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Breastfeeding Beyond a Year: Why Stop Now?

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 saidRead more

Fall Harvest CSA Share

We were members of the Tucson CSA for several years.  It was great.  We loved getting fresh, local, sustainably-raised veggies.  Still, I often complained that I didn’t know what to do with all of the greens, and when work and life got hectic, I admit that sometimes things would get mushy in the veggie drawer and they would get sacrificed to the compost before I figured out what to do with them.

When we moved to Eugene, we decided we’d try shopping at the Farmer’s Market for the summer.  Eugene has an incredible market, one of the best I’ve ever seen (and I’ve lived in Davis, CA, and Ithaca, NY, so I know a good market when I see one).  But unfortunately, we only made it to the farmer’s market a handful of times.  I don’t have a really good excuse, but going required loading up the baby in the car during the short window between naps, finding parking, and navigating a stroller through the masses of market goers.  And the market was also really overwhelming.  I never knew where to start.

So, for the fall season, we joined the Winter Green Farm CSA.  Our first veggie pickup was yesterday, and it is amazing.

Read more

Guest Post on Fooducate: How Becoming a Mother Changed the Way I Eat

You can find me over at the Fooducate blog today, where I’m guest posting on how having BabyC changed the way I eat.  This was a fun post to write.  It really made me think about how the way I was raised (Thanks, Mom!) influences the way I eat now, and those habits run deeper than all my years of nutrition training.  I’m hoping to give BabyC the same foundation of appreciation for good food and where it comes from.

If you haven’t discovered Fooducate yet, they have an informative blog and a really cool app for smartphones.  The app allows you to scan the bar code on any food in the grocery store and see nutrition information and suggestions for healthier alternatives.  It is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for ways to make smarter choices while grocery shopping.

Has becoming a parent changed the way you eat?  For the better or for the worse?  (I can understand how it might change things for the worse!)

Breastfeeding Beyond a Year: Why Is the AAFP Stretching the Truth About the Benefits?

The benefits of breastfeeding to a young infant’s health are well-documented (though sometimes debated), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be breastfed for the first year of life if possible.  Are there any health benefits to the child for breastfeeding beyond a year?  I am curious about this as my daughter approaches her first birthday.

Photo credit: Santiago Fernánde. via Wikimedia Commons

I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that there have been very few studies of extended breastfeeding (> 1 year) conducted in the developed world.  Breastfeeding research is notoriously hard to do, and good research on extended breastfeeding is nearly impossible.  As a population, women in the developed world who breastfeed their babies are already likely to be different from mothers who choose not to breastfeed, setting their babies up for different outcomes well before their boobs even hit the baby’s lips.  (This is of course a very broad generalization, and I recognize there are exceptions.)  These differences are likely even greater in women who choose to breastfeed beyond a year.  Only 24% breastfeed to one year in the U.S. [1], and we don’t know how many continue beyond that.  These mothers are more likely to be well-educated, white, older, richer, buying organic food, fretting about BPA exposure, and the list goes on.  Sure, we can use statistics to try to account for these confounding variables, but these methods require (A) that you’ve identified the most important variables, and (B) that you have study participants that represent a spectrum along that variable.  This research is hard to do. Read more

TV, Tots, and Tired Parents: The Backlash to the AAP’s TV Policy

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new guidelines for TV use in kids under 2 years old.  I intended that piece to be a brief summary of the new guidelines and the research that the AAP used to support them.  I didn’t think about these guidelines as being controversial.

However, as the media and the blogosphere got wind of the new guidelines, I found article after article questioning them – calling the AAP out on making a recommendation without solid science and blaming them for creating the next round of unwelcome parenting guilt. Read more

Living in the Moment with a Baby and a Dog

We have an Australian Shepherd named Yuba in our family.  Boy, has his life changed since we had a baby.  He has had to learn to share our attention with BabyC.  Still, there is one thing he knows he can always count on every day:  A walk to the park to play frisbee.

Of course, Yuba has to share even this park outing with BabyC.  This isn’t so bad once we get out there, but what frustrates Yuba is that it takes so darn long to get a baby mobilized, especially now that the cool weather necessitates socks, shoes, jacket, and hat.  This frustrates me, too, but I try to be patient as I get BabyC ready to go. Read more

Babies and TV: New Media Use Guidelines from the AAP

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement on media use by children under 2 this week.  The new guidelines are based on more than 50 studies of TV* time in babies and toddlers.

How much TV do infants and toddlers in the U.S. watch these days?  The AAP cited several surveys that found that TV is a big part of the daily lives of our youngest children:

  • Among kids under 2 years old, 90% of them watch 1-2 hours of TV per day.
  • A staggering 19% of babies under 1-year-old have televisions in their bedrooms.  This figure rises to 29% for 2 to 3-year-olds.

The AAP “discourages media use by children younger than 2 years.”  They recognize that babies and toddlers will be exposed to some TV in today’s world, but they recommend that families try to limit TV time as much as possible – including both TV designed for kids and “background TV.”  The policy statement describes the research behind this recommendation and gives some alternatives to TV time. Read more

Grief and Motherhood

I tried to make this a Thursday Paragraph, but it turned into a little more.  Oh well.  I made the rules, so I get to break them.

It was January 8, 2011, and BabyC was not quite 8 weeks old.  After having a continuous stream of visitors at our house around her birth and then the holidays, she and I were finally settling into a routine together.  Her dad was working long hours that month, so it was just the two of us most of the time.  She needed to be held A LOT at that age, but that was OK.  I was prepared to give myself completely to her care, or so I thought.

That day, there was a horrible shooting rampage in our community of Tucson.  Six people were killed, including a 9-year-old little girl, and more were injured, among them our U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  Even though I didn’t know any of the victims personally, I felt overwhelmed with grief and fear.  My heart was knotted inside of me.  How would I protect my little girl from so much evil in the world?  That first day of waiting for more news updates, I held my baby tight and tried to hold back the tears that pushed at the back of my throat. Read more

Share-Worthy Recipe: Moroccan Chicken and Pearl Couscous

I know, you are going to think that I am obsessed with Israeli couscous (also known as pearl couscous), seeing as though I just posted a recipe using this ingredient last month.  And maybe you’ll think I’m obsessed with the Washington Post’s food section.  It’s true – I do find the WP’s recipes to be very reliable. For now, you’ll have to forgive the redundancies and trust that this is a recipe that you’ll want to have on your short list for both easy family dinners and entertaining. Read more

Why Is Breast Milk So Low in Iron?

When I started feeling concerned about BabyC’s iron status (Does My Baby Get Enough Iron?), I did what most worried, sleep-deprived mamas do – a Google search.  What I found were pages and pages of forums and blog posts full of comments from breastfeeding mothers who couldn’t fathom that their baby wasn’t getting everything she needed from breast milk.  Feed an iron-fortified cereal or give my baby iron drops?  Why?  Isn’t breast milk the perfect food for my baby?  I found many mothers fiercely defending breast milk and accordingly delaying the introduction of complementary foods and shunning the use of any fortified foods or supplements.  I felt compelled to write about this, because I think that in some circles the enthusiasm for breastfeeding has swung a little too far outside of what is actually best and natural for babies. Read more