Lactation consultant Leigh Anne says that breastfeeding for an extended period of time -- anywhere up to 7 years of age -- can be beneficial for a child. However she also notes that decision should be left up to the mother. While the notion of nursing a toddler or a preschooler can seem abnormal, pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says that worldwide, the average age for children to be weaned is close to 4 years old.
Leigh Anne adds, “Nobody should answer the question of how long you should breastfeed. That’s up to a mother and her child.”
Benefits of Breastfeeding in Children
Decreases risks of:
• Heart disease
• Multiple sclerosis
• Digestive illnesses
Pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least a year and after that, he says it’s up to the parents. He adds that breastfeeding can be soothing to mothers as well, because the act of nursing releases hormones that help moms relax.
The lactation support group The Pump Station offers more information on breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding.