Breastfeeding: How Long Is Too Long for Little Ones?

breastfeeding how long is too long

Moms recognize the best feeding for babies is breastfeeding, when it is possible to do so. But when it comes to breastfeeding, how long is too long? A recent study offers some insight.

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Breastfeeding is known as the best feeding for babies for many reasons. It helps boost their immune systems and provide essential nutrients for optimum well-being in the future. But beyond social norms, when it comes to breastfeeding how long is too long for little ones? A recent study might provide some answers for breastfeeding moms.

Societal Opinions

When it comes to breastfeeding, some women never do it and others do it for years. Some societal norms question when a child is talking and walking yet still breastfeeding. Others make women who prefer not to breastfeed feel guilty. But what really matters? The bottom line is doing what is best for the mother and child in their unique situation. That will be as different as each mother and baby. Societal opinions are irrelevant. Getting the facts about breastfeeding and how long is too long can help keep kids healthier.

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Breastfeeding – How Long is Too Long?

Mothers want to provide the best for their children. To some, that means breastfeeding as long as the child accepts this method of getting nutrients. A researchers followed over 1,000 children in Brazil. By age 5, the children were examined by dentists for cavities, tooth decay, and missing teeth. Dr. Karen Peres, the lead author and an associate professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia said, “Children who are exposed to breastfeeding beyond 24 months are usually those breastfed on demand and at night.” She added this habit makes it quite difficult to clean teeth in this specific period.

The Bottom Line

Mothers who choose to breastfeed beyond one year should be aware of the risk of dental cavities. Preventative methods should be employed to avoid cavities. And most children should have their first dental exams by the age of one.

How long did you breastfeed your child? Both of my children weaned themselves off by the time they were about six months old. When it comes to breastfeeding, how long is too long? Or should children naturally wean themelves off, as mine did? Share your opinions below!

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Comments

Children don't wean naturally at 6 months old that's considered a nursing strike or some kind of other issue going on like teething etc. The youngest I have heard of a child self weaning is 18 months, the oldest children are usually preschool or kindergarten age. My daughter breastfed until 3 and didn't get her first cavity until she was 10 (I'm sure poor diet and dental hygiene at her dad's house played a role), my son is still breastfeeding at 21 months and I plan to let him self wean. The study seems difficult to make any kind of sense out of because these studies haven't been consistent among different populations.
Thanks for visiting and sharing! According to the Mayo Clinic, many children start to wean at six months of age, around the time when solid foods are introduced. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/weaning/art-20048440 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months then breast milk in combination with solid foods until one year of age. I pumped during those months as both of my children loved and preferred solid foods. Breastmilk can be added to cereals, etc. so they get the benefits after they decide to move on from the breast. Of course, this is not an issue for children who decide to continue breastfeeding. Much like children, each situation seems to be unique. And often mothers associate early cavities with bottle feeding, but it makes sense that night breastfeeding could lead to potential oral hygiene problems. It's a reminder to keep good oral hygiene in mind at all times.
The article you link refers to weaning as the introduction of solid foods, not as in weaning completely from breastfeeding. Since breastmilk or formula should be a baby's primary source of nutrition for the first year, it doesn't make sense that an infant would naturally wean at 6 months. That sounds more like a nursing strike or just being distracted while nursing. When parents or breastfeeding mothers talk about a child self-weaning they are usually referring to a toddler or older child choosing to stop breastfeeding between the ages of 18 months and several years old. Not at 6 months or before the first year. While the AAP recommends breastfeeding for a year, the WHO recommends breastfeeding for two years (along with age appropriate foods) and beyond as long as the parent and child desire. It would seem like if that is the recommendation globally a child self weaning at a young age would be rare. Bottle feeding can cause cavities if a baby is left to fall asleep with a bottle propped up, with milk or sometimes juice sitting on the teeth through the night. It does not make sense that night nursing could cause oral hygiene problems because the milk is not pooling on the teeth like in the case of an artificial nipple or sippy cup. With breastfeeding the child is swallowing the milk until they are done nursing and then unlatch from the breast. Studies looked at duration of breastfeeding and the number of cavities. They did not look at night nursing and the number of cavities.
There have been MANY studies that have shown the exact opposite...that breastmilk actually contains antibodies against the particular strain of strep (streptococcus mutans) that causes tooth decay. As well, the mechanics of breastfeeding vs bottle or cup feeding is markedly different, as the milk enters the baby's mouth near the back of the throat, bypassing the teeth all together. Actual exposure of the tooth enamel to breastmilk is minimal. See this article for more information: http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/tooth-decay/ This recent study from Brazil is extremely limited in its scope, and does not account for other factors like poverty or lack of exposure to fluoridated drinking water. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least the age of two. My children were both breastfed past their third birthdays, and truly did self-wean, when they no longer asked to nurse. A child will not truly self-wean at the age of 6 months, as the majority of their calorie intake should still be coming from breastmilk or formula. Yes, their appetite will decrease somewhat after the introduction of solid foods, but the current best practice recommendation is to nurse the baby first before meals, and then follow up with solid food for recreational feeding. This practice ensures the baby is receiving adequate fat and protein intake necessary for brain development.