "perverted" and "dangerous" to nurse a 3-year-old, but "it's normal for our species," says Katherine Dettwyler, a professor of anthropology at the University of Delaware in Newark.

"It's not perverted, it's not sex, it's not women doing it for some perverse need," she says. "It's normal like a nine-month pregnancy is normal."

Dettwyler, who has published studies on breast-feeding, found that most children around the world are breast-fed for three to five years or longer.

That's a sharp contrast with babies in the United States. Numbers for 2011 show that about three-quarters of American babies are breast-fed at birth. By 6 months old, 44% are still being breast-fed, and by 12 months just 24% are, says Laurence Grummer-Strawn, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's nutrition branch.

The number of moms who breast-feed two years and beyond in the United States isn't known because the data come from a survey done of 18-month-old babies. But Ruby Roy, a pediatrician at La Rabida Children's Hospital in Chicago, says that it's more common than might be believed, and that moms are just hiding it.

"There's so much negative social attitude that we just can't know," Roy says. "But I have had many women in my practice tell me that they are breast-feeding to two or three years. They're doing a night nursing before the baby goes to bed, or in the morning — but they're not going to tell anyone."

The World Health Organization recommends breast-feeding "up to two years of age or beyond." The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that "babies should continue to breast-feed for a year and for as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby."

When Dettwyler studied 1,280 U.S. children whose mothers nursed them for more than three years, she found they were "perfectly fine and they didn't need therapy and they didn't think they were having sex with their mothers."

The children were nursed between three and nine years, with half being weaned between ages 3 and 4. The mothers tended to be middle- and upper-class women, the majority of whom were highly educated and worked outside of the home.

"This is not the stereotype of the Earth Mother nursing the child until he's 5, and she also grows her own cotton and weaves her own diapers," Dettwyler says.

Multiple studies show that breast-feeding is beneficial for both mother and infant. Breast milk contains immune factors that protect children against infection while their own immune system is still developing.

There also appears to be a programming effect on the body such that babies who nursed have lower rates of disease long after they are weaned.

Overall, studies have shown that breast-fed babies have lower rates of ear infections, eczema, diarrhea, lower respiratory tract infections, sudden infant death syndrome, obesity, leukemia and childhood diabetes.

Mothers who breast-feed have lower rates of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, says Grummer-Strawn. The longer they breast-feed, the lower their rates, he says.

It's also possible that we evolved to nurse children until they're around 5 or 6, says Dettwyler. Breast milk is one of the only sources of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that build brain tissue, she says.

It isn't until age 5 or 6 that "95% of brain growth has been reached, and that's also about the time that the child's immune system is ramped up to full production," she says.

by on Jan. 25, 2013 at 10:51 AM
Replies (11-20):
Eliots_momma
by Jessica on Jan. 25, 2013 at 12:54 PM
1 mom liked this

 I love being in the minority:)  I wish more people truly understood the importance of bm and had the support to reach there goals. I promised my little one before he was born that he would get the breast bc it is what is best !   TFS!!

Madisonsmommy1
by Member on Jan. 25, 2013 at 1:07 PM
Great article but I couldn't see myself breastfeeding my kids that long for one my kids go to school at 3. Yes it's breast is best for our kids but that's me I would never breastfeed that long. I know my 5 month old is not gonna wanna give it up but that's what a cup is for. I am going to a yr idk about 2 yrs we will see when that time comes. I know I will be bashed for this but it's ok bc I am my kids mother not anymore else. My kids are happy n healthy n not all nursing mothers go past a yr n for the ones who do then congratulations that's great. I don't call myself selfish I just don't n won't breastfeed at the age of 3
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aehanrahan
by Group Mod - Amy on Jan. 25, 2013 at 2:45 PM
3 moms liked this

I LOVE that we have Kathy Dettwyler and her research to fall back on to show that nursing past infancy and toddlerhood is NORMAL! The fact that the immune system isn't fully developed is one of the reasons why my goal is to keep going until my son can no longer latch due to his adult teeth starting to come in. He's 5, so I suspect that will be within the next year.

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jadsmummy
by on Jan. 25, 2013 at 2:48 PM
1 mom liked this


Thank you! 

Quoting mamabens:


http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-05-11/breastfeeding-rates/54909940/1

Quoting jadsmummy:

Can someone make it clicky I want to share the link on Facebook lol.




MamaDee83
by on Jan. 25, 2013 at 6:02 PM

I wouldn't mind nursing until 2 years old, but we will see how it goes. If I can get my DD to be less "addicted" to the breast, then we can just keep going with the night/morning nursing until whenever. :-) DH feels like 18 months is enough, that when they start talking it's time to start weaning them, but he's pretty supportive of my views on breastfeeding and taking care of the kids, so we shall see.

Cynthje
by on Jan. 25, 2013 at 6:28 PM
2 moms liked this

Well Duh...thats all i can say.

I have a friend who comes from a larger family (7 kids) and they nursed untill they were 4 to 5 and her mother tells me it was no big deal, she just did it without thinking to much about it!

MamaCeleste0722
by Celeste on Jan. 25, 2013 at 6:39 PM
3 moms liked this

It's totally OK for moms to not want to nurse that long. Breastfeeding moms have their own goals and limits. The point of the article is that it's totally normal for children to nurse at that age.  There are so many misconceptions about kids that nurse that long that just simply aren't true. 

Quoting Madisonsmommy1:

Great article but I couldn't see myself breastfeeding my kids that long for one my kids go to school at 3. Yes it's breast is best for our kids but that's me I would never breastfeed that long. I know my 5 month old is not gonna wanna give it up but that's what a cup is for. I am going to a yr idk about 2 yrs we will see when that time comes. I know I will be bashed for this but it's ok bc I am my kids mother not anymore else. My kids are happy n healthy n not all nursing mothers go past a yr n for the ones who do then congratulations that's great. I don't call myself selfish I just don't n won't breastfeed at the age of 3




Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Kids Birthday tickers

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Kids Birthday tickers




MamaCeleste0722
by Celeste on Jan. 25, 2013 at 6:41 PM
1 mom liked this

Great article! I think there are a lot more moms who nurse past toddlerhood but don't want to deal with society. I, myself, was a closet nurser. Only a few people IRL know that I nursed the boys as long as I did (I nursed my twins to 3 1/2 and past 4 1/2). I just didn't want to deal with people's ignorance. 

Titana
by on Jan. 25, 2013 at 7:57 PM
Love it! I so want to show this to all of my SO's family....even though it probably won't change their minds.
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Mrsfarr
by on Jan. 25, 2013 at 8:07 PM
My husband and I agreed we wanted our baby to breast feed for as long as possible. I had a "moment" a few months ago where I was worried about someone trying to report me for putting a boob in my 2-3 year old's mouth and my husband had the ingenious idea to jut pump and give it to her in a sippy cup. No one would think it was anything other than cow milk.
Now I don't have to worry about that, if it's anthropologically normal. I can science anyone who has anything to say.
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