BabyC is fast approaching her first birthday, and I’ve been asked more than a few times, “How long do you plan to keep breastfeeding?”
When I first started thinking about this question, the scientist in me wondered about the health benefits of “extended” breastfeeding. I wrote about some of my research on the (purported) health benefits of nursing beyond a year last week. I plowed through hundreds of breastfeeding studies looking for some data on extended breastfeeding, but the truth is that very little research on this topic has been published, and almost nothing has been published on extended breastfeeding in the developed world. Please let me know if I missed something – just don’t send me links to La Leche League and KellyMom. I’ve seen their pages and tracked down all those citations, and I couldn’t find any convincing evidence that my child will be any less healthy or nourished or smart if I wean at a year. There could very well be health benefits to extended nursing, but as far as I can tell, they haven’t been described in the scientific literature. I doubt if that will change in the near future, since extended breastfeeding is probably not much of a research priority.
However, as I started delving into the research on this topic, I realized that the mother in me didn’t really care what the data said. Continue reading