How Old is Too Old for Breastfeeding?

May 17, 2012

MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- The current edition of Time magazine is sparking vigorous debate about what's appropriate and what's not when it comes not only to the cover art but to breastfeeding in general.

The article itself is about mothers who breast-feed well beyond infancy. But when should mothers stop, and what are the pro-and cons for kids? There are a lot of health benefits for Mom and baby when it comes to breastfeeding. How old is too old for a child to be breastfed? It's really up to Mom.

First time parents, Melissa and Glenn Lewis made the decision the breastfeed together.

Half-day-old Spencer Lewis finds it easy to latch onto his mother for the nutrition he needs.

"He's actually had six sessions now since 11:29 p. m. when he was born last night," said first time mother, Melissa Lewis.

"That's the cue, the lip smacking. I heard it this morning and I said oh yes, he's hungry," said first time father, Glenn Lewis.

Lactation Consultant Dawn Flohr at Mid-State Medical Center in Meriden offers support to families who choose to breastfeed.

"The recommendations are one year or beyond by the American Academy of Pediatrics until mutually desired by mother and infant. World Health Organization, UNICEF, two years or beyond as mutually desired by mother and infant," said Flohr.

Whether the child is one, two or three years old, the decision to breastfeed is up to the mother and child.

"The plan is-just as long as I can, and as long as he is interested in nursing," said Melissa Spencer.

The health benefits that come along with breastfeeding include lowering the risk for obesity, childhood cancers, and asthma. For mothers, breastfeeding can help decrease the risk for cancer, and melt away the pregnancy weight faster.

"You don't have to nurse from both breasts at each feeding. Let him nurse as long as he wants to on the first breast," said Flohr. "I always tell Moms, any amount of breast milk is a gift to the baby."

Another benefit to breastfeeding is that it helps families save hundreds of dollars during the child's first year of life.

Flohr said that more mothers are choosing to continue breastfeeding beyond the age of one.