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When is a child too old for breastfeeding?
Published Saturday, September 29, 2012 5:47PM CST
There is a push across Canada to remove the stigma of public breastfeeding. But there is another side to the controversy – when is a child too old to continue breastfeeding?
An event sponsored by the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region brought women and their children out to celebrate the act of breastfeeding. The children at the Saturday afternoon event ranged in age from three months to more than two years.
Janelle Amyotte, a lactation consultant, says breastfeeding can be healthy for older babies. “Health Canada, Canadian Pediatrics Society, The Dieticians of Canada, and the World Health Organization strongly advocate breastfeeding to two years of age for optimal health and nutrition and as long after as mothers want. In fact they word it, breastfeeding to two years and beyond."
And it’s not just healthy for the children. Amyotte says there are health benefits for the mothers as well.
"It decreases your cancer risks throughout your lifetime, especially ovarian and breast cancer. It decreases your child’s risk of cancer and diabetes. And we know that breast-fed babies get fewer cases of gastro-enteritis or tummy bugs."
Lori Fletcher still nurses her two-year-old son Finn. She says the older he gets, the more she and her husband can feel the societal pressures for Finn to start weening. “Recently we were on an airplane and he was nursing on the plane. There were people watching us and I could hear some whispers and stuff."
But she says the critics are lacking key information and overlooking the bond between a mother and her nursing child.
“What I think is undermined a lot is the emotional and psychological aspect. It's not just about nourishment. It's a strong bonding thing and it has really helped keep us connected,” says Fletcher.
For new parents, breastfeeding is just one option amid the myriad of choices facing them in an overwhelming time. That’s why the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region has more information about breastfeeding and other questions regarding young children.