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Posts tagged ‘Kathy Dettwyler’

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