The TIME magazine cover was determined to get everyone talking, and I hoped to avoid adding to the frenzied response. Mayim Bialik went on some talk shows, defending and giving clarity to the ‘Attachment Parenting’ philosophies under attack (and, in truth, they deserve praise and support). And now Alanis Morissette has said that she will continue to breastfeed her 16-month-old son until he asks her to stop.
I am a huge fan of Dr. Sears, I have coslept with my kids, I wore them in the Bjorn until their dangling legs bruised my knees from their shoes bouncing off my patellas. But a pediatrician told me years ago that there is no benefit to the child’s health from breastfeeding past the age of two. The World Health Organization recommends two years of breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics has lower expectations, asking mothers to commit to six months of breastfeeding.
Ultimately, mothers make choices appropriate to their families, but you’d hope that those choices are based on solid data, and that they consider the health and welfare of parents and children now AND in the future.
If breastfeeding is intended to provide nutritional support and emotional connection to a child, and science has demonstrated that those bonds are created in the first two years — the evidence seems overwhelmingly weighted in favor of nursing for two years. Kids explore their independence and express their attachment differently in the toddler years, and it seems ill-fitting to attempt to carry over the earlier tactic if it’s inefficient and potentially problematic. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary of this, beyond dreamy, lofty language of closeness and confidence, and anecdotal evidence both for and against longterm breastfeeding.
What do you think? Are you an advocate for extended breastfeeding? If you have older children and you nursed them into school years, what do they think of it now?