They say that breastfeeding into toddlerhood and beyond is healthy and normal. "They" includes moms like those who posted in the Carnival yesterday. It also includes a few medical organizations. I'll share a couple of quotes. Purple emphasis is mine.
The World Health Organization:
Breastfeeding should continue with complementary feeding up to 2 years of age or beyond, and it should be on demand, as often as the child wants....Breast milk continues to provide higher quality nutrients than complementary foods, and also protective factors. Breast milk is a critical source of energy and nutrients during illness, and reduces mortality among children who are malnourished. In addition...breastfeeding reduces the risk of a number of acute and chronic diseases. Children tend to breastfeed less often when complimentary foods are introduced, so breastfeeding needs to be actively encouraged to sustain breast-milk intake."The American Academy of Family Physicians:
quoted from Infant and young child feeding: Model Chapter for textbooks for medical students and allied health professionals, 2009, page 20, downloaded from here.
As recommended by the WHO, breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement. It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years. Family physicians should be knowledgeable regarding the ongoing benefits to the child of extended breastfeeding, including continued immune protection, better social adjustment, and having a sustainable food source in times of emergency. The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer.... There is no evidence that extended breastfeeding is harmful to mother or child. Breastfeeding during a subsequent pregnancy is not unusual. If the pregnancy is normal and the mother is healthy, breastfeeding during pregnancy is the woman's personal decision. If the child is younger than two years, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned. Breastfeeding the nursing child after delivery of the next child (tandem nursing) may help provide a smooth transition psychologically for the older child.Government statements (I'm limiting this to English-speaking countries because this blog is in English, not because other countries don't have statements or aren't important):
American Academy of Pediatrics, because the US Department of Health's statement is a quote from the AAP: "Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child."
Health Canada promotes "continued breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond."
Australian Government: "continued breastfeeding until the age of 12 months – and beyond if both mother and infant wish."
The European Union seems to use the WHO's recommendation of 2 years- I had a hard time navigating their site to find an exact link.
I found the WHO's recommendation to continue breastfeeding on demand into the second year of life and to continue encouraging the child to breastfeed so that wearning doesn't occur before their second birthday to be very interesting. I have heard many times, "breastfeed on demand" but never heard of age being addressed in the discussion. I aksed an LLL leader about this and she said that it's fine to ask your toddler to wait a few minutes as you finish something up that you're busy with, but waiting more than half an hour is a weaning technique, so if you're not trying to wean, don't use it. And I mention she's an LLL leader- not because that's LLL's official stance, but to emphasize that she is very immersed in breastfeeding literature and research. I don't know LLL's official stance (or even if they have one) on that.