Moms Make the Decision to Breastfeed Longer

A new study discovers the decision to breastfeed beyond one year of age is the mother’s unilateral decision.

In a paper to be presented at the at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference, researchers discovered mothers believe extended breastfeeding will aid their child’s physical and social development.

Mother’s perceptions of the benefits of extended breastfeeding were found to be the most important consideration. The advice of health care professionals, family, and friends were found to be least important.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises mothers to continue nursing beyond the first year for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.

Experts say the duration of breastfeeding is a personal choice. As such, researchers wanted to know why some moms choose to continue nursing after a child’s first birthday. To do this, they surveyed more than 50,000 U.S. women ages 18-50.

“The three most important reasons that mothers gave for extended nursing were the nutritional benefits of breast milk, the other health benefits of breast milk, and the opportunity to build a stronger social bond with their baby,” said principal investigator Alexis Tchaconas.

The investigators designed an online survey that asked mothers to rank 15 factors related to extended breastfeeding as “very important,” “important,” “somewhat import ant,” or “not important.”

Surveys were sent to mothers via email lists from La Leche League, an international breastfeeding support organization, as well as Facebook groups and online chat rooms dedicated to breastfeeding support.

Besides health benefits and bonding with their child, other top factors that influenced mothers to breastfeed beyond one year included enjoyment, support from spouse or partner, La Leche League support, and not having to pay for formula.

A surprise finding was the relatively low value mothers placed on discussing the issue with their pediatricians and health care team.

“Although most women felt comfortable discussing their decision to nurse their baby beyond one year of age with their child’s pediatrician and with their own health care providers, the recommendations of these health care professionals were not identified as being important in terms of the mother’s decision to extend nursing,” said senior investigator Andrew Adesman, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics