Ask Dr Marla: How old is too old for my child to breastfeed?

By  on October 20, 2011


My son is 20 months old and he is still breastfeeding. He doesn’t show any signs of stopping. Is it still ok to breastfeed? Is he still getting nutrients from it?


It certainly is ‘ok’ to breastfeed and your child is definitely getting nutrients from your breast milk. Breast milk has protein, fat, carbohydrates and something called trophic factors. These factors stimulate the development of many parts of the body such as the nervous system and intestines. Breast milk does not lose its nutritional value over time. 
According to breastfeeding expert Dr. Jack Newman, the immune factors that protect our babies are most definitely still present. He points out that factors such as lysozyme (which kill bacteria by breaking up their cell walls) are present in greater quantities at 18 months than they are at six months.
Breast milk is nutritious and it can be argued that it is more nutritious than cow’s milk. Breast milk protects against infection, helps to recover from an infection and aids in the development of your child’s body. As long as the child is breastfeeding, these benefits will continue.
Dr. Newman points out that breastfeeding and its various immune factors can actually stimulate the development of your child’s own immune system.
Research suggests that the fighter antibody response of the breastfed baby to certain immunizations is greater than that of the nonbreastfed baby. It has also been shown that children in daycare who are still breastfeeding have far fewer infections and less severe infections than the children who are not breastfeeding.
A child will naturally wean anywhere from two to four years. Dr. Newman believes that these children tend to be more independent. In addition to the benefits outlined above, there is also the relationship that breastfeeding can provide.
If you are comfortable to continue breastfeeding, it provides a very special private time between you and your child.

October 20, 2011

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